So I left Vilnius, Lithuania at 10:30pm on a red-eye Lux Express bus heading to Warsaw, Poland. The bus was really comfortable, it had reclining seats, tvs, a bathroom, and water/coffee; but unfortunately for me it was completely full and I had an aisle seat, meaning I didn’t have a window to sleep against. Even more unfortunately for me, the old man in the seat in front of me decided to recline his seat the furthest it would go, until he was more or less in my lap. On top of that, he snored. LOUDLY.
Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep on that bus ride. Although I did get to watch one of my favourite movies, The Adjustment Bureau.
I arrived at Warsaw at 5:30am and then had to wait for an hour and a half in the bus station until I could get onto my 7:00am Polski Bus. This one was a double-decker and not as nice as the Lux Express buses: there was no tv, no water or coffee and the seats weren’t as comfortable. The bus was absolutely full and unfortunately I was stuck next to a very loud group, which made it really hard to sleep.
Finally, another 5 1/2 hours later, I made it to my final destination: Wroclaw, Poland (pronounced Vro-tz-wav). I’d never heard of it before, so it was kind of a random city to visit my first time in Poland, but I was there to visit my friend Gwendoline, who I’d met in 2015 when we volunteered together at an orphanage in Soweto, South Africa. She’s from France, but is studying in Poland for a year through ERASMUS, and I jumped at the chance to visit her in Wroclaw.
She came to meet me at the bus station and then we took a tram to her apartment, where I met her 4 roommates: Louisa (Germany), Maëlle (France), Kinga (Poland) and Goshia (Poland). The 5 of us (minus Goshia) then headed off to see the Wroclaw Multimedia Fountain, which is this massive fountain (it’s actually the biggest one in Poland and one of the biggest in Europe) with 300 jets that are synchronized with 800 lights and music to create spectacular water shows. The shows happen every hour of everyday and vary in length and music selection.
After watching the show, we went to an indoor market that had some really cool stuff. I ended up buying a few pieces of jewelry, which is one of my favourite kinds of souvenirs to buy when I travel. For beautiful jewelry, you can check out Filimoniuk Design here or here and Kohna jewellery here.
We went back to Gwen’s place for a bit, got ready, then went out for dinner and drinks at Setka, a local bar. We had pierogies and kielbasa and lots more. After dinner we went for drinks at a bar in the Market Square, where we met up with some of Gwen’s friends from school, Camille (France) and Hadrien (Belgium).
The next morning we got up early and the 5 of us went to an indoor market where we met up with Camille, the French girl from the night before. The market was small, but pretty good. There were all kinds of yummy foods to taste and buy.
Then we went to another market, but this one was outside, had mostly clothes and was much, much bigger. After all the shopping and walking, we were hungry, so we stopped for lunch at a strudel place called Strudlove. Hadrien, the Belgian guy from the night before joined us and we had a leisurely lunch, eating delicious strudels, both savoury and sweet.
We then spent a few hours walking around the city with Gwendoline and her friends giving me the grand tour. We ended our walk (and the evening) back in Market Square at a desert cafe called Amorinio, which was really good.
As we were walking through the city, Gwen pointed out to me that Wroclaw has a unique tourist attraction: dwarf/gnome statues! It started in 2005 and the city has run with it, with hundreds of the gnomes now scattered throughout the city. You can get maps of their locations at the tourist office and there is even an app you can download to try to find them all.
The next day, Gwen took me back to the bus station where we had to say goodbye. It had been so amazing to see her again after a year, to catch up, to visit her in her new (temporary) home and to meet her friends. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long to see her again!
I got on the Polski Bus, another almost completely full bus, but this time I did manage to get two seats to myself which was nice. However, the bus curse was back, as once again the person in front of me decided to recline their chair until they were practically on my lap.
Side rant: I get that people have the right to recline their seats, and I certainly do it too, but before I do I always take a peek at the person behind me to 1) see if they have anything on their tray table: There is nothing worse than having a drink, food or laptop on your table, only to have the person in front of you recline it suddenly and send your stuff flying, damage it or cause your beverages to spill all over you and 2) check to see if they are reclining their chair as well: If they are, then I feel comfortable reclining mine, if not, then I usually won’t, or else I’ll recline it just slightly. It’s just common courtesy.
After a 4 hour bus ride, I arrived in Krakow, walked to my hostel (Mosquito Hostel) and checked in. It was early evening, so I decided to walk through the Old Town to the Main Square, then to Wawel Castle. It was too late to go inside, so I just walked around it and took a few pictures before heading back to the hostel.
The really nice thing about the hostel is that every evening they have a free dinner! You just have to sign up in the morning so they have an idea of how many people to expect and then every night they make a different dinner. That night it was a really delicious home-made soup. They also have games in the kitchen most evenings, and that night was Drinking Jenga, which was so much fun!!! There were quite a few of us playing, and I ended up staying up waaaay later than I meant to (and drinking a little more than I meant to, oops).
It wasn’t as much fun the next morning when I had to get up at 6:30am on 4 hours of sleep to walk to the bus station and catch the shuttle to Auschwitz. If you’d like to read about my visit to Auschwitz, click here.
I was going to try and visit Schindler’s factory when I returned to Krakow, but by the time I got back it was late, getting dark (the downside to traveling in the fall, the days are so short) and I just didn’t feel up to it. It had been a long and draining day touring the concentration camp and I needed a break. I was walking back towards the hostel when I noticed an advertisement for some sort of Van Gogh exhibit and I decided to check it out, since I love Van Gogh. It turned out to be a temporary exhibit called Van Gogh Alive, where you can sort of immerse yourself in his paintings. It sounded interesting and I had nothing better to do, so I bought a ticket. It turned out to be totally worth it! It was actually really cool, you would walk into rooms and the paintings would be projected onto all four walls and sometimes the floor so that you were surrounded by the vibrant colours, accompanied by music and lights. There were also quotes, a history of his life and a real-life version of his famous painting Bedroom in Arles. There weren’t many people there when I went, so it was a perfect way to cap off a long, sad day, by immersing myself in one my favourite artists and quietly contemplating his life and his work.
After getting my fill of Van Gogh, I walked back towards the hostel, stopping in Planty Park (the park that surrounds the Old Town) to look at a photography exhibit in the gardens. I got back to the hostel in time for the free dinner (yummy baked potatoes) and hung out talking with some of the others, waiting for the night’s games to begin. This time it was Beer Pong! We played that for a while before switching to Stack Cup, which I’d never played before, but was super fun! Once again I ended up staying up later and drinking more than I meant to.
It was another 6:30am start the next day, but I did manage to eat some of the free buffet breakfast available at the hostel before walking to the train station. I got there mostly on time, after having to take a longer way around due to some construction, but then the train ended up being delayed by 20 min, which was stressful, as I was flying with Ryanair and they’re very strict about cut off times. The train had free wifi so I tried checking in online, only to realize that Ryanair has discontinued airport check-in and that the cut-off for online check-in is 2 hours before the flight, which I was now past.
So I arrived at the airport, found my way to the Ryanair counter and was told they can’t do anything for me, that I have to go to their customer service and pay $80 for the privilege of checking in for a flight that I’ve bought. Needless to say, I was not impressed, with myself (for not paying attention) nor with the airline (for charging people to check in if the flight is in less than two hours). Another reminder why I try to avoid flying with Ryanair. After all that, I finally boarded my flight and was now on my way to my next destination: Cyprus!