Cracking Krakow

DSC01365It’s funny how sometimes you just feel like doing random things. Like sit in a Lego shop and play with the bricks for a good two hours before heading to your next destination. If you must know, I managed to fashion a synagogue / church (can’t really tell which it resembles more) out of a ton of yellow bricks.

That’s what I did, of all places, in Poland’s second largest city. Don’t get me wrong. Krakow is a lovely city, and there are tons of things you could do besides playing with Lego. But I thought I needed a break after a three-hour excursion to Auschwitz. I guessed I just needed somewhere to sit down and contemplate what I’ve just seen in what is known as the largest Nazi concentration camp in Europe.

DSC01570I had chosen to base myself at Kazimierz after reading about the cool bohemian vibe in this Jewish quarter. Of course, rentals here are also cheaper than elsewhere. And I was surprisingly rewarded with an adjoining Chinese restaurant run by Vietnamese immigrants. I know this might sound silly but I was really craving noodles and fried rice after two weeks in Europe, so this restaurant was a godsend. And its portions were extremely generous – I had never seen so much rice on a plate for 4 euros!

DSC01868DSC01863DSC01870Exploring the Jewish quarter is another adventure on its own. A little sedate in the day, the cobblestone enclave really comes alive at dusk – when the pubs and restaurants open and start filling up with locals.

Unlike Warsaw, which was completely flattened by Nazi bombardment, Krakow was spared after a stroke of luck. This means that most, if not all of its churches and castles dating back to the 10th century – remain gloriously pristine. Rynek Glowny is the city’s heartbeat. Ringed by swanky restaurants and creative pubs, the market square retains the Old Town vibe, untouched by globalisation and American brands (but that could change in the future).

Here, I found myself content to just kick back on my salon chair and people-watch while slurping on a Zywiec. Prague seems like an inferior cousin already.  LS


Poles Apart

DSC01138For a city that was completely flattened by Nazi bombing during the Second World War, Warsaw (or more affectionately known to the locals as Warszawa) has come a long way.  Although remnants of its post-war Soviet Cold War era still survived (most notably the inappropriately named Palace of Culture and Science – a Stalinist monstrosity which turned 60 this year by the way) across from the Warszawa Centralna Railway Station, Warszawa is changing so fast that six months would seem like a decade.

DSC01117DSC01258The Old Town Market Square (Rynek Starego Miasta) overlooking the Vistula is the heart of Warsaw and probably any traveller’s first stop. However, when the sun goes down, hipsters and well-heeled Poles flock to Nowy Świat, a cosmopolitan F&B thoroughfare that boasts some of Warsaw’s swankiest cafes and fine dining restaurants. Here, you can spend hours just people watching or bar-hop to find your ideal poison. Luckily for me, they still count in zlotys. So go ahead, indulge your inner demons!   LS