Near a café called Vis a Vis in the market square of Krakow, there is a bronze statue of a man called Piotr Skrzynecki. Piotr had a military career in his youth, but at the age of 26, in 1956 he started a cabaret translated to “Under the Rams.” This cabaret became famous and one of the most popular intellectual cabaret’s in postwar Poland and in Krakow.
Until his death, Piotr was the director and choreographer of this cabaret which was most well known for its political satire against The People’s Republic of Poland communist regime. The Vis a Vis bar occupies a small room that once belonged to the cabaret, so Piotr sits outside wearing his hat.
I always love my return trips to cities because it means that I have already done most of the “touristy” things and have more time to relax and absorb the culture and find things off the beaten path. That was my situation on this last trip to Krakow. You can see posts of my first trip here.
Krakow is the second largest city in Poland and one of the oldest. It dates back to the 7th century. The historical center is small and lovely, surrounded by what they call Planty. Planty is where the medieval walls stood in the past, and when they were removed, a garden space was created between the pedestrian historical center and the hustle and bustle of the sprawl of the more modern structures outside. When you enter the historical center through Planty, you enter a sacred space in my mind. It’s free of cars and noise and a step back in time. Krakow’s entire historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Considered one of Europe’s most beautiful cities there is architecture from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. It sits along the Vistula River with St. Mary’s Cathedral and Wawel Castle marking the skyline. It has one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe, Rynek Glowny.
Visiting this city is very inexpensive. Flights from Florence out of Pisa on Ryan air run as low as 29 euro each way. I stayed in a wonderful small room for 35 euro per night that included a fabulous breakfast and it was right in the historical center. Food and drinks cost nothing and there is plenty to do for 3 or 4 days inside the center. Be sure and take advantage of some of the Free Walking Tours available every day in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral.
On my recent trip to Krakow, I was a little concerned that my eating habits might be a problem there. I eat a “fins and feathers” diet or nothing with four legs as I call it here in Italy. In Florence, a big meat-eating town, there are challenges, but I thought I might find it even more difficult in Poland. Here in Florence I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that I thought might not be available in early May in Poland. Wrong!
The food there is delightful and varied. I had no problem at all finding a wealth of good things to eat. One of my favorite things that I had eaten the last time I was in Poland and couldn’t wait to try again to see if my memory had served me correctly was a hash brown potato pancake with sour cream, red onions, and caviar. This was served as a first course. Oh My God! It was to die for and could easily be replicated at home.
I had pickled herring, which they serve with all types of sauces, I chose mustard. The pierogies were exquisite and served boiled or fried. Being the good southern girl that I am I liked them best fried. Grilled Duck breast with figs, a Caesar salad, soup in bread bowls, cucumbers in sour cream with dill, and apple pie to die for!
Then there are the things to drink. Good beers, great vodka. My favorite is Jubrowska, and when it is served with apple juice, it is called a Tatanka. Yummy. There are all types of flavored vodkas and take it from me, they are all delicious. Eating in Poland was not expected to be one of the highlights, but it was! And guess what else? It’s very inexpensive. BINGO!