POLAND. When people heard Poland was going to be a stop on a summer trip I was planning, they were confused. Poland, in their minds, was equated with cities that would be behind in technology, have no nightlife, and shopping would be obsolete. Granted, these stereotypes were coming from my American friends.
The Poland I became familiar with through my travels was not the same view my family and friends had assumed. While Warsaw is the country’s epicenter of technology and has a skyline of high rises, Wroclaw is smaller and its Old Town has such a quaintness and charm. The cities were fun, but my favorite thing was to find places that were unknown in the bigger cities; hole-in-the-wall gems of restaurants, boutiques and more.
In Warsaw, there was a restaurant a little bit off the beaten path in Warsaw Saviour Square, still a popular area, yet away from all the tourist traps and expensive prices. It was called Charlotte and it was a café space across the street from a beautiful building with Coliseum style pillars. The atmosphere was laidback and the food was fabulous. For brunch, an array of homemade jams like a lavender honey and an amazing orange spread graced our table with croissants and any kind of bread you could imagine.
I liked the place so much I ended up returning to try a dinner there as well. The dinner did not disappoint either, with delicious white wine and delicious salad with a vinaigrette and many cheeses. It was a chance decision and a need for shaving cream that took me down that street and I found a restaurant I hope to return to someday.
A less metropolitan, but still bustling city is Krakow, and it is here that I found some very interesting restaurants and under the radar locations not to miss. In the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, most restaurants have a local and old world atmosphere. Pass by the touristy beginnings of the Quarter, while you get to see the Old Synagogue and Remuh Synagogue. The cobblestones and occasional music set the scene, and once an appropriate restaurant is found, any will do, a glass of wine and traditional Polish food of pierogi z miesem will complete an evening in such a historical area. Try a restaurant called Pierozki u Vincenta on Bożego Ciała, their pierogi dishes are incredible or have a bite at No-Bo on Ulica Meiselsa. The restaurant has a 50s flair and moderate pricing for such an interesting location, and it also features a menu boasting English and Polish food. Not a common place to visit or travel to unless you have a connection to this part of the city, but the Jewish Quarter of Krakow is filled with culture, good food, and new experiences.
As an avid shopper, I always want things that are unique and rare. To find those incredible, one-of-a-kind pieces while traveling I go to open-air markets. They may seem scary or intimidating, especially if you do not speak the language of country, but they are worth the language barrier. I found so many incredible pieces of jewelry for extremely cheap at an open-air market in Krakow. It was in the town square of the Old Town – most cities in Poland have an Old Town – and it was a series of tents lined up in the town square. You could find fresh produce, jewelry, clothing, and any kind of knick-knack you could think of. Prices are negotiable here, especially if you speak enough of the language to haggle successfully – make sure you say the correct number or you could be increasing the price by mistake! I found an incredible necklace for the price of 15 Zloty (a little less than $5) at a market and I know I will never find the piece anywhere else. Most knick knacks were 15-30 Zloty, and if you bought two or more items from a person, the price would usually be a bit cheaper for a bundle. Open-air-market finds are one-of-a-kind pieces that you can pass down and have an incredible memory attached.