We would like to formally thank Krakow for the ultimate walkabout experience thus far. The layout of the city and outlying neighborhoods are part of this, as well as the smattering of cafes, pub, and street food that work their way into your path like gastronomical gnomes - sneaking up and putting a spell on you mid-stride. In between were views from Wawel Castle, peeks around antique or book shops, and moments staring at the architecture. Though it is against my better judgement to reference this (really), if we were in a Family Circle cartoon, the dotted line following our romp through town would be layered and blurred upon itself, ultimately forming more of an indiscernible smudge. Warning: most of this post is food focused. Be prepared to drool.
Of course, the crucial map session with one of our hosts started it all off. Thanks to M, we were able to keep away from some of the less impressive "destinations" and head towards different neighborhoods knowing some landmarks that could guide our way but not determine a march-able route. Our meander through Kazimierz and Podgórze, which are south and a little east of city center, brought us to a few beautiful synagogues, some perfectly anarchist and scrabble themed street art, a cool little flea market with old polish army bags, and one of the best of the famed Polish hangover snacks for Eli to inhale (see e highlights for more).
Also, the newly finished, incredibly modern (and functional - bike side, pedestrian side!) footbridge that connects these two neighborhoods was a nice way to check out the Wisła and enjoy some breeze. The fencing was covered in locks on the pedestrian side; marks left by couples who make an eternal promise to each other, lock their hearts together and throw the key into the river. We only found one that seems to have ended badly:
Our bellies got some serious treatment with shared meals (thanks to our hosts) of traditional foods like babka and real cottage cheese, some pickled herring with beet, and the best waffle in Krakow. The pink plate of tasty fish came courtesy of The Embassy of the Herring, located right across from the good old US headquarters but sporting much better ambiance. The waffle was experienced properly, in hand, on our walk through Nowa Huta (see highlights for more!) with M and was purchased from Little Penguin. They serve their waffles the way most good food comes to us - through a window in a wall. Enjoyed standing on the street, warm, with rose jam and fresh whipped cream. Again, Eli was quite sated. I made my gluteny bite last as long as possible.
We washed all of this eating down with an awesome afternoon of conversation and tea in an underground teahouse and later (appropriately) with a visit to the aptly named, Wodka, which had a special on wormwood vodka - so incredibly herbal and delicious. Also recommended is Pigwowka, a quince based vodka. Best gastronomic day ever.
Krakow proved to be a great balance of spending time exploring on our own and sharing time with our hosts. They are much more than hosts - they are stewards of their city and an instant warm welcome... Willfully sheparding travelers like ourselves through the present moment, bestowing personal travel reflections upon us, sharing stories and perspectives, and - clearly, importantly - unleashing the dreamy food/drink experience of Krakow upon us. We enjoyed every step.