Poland Excursion

Remember how I said my next foreign vacation would be Poland? Well, it will be! A couple of months back, I found a super cheap (relatively speaking, $670-ish) flight to Poland and I booked it. I’m going to Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk. I’ll be there for 9 or 10 days in October. 

Why Poland? It’s not a place that people often go to but I hear it’s awesome. One of my long-time yoga teacher’s is from Gdansk, so she’s always raving about it. My dad’s grandmother is also from Poland, in Radomysl, which is near Warsaw, but I can’t find any public transportation to it. The building she lived in is gone anyways. 

I also love World War II history, so this is going to be exciting, albeit a bit depressing (as fuck). I know I said no more fucking hostels, but booking a private room in a good hostel is the same price as booking a small room in a shitty hotel. So, that’s what I’m doing. I always love meeting people from other countries, too, in hostels. It’s part of the fun!

I bought an amazing travel backpack that I got to try out in San Diego this weekend and I’ve decided to take the train in between cities. No city is more than 3-4 hours apart and they run pretty regularly, so that’ll be nice. I’ll get to see the countryside, I guess! (Honestly, I’m pretty sure trees will look the same in Poland.)

I was looking for packing blogs and backpacking blogs about Poland and I didn’t find a whole lot. I know Poland is far from a tourist destination, but I didn’t know just how far. Apparently, it’s pretty far down the list. But the blogs I did find say Poland is AWESOME. Here’s what I’m planning on doing in each city….

Krakow: I’m definitely going to do walking tours around Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter) and Old Town, as well as the Wawel Castle, Rynek Underground Museum, Royal Way Walk, the Barbican City Wall, and the Main Market Square. There will also be a half day spent in Krakow across the river at Schindler’s Factory Museum. I might try to take a day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, too, because I hear those are super neat, but there’s a lot to cover in Krakow.  Did I mention how cheap Krakow is? Super cheap. Very exciting. There will be a half day trip to Auschwitz, of course. 

Warsaw: They have a Royal Walk Way, too, so I’ll walk up that. I’ll also go to the Royal Castle, Old Town Market Square, Warsaw Museum, and possibly the Chopin Museum. I’m going to do walking tours in the Old Town and Muranow (the Jewish Ghetto), and visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Museum of the History of Jewish Poles

Gdansk: Just to be consistent, I’ll go see their Royal Way Walk,. I’ll go to the Historical Zone of the Free City of Gdansk, the Gdansk Historical Museum, and take a few hours to go to Westerplatte where the first shots of World War II were fired. I have to go check out the other two cities in the Tri-City: Sopot and Gdynia

I’m going to eat lots of perogies, go to all of the Bar Mleczny (milk bar), and drink lots of beer and vodka. I’m going to try to see a bunch of the palaces (though I’m not sure which will be accessible or open). I have a bunch of other things on my list of things to see but I didn’t want to list out every possible little thing. 

I wish I had more time to also hit Wroclaw, but you can’t do it all, I suppose. I might squeeze in a day trip from Warsaw to the Bialowiezka Forest – an UNESCO site and a forest that dates back to Medieval Times, which is kind of cool. It’s also the forest that Daniel Craig & co. travel through in the movie Defiance. And I take a day trip to Treblinka from Warsaw, but I will already be seeing Auschwitz and Birkenau, so I’m not sure how many concentration camps I really need to see on a short trip. I’ve been learning Polish with Duolingo, so I might recognize some words and say them, but I have zero chance of writing anything out. 

Is there anything off the beaten path that I’m missing? Anything else I should do or see that I wouldn’t necessarily find out about from my Lonely Planet guide? 

Synchronicity

I completed my Vedic (aka Transcendental) meditation training this week and maybe I’m connecting things that are just coincidences, but after 5 days of practicing TM, I feel like there’s some synchronicity happening.

On Wednesday, I finally booked my plane ticket to Poland. That evening at the training, a couple came and the husband was Polish.

On Thursday, I was on the train home and I saw a dude wearing a Green Day t-shirt from their last world tour. Listed on the back of it was a city in Poland. Green Day had also just released Bang Bang that morning. 

Finally, yesterday I told my cousin that I was leaving for Poland on the 18th of October and she reminded me that the number 18 is a lucky number for Jews. The letters of the Hebrew word “chai” add up to 18 and I have a gold chai that I was given at my baby naming. (I just had to Google all of that, btw, because I am a #badjew.)

The Family You Choose

The great thing about choosing not to procreate (besides having the most thankless job out there, not having to pay for someone to go to college, etc.) is that you get to choose your family – essentially who your friends are. As I entered my mid and late-twenties, I began to make solidifying my friendships with my kick-ass and reliable friends, since they were going to be my chosen family. 

You’ll always have your parents, and siblings, and extended family, but when those holidays come around that are in the middle of the week and you aren’t granted a day off (ahem, Chanukah), you get to make your own traditions as an adult.

Ben and I have a tradition for Chanukah that includes going to an old time-y diner and eating ourselves stupid on traditional plates for the holiday. Last year it was, of course, the Edison Cafe, but since the Edison is no longer with us (RIP), we went down to the East Village last week to B&H Dairy.

The service was fast, the place was tiny and crowded, and the food was just what we were looking for. We had matzo ball soup, latkes, and blueberry blintzes. It was delicious and I think it cost us about $24. 

This is one tradition that I’m thankful for and I hope we continue it for a long, long time.

a true Chanukah miracle

Tonight I met my friend Ben at the Edison Cafe for what may be the last-ever Chanukah spent at the Edison Cafe. We got in, sat at our usual seats at the bar, and ordered two bowls of matzo ball soup (duh) and latkes (duh). 

Our server made a face and said, “OOOOH. We might be out of latkes, hold on.” I may have made us leave if they were out, but…

BUT!

We got the LAST order of latkes in the Edison Cafe. They were out of potatoes after that.

Happy Chanukah, indeed. 

Jew-Lite.

For the first time in a long time last night I was offended, and a bit pissed off.  If you know me, you know that almost nothing offends me.

I met up for drinks with a friend last night who I hadn’t seen since our one date back in February or March (we both for the life of us can’t remember which month exactly).  We’d gone on one date, had a good time, and then he admitted to me that he wasn’t ready to date and that he was severely fucked up from his last relationship of two years – which had ended the week prior (I guess I have really bad timing?).  I was upset at this conclusion but thought, hey, at least he was honest with me and didn’t just fall off the face of the planet (like uh, someone who I won’t name).  I wasn’t mad at him, though I honestly believed that if I was “the one”* for him, timing would not have mattered.  I told him this last night and he disagreed.  He insisted that it was his messed up state-of-mind due his last relationship and nothing else.  I said we’ll agree to disagree.

But we’d stayed in touch now-and-then via email since the winter and we made plans recently to get drinks last night at Prohibition on the UWS.  The bartender there is super nice and it’s actually a really cool laid-back bar.  This “drinks-getting” was not a date at ALL.  This was just two people who happened to have gone on a date months ago catching up.  Somehow we got onto the topic of our date and why it didn’t work out and his state-of-mind, etc.  He then also added that he couldn’t have gotten serious with me because his mother really wants him to marry a Jewish girl.  I’m only a half-Jew (a McJew – an Irish Jew, as my mother calls my brother and I), and one who pretty detests religion altogether.  He admitted what a stupid reason this was, but he really felt he owed his parents.  I was stunned; this had never been said to me before.  I was really offended and really saddened for him that he could be so foolish (and I feel awful saying that because he really is a great person, one that I could’ve seen myself dating).  It’s your relationship, not your parents’ relationship.  So, now, I’m just extremely confused as to how someone could be manipulated in such a way by their parents.  But like, I said, he is a really, extremely great guy – funny, smart, sweet, cute, good job, etc. – so I wish him all of the best, of course.  We’re going to stay friends, though not for the possiblity of anything else – I’m not pulling a Charlotte York.  This McJew converts for no one.

We can just file this under: “another reason why religion is a big waste of time and all religious texts should be burned and forgotten about.”

*I don’t believe in “the one.”  I believe there are many “ones” for each person.