My First Solo Trip: Day 8
This day was likely to be my coldest day in Krakow, at least according to the weather app on my phone. I bundled up in my down jacket and headed out to spend the morning exploring the old town. I hit up the ATM to get some much needed zloty and wandered around the main market square for a little while. To be honest, I was feeling a little lost and out of my element having just arrived in a new city that I had never been to before. I began to feel a little discouraged and thought about going back to my hotel room until it was time for the walking tour to start, but decided I would try going somewhere familiar first, to see if that didn’t perk me up. I ended up at Costa Coffee and ordered a hot cup of tea and a muffin. I had intended to pay in cash, in an effort to break one of the 100 zloty notes that the ATM had given me. I’ve learned that large international chains typically do this without question, while many local shops may not be able to make change for larger notes, so it’s usually something I attempt to do shortly after obtaining cash. Unfortunately, the barista at Costa asked me if I could pay with my card instead because she wasn’t sure she could make enough change. Sigh, I suppose I should have opted for McDonald’s instead. Having paid with my card, I put the large bill back in my wallet and spent the next hour leisurely enjoying my snack. Thankfully, there is truth to the saying “you’re not always having a full-on nervous breakdown, sometimes you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.” That tea and muffin revived me and renewed my sense of optimism so much so that I headed back out to wander the streets and Planty Park again.
Since I was already out and about I arrived early for the walking tour and enjoyed chatting with a nice Italian girl, who had been studying in Poland for the last few years. She made me feel a little better about my lack of foreign language skills because she assured me that she couldn’t speak any Polish even after studying in the country for so long. Our guide for the free Old Town Walking Tour was a student named Mario and he was excellent. A note on “free” walking tours; the tours are generally offered by students or volunteers who work based off of tips given at the end of the tour. Didn’t enjoy the tour, don’t feel obligated to give anything. It’s been my experience that these volunteers provide a lot of good information you won’t find in a guidebook and are more than happy to answer any other questions you might have even if they aren’t related to the tour topic, so I suggest tipping generously. This particular tour turned out to be a great way to learn a bit about the history of Krakow and Poland in general, and familiarize myself with the old town area. This tour also really helped to put me further at ease in my new surroundings. I had such a great experience on this tour, that walking tours have since become one of my favorite and most important activities each time I visit a new city. Many thanks to Mario! You can find a full list of tours offered here, plus they offer tours in a lot of other cities throughout Poland too.
I met another American on the tour, a middle-aged man from Washington D.C., who also happened to be a WWII enthusiast. I actually ended up grabbing a late lunch/early dinner with him at Sioux after the walking tour. A strange man isn’t usually my first choice for a dining companion, but he wasn’t creepy and I think we were both happy to finally come across a fellow countryman at this point in our travels. He had been to Krakow several times in the past so had some good suggestions on what to do and see in the city. He also warned me that jaywalking is strictly enforced in Poland; a lesson that many visitors to Krakow learn the hard way. As for my meal at Sioux, the restaurant had a fun western atmosphere, the servings were generous, and the ingredients were fresh. I’m not sure I ordered the best item on the menu, much of which happened to be dishes with a southwestern flair (think fajitas and various Tex-Mex dishes). I’m skeptical of any Mexican food outside my local region, as it’s typically lackluster by comparison, so I opted for a grilled chicken sandwich. It was good, but not the best thing I ate in Krakow. Also, if you see "cucumbers" on a menu in Poland, they're probably referring to what Americans refer to as pickles.
The day had gotten progressively colder so I went back to the hotel to warm up and send a few emails to my parents back home. I ended up going down to the hotel restaurant later in the evening, where I ordered a latte and chocolate lava cupcake for dessert and was finally able to break one of the 100pln notes. The Wielopole Restaurant also happened to be vegan, a trend I noticed at several places in Krakow, but you could have fooled me into thinking the latte and cupcake were full of animal fats. It was so rich! It’s a spot I’d definitely recommend if you’re vegan or looking for dairy-free alternatives in the city.
I'd love to know if you've ever been to Krakow or if there's another city in Poland you really enjoyed visiting. Please comment below to tell me all about it!