Sunday, December 28, 2014

Poland - Pierogi love

10/9-10/12 2013 Supposedly I'm part Polish, on my mother's side. I tried to find out some more information about what town my Grandmother's family was from and got nothing. One of my cousins thought they might have moved around between Poland and Russia. It's a mystery! There is a huge Polish presence in Chicago - we have the largest Polish population outside of Poland itself. I saw people that looked very "Chicago", in their faces and they way they dressed. I felt at home in Krakow. 

I took another long train ride from Ljubljana to Budapest:

I was in this car so long, I felt it was MINE. People would come in and out throughout the day and I made myself at home.

I spent a quick night in Budapest where I stayed in the same place I stayed in 2011 and ate at the same chicken paprikash restaurant. I'm going back to Budapest this fall for the marathon so I'll just write more about it later. I like Budapest!

In Krakow I stayed at the Tango house B&B - such a great place!

I explored Krakow at night. The main square is full of atmosphere. There was some sort of festival going on with stalls of food and music every night I was there. 

I took my friend Desiree's suggestion and ate at Pod Gruszka - an old journalist restaurant/hang out off the main square. Pierogi! It was a perfect first meal in Poland. 

I love dumplings and pierogi are my second favorite next to xiao long bao.  But I couldn't eat chinese dumplings every day - here I did eat Pierogi every day, a few times a day. It was everywhere and I couldn't get enough!

Who does this? Look at this ridiculous schedule. I could have narrowed it down to half of those places.  I finally filled in all the gaps of my schedule. I usually plan about half of it up front and reserve the other hotels one or two days out.

Krakow had many old-style coffee houses and restaurants. I loved the purple walls at cafe camelot. 

Orderly bike lanes - we are trying to do this in Chicago but it's not the same.

I went to the jewish section of town and went to an interesting museum of jewish history:

Krakow is a mix of hip, inventive places mixed with traditional places like this place that didn't have english translations:

I did some laundry because everything I had was covered in food stains:

Here are some grilled sheep cheese dumplings with cranberry sauce that contributed to some of the stains:

I passed by this cute place in the main square every day. I was never more than a stone's throw away from some pierogi. 

Communal eating for the food stalls in the main square.  This is what I had for dinner two out of three nights here. It's a fun way to eat - with strangers!

Krakow main square

Planty park next to the main square:

There was a very confusing cheese situation in the main square.  Do these not look like little biscuits?  I was trying to buy things to eat for my day trip to Auschwitz. I figured I'd pack a few of these. They look good, right?

The lady who sold them to me was telling me something in polish and I didn't understand.  She handed me the bag and it weighed about 10 times more than I thought it would. That's because I accidentally bought SOLID BLOCKS of cheese - stinky goat and sheep cheese.  She was trying to ask me what kind I wanted because each basket had a different kind.  I just assumed they were all biscuits and why are you all worked up, lady? 

I got back to the hotel and asked some people on Facebook with Poland experience what I should do with them. I guess they don't need refrigerating. I left them on the table and sliced away at them for a few days until I had to leave but I didn't take them to Auschwitz. 

I saw this performance on the main square!

The kids in the show looked just like the people on the zywiec label!

More main square eating

I took the day trip to Auschwitz. It was moving - there isn't much I could say that would explain what it is like to actually be there, it's something you'd have to experience for yourself. It was depressing but important to see.

Showing people's names and faces was very powerful. The older people looked so stoic and brave, but the children all looked terrified. It was horrible. That was the worst part.

Back in Krakow - here's a bagel necklace

And poetry projected on a wall. I love this!

I reluctantly left Krakow to spend a night in Warsaw to make my flight home.  The old town of Warsaw was definitely worth seeing.  I could have spent another day.

Warsaw old town square:

My last Pierogi!

I stayed at the Castle Inn in the old town. The hotel was great except for the fact that my room faced that bell tower. It went off every 15 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG and I got ZERO minutes of sleep.  Zero minutes. I couldn't even drift off between the bell bongs because I kept anticipating them.  Any minute now, there will be another one. Bong! bong! bong!

The next morning I set the toaster on fire at the hotel breakfast and took that as a big sign that it was time to leave Europe. It was actually hilarious. One of those very quiet breakfasts with classical music playing. I could not stop laughing.

In the airport I saw this and kind of wanted to buy it.

Next up:  Ecuador in March and Budapest in October!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Zagreb and Ljubljana

10/6/2013 - After the 10+ hour bus ride, I arrived in Zagreb with just enough time to check into my hotel and quickly see the Museum of broken relationships. I had been looking forward to this quirky museum!

People donated love momentos, wedding photo albums you could leaf through of people who were now divorced - old items of clothing that they donated instead of throwing out into the street, etc.  The stories came from all over the world. We are all connected by insane stories like this. I loved it. 

Zagreb is terribly under-rated.  I wish I had more time to wander and I loved the Hotel Jagerhorn.  It was just a stop-over but I hope to spend another night there one day. I went out for some truffle pasta and some more Croatian wine!

I took a short train to Ljubljana.  A few years ago when my friends and I were voting on international marathons for our 2012 trip, Ljubljana was a big contender.  We decided on Amsterdam instead. (which is great, because I hurt myself that year and could only run a shorter distance and Ljubljana does not have a half marathon) I had always wanted to check the city out.  It was charming, I would definitely come back with friends. There was nightlife that would entertain us. I was by myself so I wasn't roaming the streets at night for very long but I could see potential. 

Slovenian food - sort of like Italian with some other eastern influences.  You can see the pasta, goulash and pork knuckle on this menu. 

I was visited by a little friend who ate some of my crumbs.  Later I stopped for some fantastic coffee (top photo) 

Flags advertising the upcoming marathon - WAAA I want to run it!

I stayed at a place called Petra Varl. It was a great rental efficiency apartment with a tiny kitchen!  I did sit on this porch for a little bit until it was too cold. I pretended and fantasized that it WAS my apartment. I definitely made morning coffee in the french press just like I do at home. There was a bag of coffee in the cabinet. One European thing I need to adopt at home is the electric water-heating kettle. My Slovenian self, Sarja, heated water with it and was very impressed.

I took the funicular up to the castle:

I made a mortadella sandwich and packed a fancy lunch from the grocery store. I had a long, long train ride to Budapest the next day:

I chose a horrible mediocre place for dinner.  Instead of talking about my food (that still makes me sad over a year later), I will post these pictures of my walk home from dinner. 

I was up before the sun to catch the train to Budapest!