Drawn to my heritage in Krakow


No, I am not Polish. (Or I sort of may be because like a lot of American Jews I am not sure where all of my ancestors came from and I do know that some came for parts of Lithuania that were once parts of Poland). But certainly I identify more with being Jewish than Polish, which explains in part why I was drawn from the start to Kazimierz, the historic Jewish district of Krakow. (I was also attracted by its reputation as the happening, sub-culture district.)

Still I was a little worried that we should have stayed in the picture postcard perfect Old Town, about 20 minutes walk north of Kazimierz…until we got here (our train arrived right on time by the way, despite the dire predictions of our Polish friends). Old Town is spectacular, with the largest Medieval square in Europe, full of imposing churches and other historic buildings. (Our terrific guide “In your Pocket” described the buildings as looking like they were sculpted out of marzipan.) But there are tons of tourists and the place looks almost too perfect.

We like the rough around the edges Bohemian Lower East Side (another NYC comparison, cant help myself) feel of Kazimierz which has a more grubby and much smaller but somehow endearing square Pl. Nowy, with a flea market and a strange round building selling a popular street food that’s basically a pizza bread. We also like our sweet old 11-room Hotel Karmel, on Kupa street, right in the middle of the district. It is an old fashioned place, with a light wood central (no elevator) leading two flights up to our narrow room with light yellow walls and drapery and an old wooden armoire. I am also intrigued by all the Jewish buildings and the hopping cafes, boUtiques with handmade dolls, and beer gardens. Its an interesting mix of Old World and edgy.

For dinner we went to Szara, one of the restaurants lining u. Szeroka, many of them Jewish, serving Jewish food and klezmer music. Pork chop and grilled salmon and potatoes and oneof the better mixed green salads we have had during the trip. Also went to a beer garden down the street from our hotel where Dirck mistakenly ordered a liter of beer (enormous…see foto below). Also had Krakow’s famous apple pie, Szarlotka, and coffee at the old cafe, Noworolski in Old Town in the Cloth Hall where comrade Lenin hung out, and after that, alas, lots of Nazis.
A few random observations:
– There sure are a lot of stunning Polish women.
– The names of Polish towns remind me of the lines you are asked to read on an eye chart at the optician’s. ex: TCZEW ( one town we passed on the train ride here). Imagine trying to pronounce that.
– We haven’t seen (or heard) many U.S. tourists. More of the English speakers appear to be Brits.
– the best thing at our hotel breakfast this morning was the sour dill kosher pickles, akin to my favorites at home but I found it hard to eat them first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee.
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