Greetings from Krakow!
Our first full day in Poland was full of excitement, sightseeing, and a desperate need of an afternoon nap.
Early this morning when the jet lag kicked we were off and ready to explore the streets and sights of the city.
The majority of our time was spent in and around Wawel Hill. We were fortunate enough to tour both its interior and exterior, which made for a mind-opening afternoon. With artwork, artifacts, and architecture dating back to the 16th century, it became almost overwhelming to see the amount of history that was right before our eyes.
Refer to the picture above (myself in front of the gold dome). Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside but I can assure you it was without a doubt a sight to see. Pope John Paul II was extremely dedicated to this particular cathedral. On many occasions he would come to say mass and pray. He was no stranger to its walls even after being elected pope.
Our final leg of the sightseeing was spent in Rynek Square. A small group of us stopped for lunch at a small, underground restaurant. While there, I was able to experience my first plate of authentic Polish pierogies. A long standing tradition in my family is the eating on these dumplings every Christmas Eve. Coming from Polish descent, I naturally feel obligated to say that my mother’s are better; however, these served as a close second.
While immersed, differences between Poland natives and Americans came to the surface. The most obvious difference between people of Poland and people of the United States is the ability to speak an additional language from their own. In Poland it is simply the norm whereas in America it is seen as a special skill.
Second, numerous people from our travel group have noticed that the locals have “kept to themselves” in many ways. Even in a place of strong sales pitches (such as the vendors in Rynek Square), salespeople will not persuade a customer on any product, yet patiently let them glance upon their goods. In addition, chances are you’ll receive a skeptical look if you give a stranger a smile as you pass on the street. Small things such as this that we become accustomed to in America are not reciprocated in Poland.
Finally: a word of advice. Unlike the strict rule of pedestrians having the right away in America, the natives of Krakow prefer to come to a screeching halt at the last second, causing the heart’s of us innocent Americans to skip a beat. Keep an eye out.