White European Beaches Where You Least Expect It: Sopot, Poland

Sometimes when someone starts telling you about where they’re from, they make bold claims.  Sometimes they turn out to be true, and other times you discover that person’s perception is clouded by their love of their home town.  My biggest bold claim, which I invite you to fact check, is that New Jersey is home to the best bagels in the world. 

Even knowing a person’s propensity to elevate their home town, you can imagine my surprise when one of Michael’s Polish coworkers once proclaimed:

“Poland has the best beaches of Europe.”

Read More

Northward Bound to Gdańsk, Poland

Bon lundi!

We're heading up to the north of Poland, to a notable city on the Baltic Sea. After Krakow and Warsaw, this was always the third city that people mentioned as a must-see in Poland (and often encouraged visiting it more enthusiastically than Warsaw).

This week is about Gdańsk - the sea, amber, my love of boats, and everything in between. I'll give away a little spoiler - I concur with my Polish friends who offered trip advice beforehand. Gdansk is a great place to spend a few days and should inch towards the top of any Poland to-do list. More on why coming soon! 

View of Gdańsk from the tower of St. Mary's Church 

Understanding Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw. I knew I couldn’t plan a trip around Poland without hitting the capital city. Yet as I mentioned before, it seemed to be unpopular with a majority of tourists who didn’t like its modern feel. In fact, it seemed to be unpopular with some of the Poles as well. On our last night in Krakow, upon hearing what our next destination was, our bartender proclaimed Warsaw to be “the most hated city in Poland.” And further elaborated that it was a place where “the uneducated live like kings.” So with that last vote of confidence, we left picture-perfect Krakow to see what Warsaw had in store for us.

At first look, I could see why there’s a lack of love for Warsaw. It was modern and shiny, busy and bustling, befitting of an international capital. Many of its visitors whether Polish or otherwise come for business. Those who come for pleasure seem to dismiss it in favor of smaller, more manageable cities.

Read More

Simply Sara Eats: in Warsaw

In the "Simply Sara Eats" series, I recount the my favorite food and drink discoveries.

We ate a lot of good food throughout Poland. Krakow stands out in my mind as it was our first destination in Poland, and our first taste of Polish cuisine of the trip. Warsaw though was another force to be reckoned with. We may not have eaten as much native food in the capital, but we took advantage of its international influences. The food here gets the distinction as some of the most memorable of the entire trip, and surprised us in many ways. (If you told me how much hummus I would eat in Warsaw, I would have never believed you! But more on that in a minute...) Without further ado, here’s the best-of list:

Read More

Shiny New Warsaw

Bon lundi!

Have you ever hesitantly added a destination on your itinerary with reservations about what the stop would amount to? That's how I felt about adding Warsaw to my trek through Poland. A lot of feedback I read from travelers recounting their trips in Poland seemed to dismiss Warsaw for its modern architecture and towering skyscrapers. Krakow was the decisive favorite, and many advised to skip Warsaw all together.

Though somewhat skeptical about the city, I couldn't ignore the capital on our big tour of the country. And since it was a direct, three-hour train ride from Krakow, we were able to easily cover the 300 kilometer distance and inch our way further north towards Gdańsk. 

This week is about what I found in Warsaw. To give you a hint, it had some of the most memorable food of the trip and a museum that surprised me. And looking back at everywhere we went in Poland, it is the place that we left the most stones un-turned and beckons a return trip someday. 

This unique building is the InterContinental Hotel, a five-star hotel. Its unusual cut-out bothered Michael with its inefficiency,  yet I appreciated the character it added to Warsaw's skyline. (Typical engineer vs English literature degree debates...)

So have you had the experience of traveling somewhere despite negative reviews from others, only to be pleasantly surprised?

5 Hidden Gems in Poland: Guest Post by Karolina and Patryk

One unexpected thing that occurred as a result of our trip to Poland was the blogging friendships that arose from bonding over this country. It’s how I met Cynthia, who I introduced previously with her guest post on backpacking through Poland. And today I have other bloggers to highlight - Karolina and Patryk, a Polish couple traveling the world. 

I had the opportunity to write a post on their blog about what surprised me about their country during my travels. And today I’m excited to introduce them as they share a native’s view on what Poland’s hidden gems are. Here’s the inside scoop, as told by Karolina and Patryk:

Read More

Exploring Medieval Toruń, Poland

I’ve come to learn that in any trip of considerable length one needs some built-in downtime to recharge and relax. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not the crazy hardcore sightseer I was in my early 20’s. Or maybe it reflects the slow shift my travel tendencies have made towards visiting every possible museum to sampling all the noteworthy local food and drink spots.

At any rate, in our 16-day trip through Poland, Toruń was the halfway point. And after running around Krakow and Warsaw, a change of pace was certainly welcomed and needed. Luckily Toruń was next on the itinerary. It is a medieval town that boasts two things besides overall cuteness: being Copernicus' hometown, and for producing gingerbread. What better place for my science-minded hubby and his foodie wife to explore?

Read More

This Week - Poland's Lesser-Known Destinations

Bon lundi!

February has arrived and I still have lots more to share about Poland! After exploring and eating my way through Krakow, I took a three hour train ride to Warsaw. But I'm going to go a little out of order and take a short break before sharing about another of Poland's well-known cities.

This week we're going to go to some smaller spots in the country. First up is Toruń, a picturesque medieval city with a claim to fame for being the hometown of Nicolaus Copernicus. Perhaps it isn't a secret as I did decide to go after reading about Toruń in my Rick Steves' guidebook (of course), but it is certainly not as visited as the other two major cities.

And then I will be featuring some native Polish bloggers who will be sharing on some real Polish gems. If you ever wanted a Polish friend to ask where to visit (besides the obvious cities), this is your opportunity!

Toruń at night is even more serene with all the day-trippers gone!

Stay tuned for more this week!

Day Trip from Krakow #2: Auschwitz-Birkenau

I've really hesitated about sharing the other day trip I took from Krakow. There’s nothing cheery or uplifting about this trip, and a bunch of people were surprised that I would go to such a location while on vacation. I hope to share my trip sensitively and respectfully because I can’t write about my time in Poland and leave this bit out. 

It’s one of the reasons I came to Poland in the first place.

I’ve always been interested in WWII history, especially the facets of the war surrounding the Holocaust. When I learned in school about the horrible events that happened, I was intrigued because I had so many questions. How could this happen? How could there be so much evil in one’s heart to do this to another human being? The scale of the operation, the swiftness with which everything was carried out, and the hate behind it just left me questioning how this mass murder of European Jews (along with other minorities) could happen in a blink of an eye.

The way these events played out in my mind when I initially learned about them went like this: Germany was reeling from the heavy loss of WWI, a new party came to power, and as it gained momentum its radical, hateful ideology somehow came out of nowhere and took hold. Now, later on, I’ve realized from my travels in Europe that the discrimination of Jews didn’t just come about in the 1930’s. I've stood in Nuremberg’s main square and enjoyed its famous Christmas market in the shadow of the Frauenkirche. A church that was built from the rubble of the synagogue that stood there, seized and demolished in order to create this square. I’ve been to Prague and have seen the old Jewish cemetery, its tombstones piled up on top of each other because the Jews were contained to a very limited area in the city. I know now that the manifestation of this hatred was a long time in the making - centuries of discrimination built up to the Holocaust.

Read More

Now that You're in Krakow...Get up and Go!

Bon lundi! 

I just got finished gushing about how much I loved Krakow and now this week I’m going to tell you the day trips you should take outside of Krakow. I know, I know, I sound like a hot mess who can’t make up her mind. But really it plays out very consistently in my mind. You see, you need to tack on two more days to however long you were planning to spend in Krakow to allow for time to see the nearby area. And by making Krakow your base to explore, you get to come back to the city in the late afternoon in time for dinner and some drinks in Kazimierz

The two popular day trips to do from Krakow are the Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz. Clearly both sites are very different from each other. They are about an hour drive apart and while you can squeeze both into one day, I was glad we had the time to split the two up and visit one a day. I’ll be sharing about each this week. After all, both made my 10 most memorable experiences in Poland list so I have to expand a little on what made each of these worth leaving beautiful Krakow for! 

Krakow is such a joy to explore...but this week we're going to leave and see what else is nearby!

On another note, you may have noticed last week that I have switched to Disqus for commenting. Sorry if I lost any comments in the process or if it created confusion. I love hearing from you and hope that this change will allow for more discussion and conversation! Let me know what you think :-)

Poland: Guest Post by Cynthia of Adventurings

I'd like to introduce you to one of my blogger friends, Cynthia! We first became acquainted by writing about our trips to Poland, and today she's going to share some of the highlights from her grand trip through the country to offer another perspective. Be sure to check out her blog - but I'll let her introduce herself properly: 

Ahoj! I'm Cynthia and I blog over at Adventurings about my expat adventures living in the Czech Republic and my travels that have fortunately come with living life abroad.

This year, I was brainstorming with my fiancé and travel partner about where the heck to go for our big summer trip. Just for fun, I threw out there: "What if we took a several week long backpacking trip to Poland? To really see the country and not just a few of its most famous cities." It seemed logical: I have Polish ancestry and would really love to spend more time in the "homeland" but also, the country neighbors the one I've been living in for two years, so it seemed only right to get to know this little pocket of the European continent a little better.

Read More

All Hype or Just Right? Krakow, Poland

Krakow. Whenever I heard about fellow travelers’ experiences in Poland, this city was one of the first words off their lips, or off the proverbial lips of blogs. Krakow was a clear favorite of many and given these high praises I wondered how it would all hold up in person. I had created high expectations and wondered if they would be met. And perhaps part of me wanted my opinion to differ. After all, had all these people set aside two weeks to travel around Poland? Surely I would prefer less touristy city like Wroclaw. 

There is certainly more to Poland than just the city of Krakow and the country deserves more time of a traveler to experience its diversity. Yet I’m going to admit it - I utterly fell in love with Krakow. It’s a must-visit on any Poland itinerary, and if I were to formally draw up a top 10 of Europe list, Krakow would make the cut. 

Let me try to back my opinion up - if the food alone doesn't convince you, here are some things I did and saw that made me join the ranks with many others declaring Krakow a Polish favorite.

Read More