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.
I was definitely apprehensive on the lead-up to this trip. Not only about backpacking (last time I had done that for over three weeks was in my university days) but also because it was Poland. Not as sexy as Italy or Greece and not nearly a top destination for most anyone. Almost every single person I mentioned the trip to in the Czech Republic before my departure seemed baffled: "Poland?! Why?!" It became difficult to hold fast to my belief that I really wanted to get to know this country.
As soon as I entered the country in Krakow (one of Sara's favorites), I knew I had made absolutely the right decision! I found Poland's strong, spirited, and optimistic spirit to be infectious-- to my surprise, much different than the general feeling I've been surrounded with in the Czech Republic. Polish flags were everywhere and I admired their patriotism. Also, I was constantly met with kindness. In the eight different Polish cities and towns I stayed in, I experienced the most excellent hospitality in all of them. The one time in Warsaw when I asked for directions, about six different people swarmed around trying to help me. My heart swelled.
And the food--- ohh, the food! Growing up on pierogies, I knew Poland would be a major culinary destination for me! Not once on my three week odyssey did I cook my own meal. I really wanted to experience every type of Polish cuisine, because as a wise man once said, "To make good food, you must eat good food". I got to know the many varieties of pierogi (the popular stuffed dumpling, ruskie being my favorite type) as well as the soups and cabbage rolls.
I'd like to share a little bit about a few destinations as well.
The place I loved the most?
I think that would have to be Krakow. There is always so much to do and I love the vibrant feeling of the city (like these musicians in Kazimierz) and the architecture is unmatched. I discovered my favorite church in the world there (Church of St. Peter and Paul).
The place that surprised me the most:
Zakopane, two hours south of Krakow by bus. I expected a sleepy little mountain village and what I got was Poland's Niagara Falls equivalent! It was one of my favorite stops to enjoy the unique nature and to hike to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world: accessible by a 40 minute bus ride + a 2 hour hike. Poland's Tatra mountains and this very traditional mountainous region is a sight not to be missed.
The place that met my expectations?
Warsaw. It was exactly as I had been anticipating, which is really hard to describe because there really is no city like Warsaw and I think it absolutely must be experienced first-hand instead of relying on other people telling you what they thought. But if you did what my opinion? Go. Find the Warsaw that most pleases you!
And lastly, the place that definitely could've used an extra day?
The town of Hel, on the long sandy Hel peninsula, which extends thirty-five kilometers out into the Baltic sea. If you want to experience the best of Poland's beaches, Hel is where to go. The town itself has a festive atmosphere in the summer and there are many fish restaurants to try!
Sara and I bonded over our trips to Poland this year and I think we both would agree that Poland is a highly underrated tourism destination. This country is huge, it's kind, it's beautiful, it's multi-faceted, and its history is like no other country in the world.
All photos compliments of Cynthia.