We had just sat down on our super fast train to Warsaw, the most expensive thing on our trip, when I realized I lost my journal. Countless travel memories are now lost somewhere in Poland…
Luckily, I had my best friend by my side to go through all the things we had done during the last couple of days. He’s the one that turned a wedding invitation into a wonderful trip around Poland and definitely one of the most memorable ones I’ve done!
From the capital, Warsaw, to the secluded corners of Jasło, we travelled North to South, East to West and fell in love with this country.
Eleven days were not enough to see everything we wanted or go through the endless list of tips we got from my friend Magda (a lovely Polish girl that I met through Instagram on our last trip to Madrid), but we did managed to try the traditional food, drink the vodka and appreciate both the cityscape and the countryside.
It was already dark when we landed in Warsaw, so we didn’t have many transportation options. After a bus, a train and a taxi we managed to arrive to the Old Town. We settled in our hostel, Kanonia Stare Miasto and went out for a walk around the square.
Most places stopped serving already, so we ended up buying some food at a local shop. We sat down while Chopin played in the background, turns out there was some sort of musical bench right beside us 🙂
The next day we had breakfast at Cafe Baguette, if you like big coffee servings this is definitely the place to go. Frappuccinos in the summer and a hot cup of coffee in the winter will satisfy your caffeine needs throughout the whole year!
We didn’t spend much time in Warsaw, as I had been here before. We came back on our last night, since you can only fly to Lisbon from here, but there wasn’t much room to explore the city any further.
GDANSK & SOPOT
These two cities, together with Gdynia, form a metropolitan area known as the Tri-City. They all have their unique traits, Gdánsk with its outstanding buildings and Sopot with its wooden pier (apparently the longest one in Europe).
It took us four hours to get from Warsaw to Gdánsk and as soon as we saw the Old Town buildings, we were impressed. I was never interested in studying architecture, but this trip definitely sparked my interest in it! The colors, the shapes and how the buildings combined create a picturesque setting, worthy of endless captures, Poland’s architecture is out of this world.
On the rare occasion that I was scared, one of them was in Gdánsk. We were having a hard time finding our hostel, so we decided to ask a Polish man for help. He then took us to a dark tunnel with flickering lights and it felt like we had just been casted for the next Hostel film. I looked back when he closed the door and I thought this didn’t look good for us. I soon saw a door in front of us and walked as fast as I could, it was simply a shortcut to another street. He gave us the directions from there and a few minutes afterwards we were at the Old Town Hostel.
The area looked a bit dodgy, however the woman at the reception assured us it was fine to walk there at night. We dropped our things and headed off to explore the city.
We had our first decent Polish meal at Pierogarnia u Dzika. Pierogi (dumplings) and Kielbasa (Polish sausage) were basically the two things we ordered most on this trip. I was quite fond of Polish cuisine in general, with a few exceptions here and there, and I absolutely loved the Karpatka (Polish cream pie).
Scratch that, beer (piwo) was probably the most mentioned Polish word! While in Gdánsk, I also tried a local drink called Goldwasser, which is quite similar to Gold Strike, after a few failed attempts to find a bar that had it on the menu, we finally settled for one at Long Street 52.
We made our way to Sopot the next day, a seaside town with a beautiful beach setting. It was boiling hot but oddly enough no one was in the water, we later found out it had to do with a bacteria.
Since I couldn’t enjoy a proper swim, I sat down with a mojito instead. We realized that we had to pay to enter the pier, which was a bit disappointing but we did it anyway.
Every time I go on holiday I tend to install a tourism app, this time I got the Poland Travel Guide With Me, which was quite useful and apparently they cover other countries as well. I decided to try one of their restaurant recommendations in Sopot (Bar Przystań) but unfortunately we couldn’t find it. After Nick’s usual “I-told-you-so” we simply grabbed a meal at one of the pier’s restaurants.
When summer hits Sopot, Fish & Chips is featured on pretty much every restaurant. Dating a British guy has taught me one thing: there are real Fish & Chips and there are crappy Fish & Chips, the latter being any that are not made within the Queen’s territory.
Regardless, I fully enjoyed my Polish version of the fried codfish. Being Portuguese, I’m used to getting it dry, I believe that was the first time I got a fresh cod!
We stopped by the crooked house but, to be honest, it looks a lot better in the pictures. The bottom part is now home to one of the many Costa Cafes you will see spread around Poland.
After a quick stroll, we got the bus to the Gdánsk airport and an hour later we landed in Kraków.
I’ve heard great things about Kraków, not just from Magda, but also from Nick, who stopped here during his Eastern Europe trip a few years ago.
The city was packed with youngsters that came for the WYD (World Youth Day), waving their national flags and singing religious chants. A very different sight, from the quiet winter Nick spent here.
We were too tired to go to a restaurant, so we just bought a kebab down the hostel’s street. I must say that was the most delicious kebab I have ever had.
After sorting out our trip to Jasło the next day, we went to Charlotte (French restaurant) for breakfast, I know not very traditional, but boy was it delicious!
We explored a bit of the city, from the Old Town to the Jewish Quarter, with a couple of stops for drinks at Klubokawiarnia Mleczarnia (lovely patio), Plac Nowy 1(nice craft beers) and the Bunkier Café (no visible signs outside, but it’s right in the corner of Plac Szczepański and the Planty Park, definitely recommend this one).
I also tried the ice cream at Lody na Starowiślnej, the most famous ice cream shop in Kraków. It usually has a big queue outside, but I guess the rain put people off, which meant that I was the first one in line. I really like the flavor of it, but I don’t think you’re meant to walk while you eat it, ‘cause after a while it was falling apart in my hands!
We had to rush off to get the 8:30pm bus, so we got a quick meal at KFC and made our way to Jasło, the bride’s hometown.
Every trip has its ups and downs, arriving to a gas station in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country is never a good feeling, let alone when it’s late at night. How you manage to get out of that situation is completely up to you.
“Maybe you’re not cut out for travelling” – Nick said while we were figuring out how to get to our hotel. It was tough hearing that, but he was right. I had rely on him to do all the talking during this trip, I was simply too shy to come forward. And once again he came to my rescue, when he approached the woman at the gas station and asked her to call for a taxi. I had been so blind by the fact that there were “scary-looking guys” outside that I didn’t even think about doing that. Despite her broken English, we did get our taxi in the end and arrived safely to the hotel. That experience really opened my eyes, I still have a lot to learn about travelling by myself.
We managed to get away with speaking English in most places, but it was definitely harder to do so in Jasło. Before reaching out to the woman at the gas station, Nick called the hotel’s reception but since they didn’t speak any English they just hang up…
A few days after we found out that we were only 10 minutes away from the hotel and we could have easily walked there.
We spent a couple of days in this town. On the first day I went fishing for the first time at Fish Bar Pik Stawy Wacława, Nick managed to get a fish right away (the biggest of them all) but it took me a couple of tries and the help of John, Nick’s uncle and an avid fisherman, to get one to take the bait.
After everyone had a go, we took the buckets upstairs, where a man was waiting to wash the fish. We asked for frytki (fries) and he gave us the number of our order. 30 minutes afterwards, the trout was on the plate, together with the fries and some salad, it was absolutely delicious.
Back in the hotel, no one seemed to care too much about getting Polish food for dinner, so they decided to order pizza, 12 pizzas to be exact. Unfortunately, Jasło is a small town that doesn’t often welcome a large group of foreigners. I kid you not, it took 5 hours to get a pizza, by which point I had already given up.
While most people stayed in the hotel, we were keen on exploring the area. If you ever find yourself in this small Polish town, go to the Park Miejski and snap a picture of the gazebo, walk over the green train rails, enjoy a drink by the promenade and order a kebab at Pub Legenda, have I mentioned how delicious kebabs are in Poland?
If you understand Polish you can install the Jasło app and find out more about the town!
At 1:10pm everyone had put on their wedding gear and was ready to go to church.
The groom’s side, aka the British, took over the left side, while the bride’s family settled on the right side. This separation proved to be quite useful since the whole ceremony was in Polish and we needed clear directions of when to stand up or sit down.
After the “I do’s”, a few tears and violin tunes, the wedding crew headed to Afrodyta and settled there for the next three days.
We had endless meal courses, a couple shots of vodka and some of us danced until we dropped (mostly the Polish) but we all had a blast 🙂
When we agreed to wake up at 5am and ride a bus for almost 4 hours, we weren’t really sure where we were heading to. There were rumours of zip lines, rafting and cable cars, but when we got to Zakopane the only thing we got was rain, loads of rain.
Nearly 60 people bought a rain cape from our group, some of us were wearing sandals and shorts, definitely not the proper gear for a mountain walk, but to be fair we didn’t have any dress code guidelines to follow…
We got on a horse carriage that took around 50 minutes to the top (well, almost to the top). On the way we saw pine trees, Fly Amanita mushrooms (aka Mario’s mushrooms) and small waterfalls. The 10 minutes that followed the horse ride were filled with “Ah’s” and “Wow’s” as the Morskie Oko lake was finally revealed to us. The fog was covering the mountains and the lake didn’t seem to end, it was absolutely magical.
Even though we had a couple of food breaks on our way here, we were still quite hungry. We decided to go inside the Mountain shelter house, which not only served delicious Polish food, but also sold souvenirs.
We had a mushroom soup and potato pancakes with goulash, a perfect way to warm your stomach on a cold day!
The bride and groom were taking their photos by the cold lake, while we struggled to snap ours without anyone in our way.
Most people took the carriage back to the entrance, but we decided to walk, with a few shortcuts here and there it took us 1h30min to get there. It would be nice to go back with a little more time and explore all its beauty.
The end of a trip is always bittersweet. On the one hand you love travelling and you want to stay as long as you can, on the other you miss home and your friends. But what if suddenly, in all your years of travelling, you find a new place that you would like to call home? We both saw that possibility in Wrocław. It had mind-blowing architecture, a beautiful riverfront, great nightlife, craft beers and most of all, it was cheap.
We found ourselves looking at house prices and on our way back to Lisbon we discussed what would we miss most about the Portuguese capital, in other words, what will we bring to Wrocław if we could. Our friends? The food? The beach? Truth is, I’ve grown more attached to Lisbon than I like to admit.
We spent one night at the Wratislavia Hostel, the hostel is located a bit on the outskirts but you can get to center in 10 minutes. The first thing that caught our attention was the Wrocław Town Hall, a beautiful gothic building right in the heart of the old town. On its left side you will find a basement restaurant, said to be one of the oldest ones in Europe. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try it, maybe next time!
There are also medieval churches spread throughout the city. They even have a Cathedral Island, accessible on foot through several bridges, all of them with their unique history. If you can only visit one church, I recommend the St. Mary Magdalene Church! Climb up to the top and admire the city from above 🙂
Another curious thing about Wrocław are its dwarfs. These small statues started to appear in 2005 and soon took over the city. Today you can combine your sightseeing with dwarf-hunting with apps like Wrocław – Krasnalove, there are over 300 of them so that should keep you busy for a while!
After a few wanderings around town, we said our farewells to the city with a drink by the riverfront and a delicious meal at Bulka Z Maslem…