Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wandering in Kraków and Zakopane

...and the adventures continue. I'm beginning to be marginally less confused by Polish grammar, although I still can't get the case endings (and, quite frequently, the verb conjugations) right, especially when I'm speaking and don't have time to think about it. Yesterday I went to Zakopane with some other people from the language school. We went hiking on one of the trails, which turned out to be pretty difficult (although amazingly beautiful). I eventually did make it to the little restaurant area at the top of the trail, although about 10 minutes after everyone else in my group got there. (Evidently I am ridiculously out of shape, although I already knew that.) Even so, I got some great pictures of the forest and rivers, and talked with some Polish kids on the way up. (Their English was much better than my Polish, although I guessed they were probably only about 12 or 13 years old...interesting commentary on the American education system's [lack of] emphasis on language learning, relative to that of the rest of the world.) After getting lunch at the restaurant there, we hiked back down (it was going to rain, so we couldn't spend much time up there). The views from the top of the trail were amazing. We could see the forests, and the tops of the mountains, for what looked like miles around (I'm pretty sure some of them had snow on them, even at this time of year). I've got some pictures and videos which I have not yet uploaded to my computer, but which I'll post on here and Facebook when I do that.
After the hike, we headed down into the town of Zakopane, which is kind of a resort town that's well-known especially for skiing and winter tourism. The main street was incredibly crowded, and a bunch of us spent the hour we had in town sitting at a cafe and talking. It's apparently also a culturally distinctive region in that the Górale live there. We headed back to Kraków around 5 p.m., then got some dinner at a vegetarian restaurant downtown which I forget the name of at the moment.
I spent this morning doing work on my computer at my host family's place, then decided that if I was going to have to do work, I should at least do it outside where I might actually meet some people. So I grabbed a zapiekanka for lunch, headed to a cafe in the city center, worked a bit more, and have spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around in Kazimierz, Kraków's historically Jewish area, which is full of really interesting old buildings and museums (including the Old Synagogue, which is a division of the Kraków Historical Museum).
I'm currently using the free wi-fi at Czajownia, a tea place just outside the aforementioned museum. It's semi-expensive, but the atmosphere is pretty interesting - they have a huge selection of tea (their menu is literally about 30 pages long), with extensive descriptions of each one, how it's made, where it comes from, and other random information (one was described as something like "ideal for drinking while reading the Russian classics," another as something like "perfect for after a walk alone in the park at twilight"). I'm also looking up travel information - I haven't yet decided where would be best to spend my last four days in Poland after my class finishes, both in terms of seeing interesting things and in terms of transportation logistics. (My plane leaves from Warsaw at 7 a.m. on Aug. 4, and so I need to be back there in time. Rather than booking a hostel room for a few hours, or taking one of the night trains which I hear are not exactly the safest or most pleasant, I figure that, unless I end up back in Warsaw for those four days, I'll just head back there by train or bus late in the day on the 3rd and spend the night in the airport...probably should have thought of that when I booked the tickets.)
And now I am off to find dinner and probably do some further wandering around Kazimierz and the Rynek Główny (super-touristy and usually very crowded city center area, which has got some pretty cool street performers and booths selling random things, as well as a statue of Adam Mickiewicz [Poland's national poet] and a church with a trumpeter who plays every hour to announce the hour). Do zobaczenia!

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