Last year during a 3 month long ‘highlight reel’ of experiences, Mosquito Hostel turned Krakow into one of my favourite cities. I spent every night on the same pub crawls that attract people from all over Europe. Earlier this month I revisited Poland because it is a good meeting point for my girlfriend and I. While collecting my luggage at Krakow Airport I was undergoing self-preparation, acknowledging that it would not be equal (in the same way) to my first visit.
“Don’t expect the same, don’t get disappointed if it is different, many factors contributed to it” I mumbled to myself.
This time it was like having an unexpected day off school. Being inside when it is raining outside, everything is warm, the daytime news channel that you never watch is on and then you bake cupcakes. I did not bake cupcakes, but I did eat the ones that somebody else baked and they were good.
Over the 4 days we spent together Jess and I would leave this wonderful mosquito nest and find ourselves walking through a historic city (The entire ‘old town’ was one of the first sites chosen for the UNESCO World Heritage List). A township of colourful buildings and history, a tram ride can get you to Schindler’s Factory in 20 minutes
The remains of Krakow’s Medieval fortress is across the road. The city centre is dominated by the tower of St Mary’s Church. On the hour you can hear the Krakow Anthem, known as “Hejnał Mariacki”, trumpeted from the top. One building in the main square dates back to the 11th century (!)
I grew up all the way over in New Zealand. All I knew about Poland was from WWII documentaries. It was not on my list of travel destinations; only because I hadn’t thought about it. Poland invoked thoughts of black and white streets; somehow I imagined it would be black and white in real life too (‘stupidity’ I think they call that).
Waiting at the airport arrivals gate, I was trying to blend in with taxi drivers by holding a hastily drawn sign with Jess’s full name on it. We have a long distance relationship that is emotionally draining at times. We’ve come to appreciate being in the same city and from the moment Jess came through the gate and laughed at my prop-assisted joke, for me, the wait was forgotten.
During the evenings we walked through light rain and followed spiral staircases to the brick clad bunkers where Jazz musicians played. During the day another bunker provided the setting for hours of coffee drinking and flowing conversation; the type that takes you away from the idea of time and connects two people seamlessly. We walk out into the main square again – surrounded by Medieval buildings.
The sad part of Krakow is that I last left Jess there. That is my experience and, like any city, your own experience will determine how you feel about it. Far from any black and white still, Poland’s former capital is a city well-worth visiting.