Happy New Year!!! 2012!!

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Jul 18, 2012

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Where I stayed

Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December 30, 2011

Friday we got on a train around 10am to head to Krakow. Before the train arrived Zach and Karolina warned me that getting on Polish trains is very aggressive. I'm not sure why because the train doesn't leave while people are still getting on, but maybe they are fighting to get on first to make sure they get a seat. They told me they've seen people trying to open the train doors while it's still going! Well, it was quite an experience. The train was already packed when it arrived and by the time we got on people were standing in the halls because there were no seats left. We ended up getting crammed into the little section in between cars where the bathroom is and no heat... and it was a 3 hour train.. The Polish trains are slow and like to stop a lot. Standing up the whole time wasn't a big deal, but the Polish trains are a little junky (I think they're still from the communist times) and have holes in them so air was blowing in on us the entire trip and we were freezing. It was probably the worst train ride ever.

Once we made it to Krakow around 2pm the first thing we did was go into the nearest restaurant (which was Burger King) to warm up and get food since we hadn't eaten anything yet that whole day. After we ate we stayed in there for a while just to warm up some more. Eventually after we thawed out we bundled up some more and headed out to find out hostel. After checking in we cranked up the heat in the room (because of course it wasn't on already so, again, it was freezing) and stole the space heater from the room next door. We stayed inside for an hour or so and then headed out to see some sites. It was already dark though (it got dark in Poland around 3pm) but the city was pretty with all the lights.

We first walked over to the castle and looked around. It was another castle from the Middle Ages and it was too bad because the inside was already closed. After seeing the castle we walked throughout some more streets and down to Rynek. Krakow has the biggest Rynek in Poland, and it's also one of the biggest in Europe. It was so beautiful! It of course had a couple really old cathedrals there, and lights and the Christmas tree were still up. We also went into the Christmas market to look around, and also another market in a sector of a building that had a lot of "Polish like" items you could buy.

After looking around we decided to get some dinner at another 'home style' restaurant that Zach and Karolina had been to the last time they went to Krakow and said it was amazing. It was definitely very good! It was called "Grandma's Kitchen" and was one of those places that took some searching to find. It was on some random side street where you had to go into some big building, out a side door, walk over and down some stairs, and eventually you were there. It had a huge menu of many different Polish dishes you could order, and we decided to order several different dishes and share them all. Poland is extremely cheap so this wasn't a big deal at all. We ordered another plate of pierogi, Zach got a dish with some kind of cutlet and potatoes, Karolina and I got another type of cutlet with potatoes, and we also had a plate of sausage with some more mashed potatoes. Zach and I ordered a Polish beer to go with our meals. Everything was so good! The food was great, and the atmosphere of the place was really nice. It was all homey and had a fish aquarium in the middle and really big wooden tables you ate at. After we finished eating and were stuffed we lingered around for a while and then decided to head back to the hostel.

This hostel was a little different. We had a 9-person room which we shared with a big group from Singapore. There were 3 separate rooms in an area with a common kitchen and two bathrooms. The other room was filled with some Germans and French, and the bathrooms were interesting. The shower head didn't work right so when I showered I just took off the head and used it like a garden hose. It wasn't a fun experience, but you have to expect these things when staying at cheap hostels. It makes you appreciate coming back home to your own bathroom at the end of the trip. Anyways, after we cleaned up we went to bed pretty early because we'd have to get up early again.

The next day we visited the Auschwitz concentration camp, but that will be in a separate entry so I'm skipping this for now.

After returning from Auschwitz we were again freezing and stayed cuddled in our beds for a while to warm up. We were so tired, in a little bit of a weird mood after visiting the concentration camp, and didn't feel like doing a whole lot for the New Years celebration. However, after a while we finally got a little less lazy and put ourselves together to go out to ring in 2012. We walked over to rynek where all the festivities would take place and found a cute little coffee place nearby we could hang out at and stay warm since we were a little early. It was all brick and had a tiny little winding staircase to the downstairs where we sat and drank hot chocolate. Delicious!

At about a quarter until midnight we decided it was time to go back out into the cold so we wouldn't miss the countdown and the fireworks. We stood at a good place in rynek where we could see the projection of the countdown clock on one of the buildings and could watch the crazy people dancing to the music on top of these flower stands. They played a lot of music and once it was midnight they shot off a lot of really pretty fireworks. Other people in the crowd were also shooting off their own fireworks which I thought was a little funny because if you tried to do that back home you'd get in a lot of trouble. People were also shooting them off from the balconies of their homes. There was a group letting loose these pretty paper lantern type things into the sky that symbolizes "all the bad things of the past year" and was really pretty to see them floating away.

After the fireworks we walked around rynek for a while and we each picked up a cork from the ground as a souvenir from the night! Karolina also collects rocks that means something to her from the cities she visits so she grabbed a loose cobble stone from the road in rynek. Later we decided that since it was New Years we should get a bottle of champagne so we bought a cheap one to share as we walked back to the hostel. We were pretty tired from the day so we were hoping to go to sleep early, but that of course didn't happen being it was New Years.

The group of French and Germans came back and continued their party in the common kitchen with their own set of music and speakers. We were tired, but figured there would be no stopping them anyways so we just joined. We were already in our pajamas and drinking tea, but we didn't care and was not going to change. Here are these really pretty French girls all dressed up and here are us Americans hanging out in our PJs. Ha. But they were all nice and friendly, but they had definitely already had a few, so it was an entertaining night. One of the French girls eye was huge and all black and blue and she claims some guy punched her. Maybe someone did, but we think she might have just fell over and hit her face on something. It didn't look too good though. Finally around 4am they started leaving or going to bed so we were able to get some sleep.

The next morning we had to check out by 11am so we got up and decided we were just going to be gross because we didn't want to deal with those showers again. But we had some breakfast (which was included with the hostel) and packed to get ready to leave. After checking out Karolina and Zach still hadn't gotten a couple souvenirs they were wanting so we walked around some shops with our luggage for a while. After a while we decided it was time to go to the station. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then got on our train around 1:30pm to Wroclaw.

It was supposed to be a 5 hour train ride, but again, the Polish trains are really slow and have their own schedule. If one train is slow and off schedule then they all have to wait. So we ended up getting to Wroclaw after 7pm, but we were so happy when we finally made it.
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