That means hello from Poland!! I’m currently hanging out in Zakopane, which is a cute little village right by the beautiful Tatra Mountains. The weather hasn't been great (as per usual) but I'm staying at this great hostel, Goodbye Lenin, which is super cozy and filled with the nicest people.. we've been hiking.... in the fog... to see some spectacular views... of more fog.... singing disney songs, dancing, cooking... it feels like I rented a cabin in the mountain with some good friends :) it's a nice reprieve after spending the past 5 days in Krakow, which was amazing, but exhausting.
Krakow was admittedly a bit challenging, not only due to the language barrier (nothing is phonetic and there’s absolutely nothing that resembles english) but also dealing with history of the complicated history of the place, which has been significantly shaped by Nazis and communist occupation. Also ….the nightlife is insane/exhausting.. so much vodka (ickkkk!)
After my crazy BlaBla car ride, i decided to take it easy the next day. I sat in the park reading my book and eventually wandered around the main square… I had a deliciously refreshing Zywiec, which is a local beer and managed to catch a performance some locals were putting on the celebrate Pochod Lajkonika, a festival which takes place in Krakow every year on the first Thursday after the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Essentially there’s this dude dressed up as a warrior from the east who prances around a white hobbyhorse through the city streets, followed by musicians, children, and revelers. On his way, he touches spectators with his golden mace and collects money for the traditional ransom. At the Market Square, the mayor of the city awaits the Lajkonik with a pile of ransom money and a chalice with which they make a toast to the wellbeing of Kraków and its inhabitants. Music and dancing continues in front of the Old Tower Hall at the Main Square, which is what I saw. While it was a nice tradition, tBH, the blaring polish polka music, which brought back the terror of my BlaBla car ride give me a splitting headache so I decided to take it easy and stay in that night.
The next day, I decided to go to Aushuwitz with a girl I met at my hostel named Zoey. We took the public bus instead of going with an organized tour from Krakow, since it was so much cheaper and we could take a tour once we were there. It was a very emotional day.
Despite learning about the horrors of concentration camps in school and reading memoirs from survivors, I still felt very unprepared to deal with the reality of being at the camp. It was actually a bright and sunny day when i visited, which gave the place an eerie, serene feeling. It almost seemed impossible that such a beautiful place could be the site of such heinous acts. But once I started walking down the path which served as the last moments of so many people's lives, seeing the scratches on the wall in the gas chambers, and passing by the remnants of the crematorium, everything became much more real and tangible. And you ask yourself, how could this possibly have happened? To be standing in the actual spot where millions were tortured and killed simply for being a specific race.. you question how people could be so evil and treat other fellow human beings as if their lives meant nothing? Before the war there were over 60,000 Jews living in Krakow. Today, there are only 200. And of course, we tell ourselves to never forget, but there are still so many wars and genocides occurring at this very moment.. it was extremely disheartening but extremely important to remember.
After the emotional draining visit, I took a nap to recharge. Once I woke up, I got a few drinks with some people at the hostel. Some of them were going on a pub crawl, but since I am not usually a pub crawl person, I decided to try my luck on Tinder and I met a very nice (cute) guy. We decided to meet up for drinks in Kazimierz, the Jewish District, which is known for being more of the Bohemian quarter. It has nice restaurants, cute little cafes, good bars, and a square that gets filled with locals on the weekend who are drinking beers and eating zapiekanka as drunk food, which is essentially a polish version of pizza (super tasty and yummy!) i won’t lie, i got totally white girl wasted… how do i know this? because at one point i was doing VODKA shots and chasing them with pickles (not pickle juice.. actual pickles) … TWO THINGS I HATE WITH A PASSION. It was still a fun night, though not such a fun morning since i had a pretty massive hangover.
I decided to take it easy (again!), do some real people errands.. like call my credit card company, organize my budget, etc. I visited a few churches, since Polish people are extremely catholic. Pope John Paul II was from Poland… he’s highly revered here and he’s thought to have helped bring down communism in the country since apparently, the CIA, along with the Catholic Church and various trade unions provided funds, equipment and advice to the Solidaity movement, which was the first independent labor union in a Soviet-bloc country. Solidarity gave rise to a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement that, at its height, claimed some 9.4 million members…
I wandered the Kazimierez (again!) with a girl I met on a tour, Connie, who was rom Boston, and we found a “bread” festival where I just ate random carb dishes, like pregoies, bagels, etc. which were all extremely delightful. I ended up going out there again at night with Connie, a guy from my hostel, Casey, who was a lovely Australian guy :)
The next day I visited the Salt Mines, which was neat. They had a bunch of cool statues that they carved from the land, including this really neat cathedral. Plus i learned that salary actually comes from the word salt, since it was such a hot commodity back in the day! And obviously, when the tour guide told me the ceiling and walls were made out of salt, I licked it.. and she was right (she was like DUH what you were expecting!)
When I got back to my hostel, they were having a vodka tasting which I declined to participate in, but since colombia was playing a match in the Copa America, I put on my jersey, and coincidentally, there were a few Colombians who checked in during the morning who were surprised to see what I was wearing. Of course, we streamed the game, and we were just laughing at how weird globalization is… think about it… an American of asian descent, watching the Copa America in Krakow with a Colombian… craziness.
Anyway, I wanted to take up early to get to Zakopane, so i was back in bed by 1 but was awoken by a crazy thunderstorm at around 4.. it took a while to get back to bed, but I did it and woke up a little later than I expected but YOLOOOO. it’s been raining the whole day, which has given me some time to catch up on my blog and relax! And since my mom is coming in a few days. which is really exciting, but I’m sure will be a little draining since parentssssss can sometimes drive you crazy.. it’s nice to be in the moutntains and relax for a bit.