6/28/12 - Krakow
I arrived at 6:50 in the morning to Krakow, and when I got to my hostel all I did was take a nap until Manu (my Belgian exchange student for those of you that don’t know) arrived after noon. I was so miserably exhausted from the train! I was so excited to see him for the first time in 3 years however. We went to get traditional Polish breakfast - just some meat with bread, cucumbers, and tomatoes. We explored some parts of the city and later that night went out to find a pub to watch the second semi final game of the Euro Cup. I was sad that Germany lost, and also was attracting a lot of stares because everyone else in Poland was cheering for Italy.
We explored the castle today which was really cool, and went down a ton of steps into the Dragon’s Den - supposedly a cavern hollowed out by a dragon - but unfortunately I hit my head on the low stone spiral steps despite the warning of low ceiling and the fact that I was already crouching down! We took a long nap in the middle of the day because I was suffering from awful allergies and was tired from the heat (more 100° days). After the nap, we explored the Jewish quarter. I had pierogis for dinner (polish dumplings) which I ordered russian style with cheese and potatoes. Though I had had them at home before, it was fun getting to actually eat them in Poland! We got back to the hostel and discovered a ton of new people, and ended up hanging out all night with 3 irish girls, and 3 aussies!
We all went out together for a quick lunch, then after more small naps (the heat and allergies really got to me!), Manu and I went out to explore the final part of the city that we hadn’t seen - including visiting a contemporary art museum. Parts of the museum were interesting and other parts we didn’t understand the art at all. But oh well, it was something interesting to check out for the day! We hung out with the aussies and irish again and ended up gaining a new Polish friend when asking directions for good places to go at night.
Along with the aussies, Manu and I went to visit Aushwitz. It was all awful things to learn about and see but as far as things to do in Krakow go, it was something that definitely needed to be experienced - it was a good thing to do. I learned so many new things that I had no idea had happened and when we got to walk through some of the various rooms, we experienced the extreme suffocating heat that they would have felt. It was over 100° again. Later when we returned, after a brief nap (always napping!), I found a great traditional, local restaurant to take everyone to so that they could try really good pierogis. It was a really quaint underground restaurant with a ton of different rooms and it was almost a 30s style place with a piano player and the host dressed up in a top hat and gloves. They were the best pierogis I had ever had! After, our Polish friend Borys met up with us at the Fan Zone he told us about where we could watch the finals of the Euro Cup on the big screen in the park with a lot of other people! Spain ended up winning 4-0.
7/2/12 - Warsaw
After saying our goodbyes to everyone the next morning, Manu and I went souvenir shopping before heading to the train station. We said our goodbyes for a couple of days and I headed on a train to Warsaw while he went to the airport to go back to Belgium. I made another new Polish friend in my hostel room, and he ended up taking me out to find more traditional Polish food. I had Zurek which is a sour soup. After he took me to a couple places to try some traditional polish drinks and polish tapas! He didn’t know Warsaw that well since he hadn’t been there for quite a few years, but we had a lovely stroll around the city - it’s quite beautiful at night.
Today was dedicated to visiting the city - but overall, it was dedicated to visiting everything Chopin! Warsaw was the place in Poland where Chopin grew up (he was born in a village just outside of the city). I went to see his museum where I got to see the piano he played and composed on for several years. After listening to a lot of his music throughout the museum, I decided this year in piano lessons I want to learn a few Chopin pieces! My favorite part of the city were the benches that you could sit on that would play 30 second clips of his music and describe why the place where the benches were placed were significant to his life. I even saw the church where his heart is preserved inside one of the walls! I had a traditional dish of plactek (I forget how you spell it) which were giant potato pancakes covered in Hunter’s Stew. Later that night I met all of the new people in my room - 5 English guys, an Aussie girl, and a Canadian girl. Somehow along the course of the night after a dinner of pierogies for them and bigos for me (Polish sauerkraut) they convinced me around 4 am that instead of going to Germany the following day I should go to a 4-day music festival in Gdynia, Poland. It helped that they were willing to share their tents with me since I didn’t have money or space for my own.
7/4/12 -Gydnia (Heineken Open’er Music Festival)
This had to have been the most disastorous 4th of July yet. I had left my camera in the restaurant the previous night so I had to go back and get it the next morning - unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t open until 11 and I was supposed to be on a train at 10 with the girls (the guys were taking a bus). I got my camera and got the next train at 12:40 by myself. There were a ton of announcements in Polish and I have no idea what they said, but at 7:20 when I was supposed to arrive in the train station, we were only halfway through the list of stops. I finally got in around 9:40 and caught the free shuttle to the festival. It had started around 6 pm but all of the good bands were just starting to play when I arrived around 10. Here comes the near-disaster: I called the one English guy who gave me his phone number so I could find them at the festival, and his phone was off! Commence panic mode. It was dark and hard to see faces. There are thousands upon thousands of people. So many tents, and a giant area that they could be in. I had all of my bags, and they wouldn’t let me into the festival grounds with them. I go into the campground hoping to wander and find them but everything is a foot-deep in mud. I stand there looking lost and a festival worker asks if he can help. I tell him my problem and he looks very confused when I tell him I have no tent. He offered to take my bags and store them for me (for free!!!) until 6 am so that I could get into the festival. I walked into the festival ground where there are 7 or so different stages and food stands and other event places they could be. I stop briefly to look around the Bjorck and Gorgol Bordello concerts before making my way to at least enjoy the Ting Tings since I wanted to see them. After Ting Tings, I began realizing how completely impossible it was going to be to find them and that I had made a bad decision in going to the festival instead of Germany. I went to see Wiz Khalifa because he was the only name playing at that time that I recognized. I was standing in the middle of the crowd, nearly having a nervous breakdown, when I spotted it… The curly, blonde mop of hair of one of the English guys off in the distance of the Wiz Khalifa crowd. I thought it couldn’t possibly be him, when I then spotted the bald head of another one of the guys shining like a beacon! I pushed quickly through the crowd and jumped on all of them. I was shaking so badly I couldn’t believe I actually found them and didn’t have to sleep outside in the mud until I could hopefully find them the next day!! Joe (whose number I had) explained that the girls had emailed him saying “we’ll just see you tomorrow” and of course he thought I was included in that since I was supposed to be on the train with the girls, so he turned off his phone as he didn’t have a use for it anymore. My night turned around to be a great one at that point, but of course it was already after the 4th had passed that I found them. We went to a silent disco (where everyone wears headphones and dances to whichever dj’s channel they prefer) which was really fun! After that we made our way through the muddy campgrounds and went to sleep where it was quite uncomfortable. I had no mattress, a partial corner of one of the guy’s sleeping bags, and the tent was a lot smaller than it was supposed to be once all of our bags were in so I couldn’t move the entire night. Nonetheless, I was entirely grateful that he was willing to share his tent with me and put up with being completely squished for 4 nights.
7/5/12 - 7/7/12
Every morning we got up early afternoon and went into town to grab lunch and hang out before heading back into the festival grounds for the concerts (they start around 6 pm and go until 4-5 in the morning!). Over the course of these next three days we saw Bon Iver, The Maccabees, Justice, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, M83, The Cardigans, Public Enemy, Mumford and Sons, The Mars Volta, Friendly Fires, Janelle Monae, The XX, and SBTRKT. It was one of the best nights when we were dancing to Justice, and Mumford and Sons was my favorite performance of the festival. I had never heard of Janelle Monae before but she had an amazing voice and a very interesting and show-like performance. The final day of the festival it had rained right as Mumford was due to perform, and as I was only wearing a bikini (it had been 90° right before..), I got a trash bag from one of the food stands and only poked my head out of the bag, leaving my arms inside. It was a dress and went down to my feet. It wasn’t raining after, and there was a giant mud puddle, so of course I decided it would be an excellent idea to run and dive headfirst into the puddle while wearing my garbage bag. My friends decided to roll me around in it, but then they dragged me by the legs so that the mud went inside the bag and covered my legs, and went all over my shorts! By this time I had collected quite a crowd of people watching, and taking videos and pictures of me in the mud. Every night we also ended at the silent disco which was so much fun with our giant group of people! We called ourselves “Camp Kitsch” because our room in Warsaw was the Kitsch room.