Zapiekanka. Hold the ketchup, please.
Zapiekanka. Hold the ketchup, please.
On the day before departure Anna Grace and I pored and planned over the weather forecast, cruel mistress that she is. No Rain, Slight Rain, Sunny, and Everything in Between was predicted, except locusts, and so we packed accordingly. The only downside of our planning was that because of the forecast changing every time we looked at it, we decided not to advance purchase tickets for the very new WWII museum (entrance is limited); this worked against us, and we were not able to visit.
Our driver was at the airport with the, Ms. First Name Last Name-ski” sign and he promptly sped us like a lunatic to our hotel. When he realized that the “ski” part of my name really meant that I was one generation removed from the homeland and could barely speak my native tongue, sadness and silence filled the car. My grandmother would be ashamed.
LOTs more of this pun lies ahead…
Though we had hoped for a white Christmas in Cracow, we happily settled for the next best: sunshine and temperatures around 15°C each day. Clayton Theodore was all too happy to take extra long constitutionals in the pretty early morning and late afternoon light with me and my camera.
For a change of pace we decided to spend Christmas outside of Vienna. We rented an apartment in Cracow that we had rented before; its proximity to the Stare Mesto (5 minute walk) and its well-appointed kitchen were the main reasons we returned. Since our traditional Christmas dinner is Polish cuisine, what better place to be than in the Motherland?
Warsaw surprised us. Most travel guides dismiss Poland’s capital as worth only about a day’s visit. After all, the Germans systematically destroyed the city, then Stalin came in and finished it off in that grand socialist style. The Stare Miasto is a recreation, much like Frankfurt, as well. But for history buffs, architecture fans, and foodies, Warsaw is worth more than the weekend we allotted.
Krakow was also beautiful against the occasional blue sky day.
The menu from Bar Mleczny, one of the few remaining government-subsidized lunch counters that popped up after Poland regained independence post WWI. Our lunch was terrific. Of course it was.
We day tripped to Nowa Huta on Krakow’s outskirts. Once the border between the Austrian and Russian Empire-controlled Poland; later, a planned industrial site and major Communist propaganda location; and under Lenin, steel factories, the largest in Poland.
Kazimercz and Auschwitz were also on our itinerary.
(And yes, it does look like the pope is picking his nose.)
Whereas the warehouse and outlet stores had quantity, the more upscale stores had artfully arranged quality offerings. Still, decision making never came easily.
I disagree with the sentiment, but judging by the behavior of some of our fellow shoppers I am of the minority opinion.
I also savored chicken consommé with fresh kluski. After seeing Baba in the kitchen rolling the dough, who wouldn’t?
The inn where we stayed could not have been staffed by more gracious hosts (or by more obnoxious guests, but I will get to that later.) At breakfast the first morning were scrumptious-looking little bowls of tuna salad; unfortunately the salad contained eggs, to which I am allergic. I inquired about the possibility of an egg-free salad, but all of the morning’s tuna had been used. Not a problem, as the buffet was overflowing with other delectable choices including French press coffee, a carryover from displaced Poles who had been living in France during the war. Who knew?
The following morning? The staff brought me a bowl of tuna salad, sans eggs. Without my asking! I love my people.
Under a self-imposed 12-step pierogi program after lunch on Saturday, I reverted to another favorite meal on our final night, roasted whole trout. Perfectly prepared, of course, and served with enough butter to make Julia Child proud. My people know how to cook.
Our route home on Sunday took us through the Krakonoski mountains and its national park. Intrigued by a length of roadside vendors along one of the park entrances, we stopped to investigate. Every other vendor was selling smoked sheep cheese.
A popular treat in this region is grilled cheese with a berry jam. Do take note of the label on that jam. Turns out that the Aldi grocery chain in Poland carries select Trader Joe’s items!
After a 17 pierogi weekend, though, one tiny plate of smoked cheese with Trader Joe’s jam was about all I could manage.
Giant pottery greets drivers at the roundabouts in Bolesławiec.
Driving around Bolesławiec and surrounds was a cultural journey. Vintage barns sit comfortably across from modern housing.
Baba and Djadja plow their farm with horses, while across the street the next generation uses weed-whackers from the big box home and garden store.
Abandoned and once-beautiful homes await a second chance.
While for others, living off the grid is just fine.