Why I Was Wrong About Poland
Confession time. My Polish friend, Jacek has been trying to get me to visit Poland for many years. But I brushed off his invitation to visit "sexier" places in Europe like Paris, Barcelona, and Milan. If you've been following my posts, you know that I recently accepted his invitation and I'm pleased to say I had the time of my life during our road trip exploring Poland and other neighboring countries. I was completely wrong about Poland, the country is underrated and truly is Europe's hidden gem! Here's 4 reasons why you should visit Poland followed by a photo montage and detailed itinerary.
1. Rich History
If you are a history buff, you will love Poland! From the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany to the end of World War II to a Communist regime. It was surreal to visit places that I spent years learning about in grade school. Also, the country has 22 properties on the UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
2. Very Affordable
Compared to the majority of the countries I've visited in Europe, Poland is by far the most affordable. Although it is a part of the European Union, it uses the Polish Zloty (1 USD= 3.87 PLN).
3. Friendly People
As a melanin-rich person I'm used to getting stares when I travel abroad. In Poland, I received more friendly looks than stares from the people. And in some instances when I caught people staring at me they clearly looked embarrassed (which made me laugh on the inside).
4. Plenty of Activities
Beyond walking around and admiring the beautiful architecture, there's something for everyone in Poland. There's a beach scene, beautiful national parks, plenty of interesting museums, and a solid nightlife (who knew partying in Krakow would be so lit!).
We spent a couple of hours exploring Old Town ( the city center). During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, over 85% of the city's center was destroyed by Nazis. When the World War II was over, there was a 5 year reconstruction period to restore it. Currently, Old Town stands beautifully with colorful buildings, churches, and statues.
We also stopped by a really interesting exhibition curated by the Museum of the History of Poland and the Polish Army Museum, celebrating over 1050 years of Christianity in Poland. The exhibition went through Poland's transition from a pagan to Christian world. I would recommend that you visit, but it was only available until July 31st.
I had the BEST culinary experience in my life (so far) at the Senses restaurant! It was my first time having a 7- course meal, but it really turned into a 11- course meal because of all the complimentary items bought over. The service was impeccable and they were really accommodating with my nut allergy. The presentation of the food was like art. Everything from the bread to the palette cleansers were amazing. It was the first time I tried caviar and many of the items on the menu like an edible cigar. We were eating for four hours in food paradise! That was the most mindful eating experience I've had in a while. It was the most expensive meal of our trip ($110), but it was worth every penny. A meal at a restaurant of this caliber would easily cost 3x as much in NYC. Please go to this restaurant in you are in Warsaw. Make sure you make a reservation beforehand!
Although, we only spent a short time here, one of my many highlights during this trip was visiting Łódź, Jacek's hometown. I enjoyed finding unique items in his apartment like his great grandfather's camera, and his grade school score book that he had to carry around everywhere. Driving around the neighborhood, there were many signs of the communist regime like the style of the car and house pictured above. We were welcomed with open arms by Mum Grazyna (Jacek's mom). With translation services from Jacek, she schooled us on Polish history and pulled out some history books. She also gave us a present, a Jewish man figurine that symbolizes financial prosperity.
Medieval Town of Toruń
From Łódź, our next destination was Kołobrzeg, a city on the coast. We broke the 5.5 hour drive up and made a stop in Medieval Town of Toruń for a sightseeing, lunch, and to grab some Pierniczki (famous gingerbread cookies) for the road. Toruń is a really cute and colorful town! Fun fact, it's the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
I paid $8 for this delicious schnitzel and lemonade at Restauracja Kuranty. Did I mention how much the Polish prices were great for my pockets?!
We used Kołobrzeg as a resting point because it was the closest to the port to get us to Bornholm, Denmark for our day trip. Here's our delicious pre-departure meal.
Bornholm is only a 4 hour ferry ride away from Kołobrzeg. The best way to explore the island is by bike, which we rented on the island. I haven't ridden a bike in a while and I was super proud of myself for not crashing. The weather was lovely, up until the last 30 minutes of our stay when it started raining.
On our way to Berlin we stopped by Rewal to see what a Polish beach-town was like and to dip our feet in the water, which was quite cold.
We also ate a Gofry, a Polish summertime staple. These pictures make me hungry!
Kraków is a must see during your trip to Poland! We spent time exploring the Old Town and its Main Market Square, which is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. Wieliczka Salt Mine was incredible. There are hundreds of mind-blowing wall carvings, statues, and furniture made out of salt. Our last stop in Kraków was a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Although, it was a sad place to be, it was one of the most moving and significant places we visited.
Don't leave Kraków without having an Obwarzanki. It's a delicious cross between a pretzel and a bagel and costs about $0.40. I had my first chimney from Prague, got hooked and wanted to eat as many as I could before going home. Kraków's chimneys have a lighter feel. The one in the picture is filled with vanilla and caramel.
Now that you see why I was wrong about Poland, have I convinced you to visit?!