A fence in the Jewish Quarter.
A church in Krakow.
Horses in the main square.
June 12, 2006
In an effort to prioritize my spending habits, I am now staying at a hostel in Krakow. I appropriately selected ‘Nathan’s Villa
Hostel’. How could I not? They also do our laundry for us free of charge. In any case, I need to confirm that I’m not a hostel
type of gal. This is such a different world than I just came from. The difference between hostels and one-star hotels is like
night and day. Don’t get me wrong—I am entertained by some of the conversations that I hear going on around me. But
‘entertaining’ is truly the nicest thing I can say. While I know there are some great people here, the ones that make their
voices heard are the obnoxious ones. I was just spoiled by coming from a place where every single person I came across had
something interesting to say. Today I heard 1) a bunch of Aussies pronounce their excitement at the USA losing their World
Cup game and 2) ten people gather around while a girl explained why guys suck. People are under the assumption that if you
don’t stay at a hostel, you won’t meet anybody. I’ve met great people at the pensions and little budget places I have stayed.
As for here, I see this place as my bed to sleep in. I’d rather spend my time in the out in the city…
Krakow is absolutely charming. There is Central European character everywhere I turn (I recently realized that I’m actually
in Central Europe as opposed to Eastern Europe—just more proof that I’m wrong a lot). Narrow streets filled with
restaurants and shops all come together in the main square. There are several parks that give Krakow a tranquil feeling as
well. One of them had a tribute to Pope John Paul II (he was Polish). The tribute consisted of photographs of the Pope from
the onset of his becoming a Pope all the way to his passing. I actually got chills running up and down my spine when it became
so obvious in these photos of the deterioration of his health. I always felt that there was a certain tenderness to him and these
pictures demonstrated that. He just seemed like that cute older man that would make the greatest grandpa. Well, except for
one thing. A Pope can’t be a grandpa. But that’s beside the point…
There was another section of Krakow I wanted to see. The Jewish Quarter also known as Kazimierz. This area used to be
independent of Krakow until the 1820’s. The Jewish community set up shop here in the 15th century when they were
expelled from Krakow. This part of town consisted of little streets filled with cafés and galleries. There was no hiding the
Judaism in this area whether it was the Jewish stars and menorahs incorporated into the wrought iron fences, the Hebrew
writing on buildings, the many synagogues or the two different cemeteries. The interesting thing to note is that even with all
of this Jewishness in the air, barely any Jews live there. When World War II first broke out, there were 70,000 Jews in
Krakow. That number was sharply decreased by the time the war was over. When Israel became a state, the ones that did
remain almost all moved out there. Right now there are only 150 Jews living in all of Krakow.
My evening consisted of going to the main square in Stare Miasto, having a glass of wine outside and listening to a woman
playing classical music on her violin. In this part of the world, where they are so well-known for their love of the arts, does it
get better than this? At the risk of sounding like ‘The Cornball of the Year’ I have to say that I literally got lost in the music.
Outside of rap and hip-hop, classical music ranks as some of my favorite (I’m a girl of diverse tastes, what can I say?). I was
being given the gift of one hour of ear candy and it was wonderful. At one point a lady walked up and joined in the music by
singing along in her operatic voice. The people out here have such a love for the arts and will take any chance to showcase
their talents. While people back at the hostel experience the downstairs bar, I got to experience Krakow.