After a much needed respite in Rhodes, Matthew and I hopped on a plane and landed in Krakow, Poland. Immediately upon stepping off the plane, Matthew fell in love again (obviously Baby Poppyseed and I are still his #1 - he insisted I include this - no, he didn’t do anything wrong).
Poland was as different as a pretzel dipped in cheese versus one dipped in mustard compared to Greece - one is satisfying, the other will do the trick in a pinch. To start, drivers yielded to pedestrians, which was refreshing after getting used to the pucker factor of Greek traffic, where people = pinballs. It was reenergizing to be back in the city after spending a week on a fairly remote island, although the goats were lovely company.
From tropical islands to city life - we like it all, for different reasons
We checked into a pleasant apartment in the middle of the city for our first night, then wandered to the nearest restaurant for dinner. The food gods were with us that day, seeing as we stumbled into a gem of an Italian restaurant (San Antioco). We were greeted by the owner at the door, led into a romantic basement grotto, and started our evening with the best bread we had since Denmark (I judge Italian restaurants on 2 things: bread and tiramisu). Matthew and I split truffle gnocchi and the most tender steak that would make a rabbit fight a bear. Needless to say, we polished everything off. Either we were hungry, or that was the best Italian food we’ve ever had - I’m erring on the latter.
After refueling, the adventure began. We walked the cobblestone streets into Old Town and were greeted by the tourist hustle and bustle. There was so much going on compared to Rhodes that our heads were on a constant swivel. The first thing that caught our attention was the torture museum. Seeing as we sign our Christmas cards “Love, S&M”, we had to check it out. Whereas Matthew was fairly uncomfortable on the chair of nails, I on the other hand, thought it was reminiscent of the acupressure mat I used to lay on daily. #hurstsogood. Guess men and women have different pain tolerances ;). It wasn’t a big museum, but we got a kick out of seeing the various medieval torture devices and commentating on exactly when the owners wife made him move his toys out of the house.
Unfortunately, none of the torture devices fit in our backpacks, so I'll need to get more creative on what to use as a husband corrector
After leaving the torture chamber, our curiosity was peaked, so obviously, we wanted to check out a tattoo parlor. WELL. Turns out most tattoo parlors are closed at night.. and in Old Town, any corridors that have tattoo parlors in them, are also home to strip clubs. Most strip clubs in Poland have free entry, but you’ll be coerced to buy the girls a drink almost right away (coed and male revues don’t exist, we asked). Needless to say, these are not the places to see a feat in flexibility or acrobatics…and we lasted maybe 5 minutes max before leaving - and that’s with being cornered by strippers at the doorway who wanted us to stay and spend money. I know mom wants me to make new friends when we travel but I prefer to make friends with my pants on… and theirs too.
One of the most intriguing architectural feats about Poland is how so many businesses are hidden in old historical buildings. Tattoo parlors and marketing agencies are inside and up a few flights of stairs, yoga studios are tucked in the back building through a courtyard, and clubs are in the basement. In the US, this concept is usually marketed and upcharged as a “speakeasy”, yet that’s just business as usual in Poland.
A salt mine, a yoga studio, and a pub walk into a bar...
We were lucky to find a lot of what we needed in Krakow, from friendly English speaking yoga studios, to delicious healthy breakfasts. To my enjoyment, we also took a pole class in Poland - pun intended. However, “open pole” in the studio we went to (Black Swan) is an instructor led conditioning/tricks class and NOT just a supervised practice session. I thought Matthew would run out the door when our Polish drill instructor started making us to jumping jacks in the beginning of class. The sadistic side in both of us loved it. We probably learned more in that class and were pushed harder than any class we’ve ever taken. Bravo, Poland - will pole here again.
Inverting while carrying Baby Popoyseed = Poppyseed Rollercoaster Ride
We also found an extremely active expat community via an English Speaking Club Facebook group I found. After a couple of full days walking around, eating, and exercising, we wanted a glimpse of the social scene, so we decided to attend an English speaking meetup. However, when we showed up at the supposed meeting place, we were the only ones there. After almost deciding to leave after an hour of staring lovingly into each others eyes in an empty room, other folks started to show up. This actually ended up being one of our favorite nights in Poland - AND we discovered a potential future career for Matthew.
Matthew, being the social bug that he is, started down the talk track of asking about the Poland dating scene (almost everyone else was in their 20s, single, and VERY eager to mingle). What started as a conversation among 4 people quickly grew to a game played by the 30+ people who showed up. Needless to say, he ended up leading the party and activity, and was so good at it that the bar owner offered him a job to run the club every Friday. Unfortunately, Krakow is not our final stop so we had to politely decline the gig, but now we’re considering launching this as part of “Hop on and hold on - the world tour”.
Friday night meet up at Layla's Bar in Krakow
After a few days in Krakow (the latter half was spent watching movies and nursing colds in our air bnb), we headed to Wrocław.
Wrocław was all sorts of wrong from the moment we got on the train. Actually, we should've known that something was wrong when it took us a week to figure out to pronounce it "voorts-wav". First, we almost couldn’t get tickets. Then, an impolite Pole wouldn’t change seats with me to let us sit together (even though we offered a better seat). Needless to say, vibes were off. Way off. Our air bnb was sub par at best (no soap to be found in the place, the entrance felt like the beginning of a murder scene in a horror movie, & there was no air flow or a/c - you try being 5 months pregnant in 95 degree heat). Then we went to improv comedy and didn’t laugh once nor did we garner any laughs (yes, everyone spoke English). We also got yelled at by a snooty bartender for having our feet on the table at a bar… mind you it was a low coffee table… really? Everyone seemed to have a stick up their asses. That night at about 10 PM when we had to make a few calls back to the US, Wifi crapped out on us so we decided to say adieu.
Believe it or not, this murder scene is much creepier in the middle of the night
Lesson learned: being naturally witty on the spot is a talent not many aspiring comedians have - also, don't tell people you have 5 years of standup experience if all the audience wants is for you to sit down
However, before we made any moves, we did get to share a delicious chocolate dick in front of the religious group trying to convert unsuspecting tourists. Don’t be dirty. It was a penis shaped waffle with cream stuffing slathered in chocolate sauce ;). Through a few different interactions and our inability to find any information on midwives or natural births, we found out that sex Ed in Poland is vastly different than in the US. For starters, family planning classes in public schools are taught by the clergy. I may not be the most well versed in religious studies, but I feel like they may be more qualified to teach anything else. Apparently there is no/very little separation of church and state, so Polish law is vastly influenced by religion - to the point where doctors will not perform abortions for fear of being arrested for murder (they won’t even act if the baby has already died while in the womb, or if the mother’s health is at risk). Anyway - back to the dick shaped waffle. The shop is called the Dickery, and was started by two 20-somethings who wanted to raise awareness and start the conversation on how to properly teach sex Ed. Because of the reign of the Catholic Church, they aren’t allowed to call their waffles by their anatomical shapes, but needed to change the menu to “shero” and “hero” (see the sign in the photo below). As you’re in line, they also sell a sexual education book that, based on the photos, actually teaches family planning and how the circle of life works. It’s certainly a conversation starter - and the waffle was pretty good. Needless to say, we’re probably not introducing Baby Poppyseed to the world in Poland.
Don't you love happy accidents that double as cultural education?
The most redeeming part about Wrocław was the food we ate. We had delicious pistachio gelato, a couple of good healthy breakfasts, and the best Thai food I’ve had since Jacksonville, FL (no joke). Everything else just was not our vibe, and on an impromptu trip like this, we could absolutely change our plans. So we did!
We cancelled the rest of our stay and booked a car rental around midnight of our first night in Wrocław and decided to take a few days to explore Prague. You’ll have to Czech out our next post to hear how that went ;).
Till the next train,