JSyder Photography | Poland
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Poland

June 24, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

My happy place; it’s what I now refer to Poland as. I would not have known, hadn't my dear friend Paula invited me and shown me around. She was kind enough to let me stay at her family’s property and escorted me around proudly. Prior, I had no expectations but what I saw and experienced was astounding. To be honest, what I thought I would see was some desolation – for whatever reason, there is a preconception. In fact, Poland isn’t even on the map as a holiday destination. Maybe, it’s because of the distress the nation has been through throughout the years. This distress can be seen, unknowingly to them, in their faces. I met a guy on the plane, a really nice English chap and in his words, “even if they don’t look friendly on the outside, they are on the inside”. This led me to want to engage. Well, I didn’t have to - I was generously greeted with warmth and smiles. Some even approached me in friendly banter. Yes, others were speculative but that was just their curiosity. I embraced this and smiled, which in turn broke down walls.

I arrived at the tiny airport in Kraków and the first thing I realised, was how modern the architecture was – it actually looked like a fancy shopping mall. A lot nicer than London’s Stansted where I departed from. Paula's mum drove us to a nearby KFC where I had my first meal; I have this thing, where I must try KFC in every country I go to, so I insisted. On the drive home, I kept gazing out the window at the landscapes and infrastructure and thought, “this was not what I expected”.

 

On the first evening, I was greeted with this sunset. It was almost saying, “expect great things here”. APC_0101-PanoAPC_0101-Pano _JSP5935-HDR_JSP5935-HDR

 

The day after, we thought we’d just have a chilled walk in this nearby village, Lanckorona. Lanckorona is also known for the Battle of the Bar Confederation that took place at the Lanckorona CastlePaula’s family lived on the outskirts of Kraków. This suited me well; as much as I love exploring cities, I love the calmness the fresher air brings so living on the outskirts of any major city is exhilarating to me because you get the best of both worlds. I encourage you to explore the outside of the city centre on your next big trip and experience some not-so-modern architecture and greener air. APC_0127-PanoAPC_0127-Pano APC_0133APC_0133 APC_0138APC_0138 7d67a1ab-52e3-4668-9db0-a4e06943fe707d67a1ab-52e3-4668-9db0-a4e06943fe70

Picture: Paula Stopka

On the 3rd day, I visited the city centre of Kraków. The first stop was the Wawel Castle. The Wawel Castle is a castle residency located in central Kraków, Poland built at the command of King Casimir III the Great. The castle, being one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and ornate periods. The castle is now one of the country’s prestigious art museums. _JSP5962_JSP5962 _JSP5984-HDR_JSP5984-HDR

 

With just a short walk from the castle to the main square in Kraków, be sure to navigate around the side streets to discover some cute alleyways and horse ridden cobbly streets that all lead to the main square. There you would find buskers, intimate boutiques and interesting churches(which seem to be on every corner, like pubs are in London). _JSP6015_JSP6015 _JSP6037_JSP6037

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You’d know when you’re getting closer to the Main Square when you see the horse-drawn carriages, which can take you into Kazimierz(The Old Jewish Quarter), or Wawel Hill. I’ve not been on them myself but you can get a good sense of the city when they take you around. Bear in mind, there’s no commentary so you don’t really find out about what you’re going past. _JSP6138_JSP6138

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The Square itself is always buzzing. I hung around for hours and the pace didn’t change. It only got busier as the hours went by. If you find yourself by one of the many restaurants surrounding it, treat your eyes to people watching and your tastebuds to a scrumptious Polish breakfast.

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Picture: Paula Stopka

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As with any main city centre, Kraków comes with its' buskers, performers and beggars. _JSP6244_JSP6244

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We then walked over to Kazimierz, the Old Jewish Quarter. Paula told me that I would like it there but I didn’t know what to expect. It was a 15min walk there and the buildings and silhouettes didn’t stop pleasing my eyes. Around almost every corner, there was another attractive square. Another wow moment. The textures looked more mature and I can smell the history that lurked in the air.

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It was a clear sign that we’d arrived. The street names were labelled in Hebrew and preserved synagogues stood still.

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Nothing better to end the hot day than with a cold polish beer and the company of the loveliest person. Cheers, Paula.

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We had a long day of walking around and I’m not sure if it was a good idea, or maybe it was but the day after, there was an enduring hike planned. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Morskie Oko and according to the health app on my iPhone, I did 18.8km and 25,397 steps on that day. Morskie Oko was well worth it. It’s not something that you’d likely see if you just do a weekend trip to Kraków or haven’t made special plans to go there. There, I saw coaches so I guess that’s an option if you do some research. The walk itself takes you through the mountains on a paved path. It's a scenic and beautiful walk I might add but when you get there, it feels like you’ve been transported to another dimension and the journey loses itself it the magnificence of this grandeur.

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Picture: Paula Stopka

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The thing is, when you’ve trekked hours to a beautiful location, no matter how beautiful it is or how worthy it is, you've always got to get back down. What I suggest, to make sure you’re prepared for the walk back, is to have a bottle of water and maybe a snicker bar for a boost of energy. Thankfully, I had Paula with me so we played how well do you know Paula/ how well do you know Jerry(Ok that lasted 15mins but still).

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The day after, we licked our wounds and took it a bit easier. It was the eve of Corpus Christi and what a good day it was to stroll through some of the most prestigious churches and Catholic establishments here, then have a last drink at the Main Square. One thing for certain is that the country takes Christianity seriously. Devout Christians can be seen bowing their knees at churches and if someone goes past a church, the sign of the cross would be made. This devotion humbled me, being a Christian myself.

 

The Divine Mercy Sanctuary and Chapel of the miraculous image of the merciful Jesus and the tome of St. Faustina, the resting place of Saint Faustina KowalskaThroughout her life, Faustina reported having visions of Jesus and conversations with him, of which she wrote in her diary, later published as The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. 

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Picture: Paula Stopka

 

In closing, I had an absolutely amazing time. Paula’s friends and family welcomed me warmly and mum fed me gracefully. Apologies for not covering the food extensively. Let’s just say that my tummy was smiling every day.

Pierogi (dumplings with savoury or sweet filling, topped with fried onions) IMG_1840IMG_1840

Pulpety (Ground Meat Balls) and kotlet schabowy z ziemniakami (Deep fried pork chops with potatoes) IMG_1872IMG_1872

ŁAZANKI (Square pasta with minced meat and fried onions) IMG_1708IMG_1708

 

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Picture: Paula Stopka


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