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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

How To... Maintain Work-Life Balance in Poland

My dearest travel friends and expats,

If you are settled or willing to be settled sometime soon in Poland, and you wonder how your work-life balance will be like, I can tell you how I see things through 4 years living and working in Poland. The economic situation is much more stable and constantly growing than in Romania, and Poland welcomed me with open arms through the team I worked with in Capgemini - French started corporation on IT, consultancy and outsourcing.
source
There is a lot of competition in the market and there is a boom - as far as I can see, in the last 2-3 years - of international companies and corporations that move their offices to Poland.  Of course the market is cheaper but also the people here are highly trained and competitive. People are usually employed first on a temporary basis - the standard is 3 months - and then if all goes well the undetermined contract kicks in and you work there until you wish to quit or you come into your retirement.
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The market moves so fast that people my age - until the age of 30 - usually already shifted a company of two. In my case I have worked with Capgemini Romania, transferred to Capgemini Poland and after 2 years and a bit in Poland I have moved to UBS POLSKA. Also it is quite frequent to see people moving around in the companies they work with until they find the perfect and fitting position for themselves.
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The average working hours are from 8 am to 4 pm during weekdays and 8 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. Sundays usually everything is closed. But if you work in a corporation it a depends on the project you work for. At the beginning, I'm Capgemini Polska I had a 24/7 shift inside the help desk I was working.  I qas extremely happy when I changed the project and went back to regular daytime. I felt like a zombie! Those shifts were good for young people who studied but after a while you just want a normal life. Now I can come to work between 7 and 9 am and the world surely seems brighter :)
source
Most Polish people care about the working time hours and the breaks they have. Most of the people I know, working in corporations, also smoke... so they have from time to time during the day, extra minutes to "feed their cancer". It is also common to have the lunch break in front of the PC or just have a sandwich on the go... they like to wait to get home for dinner with family.
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Family is extremely important in Poland! Poland also has the lowest rate of divorce in Europe. Also due to the fact that it is quite banned by the Catholic Church... religious beliefs are also very important and going Saturdays and Sundays to church is a must! Especially if you live in a small town where everyone knows everyone!
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The National Holidays are free by law, and if they fall on a Saturday you can take a day off for it ;) Here are the national days, up to this moment:

DateWeekdayHoliday nameHoliday type
Jan 1ThursdayNew Year's DayNational holiday
Jan 6TuesdayEpiphanyNational holiday
Feb 14SaturdayValentine's DayObservance
Mar 20FridayMarch equinoxSeason
Apr 3FridayGood FridayObservance
Apr 4SaturdayHoly SaturdayObservance
Apr 5SundayEaster DayNational holiday
Apr 6MondayEaster MondayNational holiday
May 1FridayLabor Day / May DayNational holiday
May 3SundayConstitution DayNational holiday
May 24SundayWhit SundayNational holiday
May 26TuesdayMother's DayObservance
Jun 4ThursdayCorpus ChristiNational holiday
Jun 21SundayJune SolsticeSeason
Jun 23TuesdayFather's DayObservance
Aug 15SaturdayAssumption of MaryNational holiday
Sep 23WednesdaySeptember equinoxSeason
Nov 1SundayAll Saints' DayNational holiday
Nov 11WednesdayIndependence DayNational holiday
Dec 22TuesdayDecember SolsticeSeason
Dec 24ThursdayChristmas EveObservance
Dec 25FridayChristmas DayNational holiday
Dec 26SaturdaySecond Day of ChristmasNational holiday
Dec 31ThursdayNew Year's EveObservance

Are you a fresh expat working in Poland? How do you feel it differently than your homeland? Are there huge differences? Do you miss any work law from your homeland? I would love to hear your thoughts on this :)

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To... In Poland
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland
  8. Maintain Work-Life Balance In Poland - today's letter to you :)
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there & expats finding their way to the proud Polish land
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Sunday, 27 September 2015

American Bands With Polish Roots

My dearest friends,

Polish people have been responsible for a lot of brilliant things, throughout history. Of course you have heard, probably in high - school,  about Marie Curie and Nicolas Copernicus. Polish people are a smart and proud nation that love their motherland, but also there are a lot of expats/immigrants, especially in the USA. To be mentioned that the USA holds the second biggest Polish city, after Warsaw - that city is Chicago, where entire neighbourhoods are filled with Polish people that do not speak English language. They never renounced their mother tongue, even if the ocean tear them apart from their homeland.
Today I wish to share with you some Polish - American bands. You surely heard about them and listened to their songs, but I am very sure that you did not know that they have some Polish roots. So, join me in welcoming the very talented Polish people:
1. The Doors - of course I do not speak about the famous Jim Morrison. I speak of the keyboard player and Co - founder of the band: Ray Manzarek. Born in Chicago in 1939, he met Morrison while studying at UCLA. They met by chance in Venice and Co - formed the band. It was also Manzarek who recruited the other 2 members of the band.
2. The Smashing Pumpkins - as you may know,  they played alternative rick and they were also from... that's right! Chicago! The original basist of the band was D'Arcy Wretzk - Polish - American born in Michigan (he moved to Chicago after). Their first gig was in a Polish bar in Chicago called Chicago 21, in 1988.
3. The Goo Goo Dolls - the lead vocalist and primary song writer + front man of the band = John Rzeznik. All grandparents were Polish and he grew up in Buffalo, New York, as a pure catholic boy. Recipient of the award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he is the one who played beautifully one of the most hating songs I have ever loved. I trust everyone knows "Iris" *muffled sobs*
4. Van Halen - the basist, Michael Anthony (Sobolewski) joined the band in 1974 after meeting Van Halen at the Pasadena City College. After joining in the band, the group changed the name from Mammoth to Van Halen.
5. Last but not least... The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Hillel Slovak was the founding guitarist of the band. Unfortunately he died due to an overdose... Kiedis and Flea were able to pick up the pieces and continue with the band, saying that hopefully they will managed to go on with what Slovak "helped build".
Do you know of any other bands with Polish roots? I bet there are more out there, considering the spread of Polish people in the world. Although I have not yet met a Polish person extremely talented when it comes to singing, I must admit that I have met a lot of talented musical instruments players! Also as you can see above - bass, guitar - they do have very good musical ear & they are very good with the instruments ;) should I again mention here Chopin (I know I am overly fond and proud if him...). What do you think?

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves music
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Friday, 25 September 2015

TriBeCa Coffee - #492 of 970 Restaurants in Krakow

Dearest friends,

Guess what I was reading recently... It seems that "Coffee contains lots of antioxidants (it's the biggest source of antioxidants in an average Western diet!) that help the body fight chemicals called “free radicals.” As a result, coffee drinkers are at a lower risk of diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Type II Diabetes, and Heart Disease. Here’s the thing, though: coffee drinkers are also more likely to have unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol heavily, and eating red meat, so the study shown above has been adjusted to show what could happen if these other factors weren’t in effect."
My awesome Husband, along with my amazing Mum & Granny simply love coffee. They cannot make do without it. The first thing they do, when they get up early in the morning, is put the kettle on and reach for the coffee. My lovely ladies combine it usually with chocolate but Marek prefers it simple, with the morning smoke. I guess that is their guilty pleasure :) But when you look at the statistics and see that actually coffee is good for you, but in reasonable amounts and not the 3-in-1 version, I start to think maybe I should try it as well?...
Several studies have shown that coffee drinkers are up to 65% less likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a leading cause of dementia (source)
We love finding new places to hang out and drink our cofee - Marek / tea - me :) One day, as we were wondering about the Galeria Krakowska, looking at one of the exhibitions it seasonally hosts, Marek offered to get some coffee. We usually go to Coffee Heaven as they have delicious combinations even I try, even if they are coffee related. This time we too a shot at the TriBeCa Coffee on the ground floor - right in front of the Empik Store, on the side with the children stores. I had some lovely tea with sernik (Polish cheesecake) & Marek has his regular dark coffee with a sweet called Dekadencja ;))) lovely name, is it not?!
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” ― Dave Barry
The cheesecake was yummy and it had fruit pieces within and a thing layer of wild fruit liquid on the lower side. Add some chocolate layer on the top as well and you got yourself a caloric bomb ;))) Dekadencja, according to my awesome other half, raised to its dedicated name. It was made out of vanilla + chocolate and mint + chocolate + advocat liqueur (typical Polish) + whipped cream + salty caramel... now try and stop yourself from drooling ;))) 

PRICES:
Sernik = cheesecake = 9 zloty
Dekadencja = Marek's ice-cream delight = 14 zloty
Tea can be between 7 and 10 zloty, according to the type - green / black / red - and flavors

What I truly loved: The ambiance, the music... the lovely tea cups and the smell of the tea raising up in the air. 
What could have been better: Loved the taste of the cheesecake but I found it a bit too dry for my taste.
Where can you find the TriBeCa Coffee?

1) Address: Pavia 5 (Galeria Krakowska) levels 0, 31-154 KrakowOpening hours: Mon - Sat 9:00 - 22:00 Sun 10:00 - 21:00Contact: (+48) 12 429 22 222)Address: Palace under the Rams (Pałac pod Baranami), Main Market 27Opening hours: Mon - Thu 8:00 - 22:00 Fri 8:00 - 23:00 Sat 9:00 - 23:00 Sun 9:00 - 21:00Contact: (+48) 12 429 22 223)Address: Plac Szczepanski 9, KrakowOpening hours: Tues - Sat 10:00 - 20:00 Sun 10:00 - 16:00
Website: http://tribeca.mirek.web21.pl/nasze-kawiarnie


Have you seen the TriBeCa Coffee anywhere else? Have you visited any of the above listed places? I would love to hear your opinion as well :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How To... Recognise Tourists In Poland

My dearest travel fans,

Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going - Paul Theroux

Are you settled down yet with the idea of coming to Poland, or are you frightened of the land of kielbasa (sausage) and vodka? You should not be frightened! You should be thrilled to be able to come to such a warm hearted and welcoming place. The number of travelers going to and through Poland increases each year, and the amount of money spent by the government on improving the cities also is raising.
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I believe the only thing that you may have to worry about will be the amount of tourists.  But from what I could see and what others have also told me, it is not yet crowded. Even Prague has a more tourist like feeling that  Kraków. You can still see the majority of the population on the street being locals. And trust me, you will figure out who is and who isn't local ;) I am here to help you!
The View From The Czestochowa Tower - Poland
So here is what you should look out for:
1. The language - trust me, it's hard to miss! The locals will always speak their mother tongue and you will hear the difference miles away (that does not mean they are loud. Unless they are drunk!). Polish language may seem to you, at the beginning, as parseltongue (if you don't know what that is, pick up a Harry Potter book and start reading!). Get familiar with the sounds and you will know when you have a local around you. All the rest are either expats (like myself) or tourists.
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2. People walking in groups, most of the times being very noisy - you can hear distinctive English / Spanish / German language... Even the main tour companies offer trips in these 3 languages and most probably you bumped into a field trip. Carefully avoid them as they can be extremely noisy and you will want to discover magical Krakow peacefully!
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3. Large group of people with/without beards and side hair, dressed usually in white and black clothing. Boys wear kipa (kippah - dome or covering). You are most likely to bump into them when in Kraków or going to Auschwitz. The Jewish community always has groups of people coming from around the world in pilgrimage.
The Palace of Culture - Iasi - Romania
4. Photography over-use = People that use flash everywhere and make pictures of everything... yup, those are tourists alright! I still wonder if they manage to feel and live anything during their trips. I also wonder what they do after with so many pictures... do they print them? At least some? Or do they make a folder and leave it there... indefinitely!
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5. Unconventional Public Transport - carriages pulled by horses and electric small cars for city tours - yes, they are all a tourist thing ;) I have not seen any locals doing that until now. Exception: sometimes the carriage and horse may be rent for weddings - looks good on the camera, but for sure you will see that on the way to the church ;)
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6. Weird and colorful layering or clothing... yes! Like onions! They are not used to the weather in Poland - turning from windy and rainy to sunny in a few minutes.  They need to be able for everything so be sure they will have a bag/backpack with a raincoat or umbrella inside + the jacket + clothing + scarf (s) - all of different colors and patterns.
Arcade du Cinquantenaire - Brussels - Belgium
7. Boys in shorts in the middle of winter. That's right! I wonder how their body parts don't freeze ans drop... I think the vodka helps here though... Poland is one of the cheapest places one could party and it's just a stone throw away from the United Kingdom. Loads of tourists from there come to Krakow for the weekend, to have fun. And it's easy to tell them apart by the accent and the way they dress.
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8. Regular public transport = people running after trams/buses and looking for even half an hour to figure out when the next bus comes (it may have slipped them in the meanwhile, several times!) + continuously consulting THE Map! This makes me laugh now but I used to be one of them until I discovered this lovely app for Poland, for the main cities, called Jakdojade.pl - you put where you are and where you want to go and it gives you the best options ;) you also can find it as a mobile app and if you have the GPS on it will auto find where you are and you need only input where you wish to go. It's magical! So if you are on a bus stop and people check their phones instead of the notices in the hus stop, it's because of that ;) or they know the schedule by heart and they know that buses here are ALWAYS on time.
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9. People taking ages to pay something with local currency. That's a no brainer! That is why I really should think everyone should use their credit cards instead. Saves time and energy... plus I have seen people after a few days in Poland with pockets filled with coins, barely able to move properly. There are multiple coins: 5 zloty, 2 zloty, 1 zloty, 50 grosz, 20 grosz, 10 grosz and my personal buggers - the 5 and 1 grosz coins - that drive me nuts... But each coin actually is quite a sum in itself. With 5.60 zloty you can buy 2 tickets for 20 minutes - that is a trip (both ways) from city center to the Jewish quarter. Check your pockets and use those coins! Bad side: it will take forever for you to figure the coins out and there will be huge lines forming behind you...
#nofilter Picture taken with a Nokia E51 in Paris, in front of the Louvre Museum - France
10. The enthusiasm!!! It's sometimes overwhelming... They get overexcited from even small little things, like a piece of the Old City wall, an artist on the street, the flocks of pigeons (by the way, mostly tourists are feeding them, even though there are more and more posters stating clearly "DO NOT Feed The Pigeons!")... Everything is new and interesting. Everything is worth to be explored & at the same time dozen of pictures must be taken from all angles. That is nice, seeing so many people interested but this interest fades when they see the next best thing :/ You will see/hear them miles away!

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland - today's post :)
If you feel you would like me to treat a specific subject, please feel free to Contact Me :) But also be not afraid to share your experience with us. Sharing is caring and knowledge is wisdom!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there
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Sunday, 20 September 2015

FREE walking TOUR - Foods of Krakow

Dear hearts,

If there is one thing that I have to admit, in regards to Polish people & their traditional food, than that would be the fact that it is quite hard to remain vegetarian with all the yummy meat dishes. Polish people love to eat and their cuisine is delicious and resembles very much to the food in the neighbouring countries... actually even with Romanian food, where the main vegetable is the pork ;) If you would like to feel like a Polish expert when it comes to food in Krakow, than you must take this guided tour by the wonderfully talented and friendly team from "FREE walking TOUR Krakow". The guided tour for Foods of Krakow runs Monday / Wednesday / Friday at 2 PM and Saturday morning at 10:30 am. As usual, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" starts from the front of the St. Mary Church, in the Main Market Square (Mariacki Kosciol).
The whole tour you will walk from the Old Town - Main Market Square - to the Kazimierz - Jewish District. You do not need to take any tram tickets with you - everything is within walking distance ;) All you need to do is prepare around 15 zloty worth of coins (around 4 Euro), as you will have to pay for each sample and it is better to have the exact change. Also, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" runs on sponsorships so even if it is FREE of charge, it is a custom to leave the guide a tip at the end - as much as you think the ride was worth it. I always leave a tip as the team is amazing and hey! even TripAdvisor lists them as the #1 team in Krakow ;) and for good reason!
Stop 1 - The Obwarzanek - every culinary road in Krakow starts with it! It is a must and you can find the stands selling it throughout the city, almost at every corner. It is one of Krakow's unofficial symbols of the city. It resembles a pretzel / bagel but the difference is that it is first boiled in sweet water, before being baked. First written mention of the obwarzanek dates back to 1394, meaning that it’s been a daily sight on Kraków’s market square for over 600 years.You can also spot the carts selling it from far away, as they are usually colored blue - Krakow's color :)
Stop 2 - Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - Once you will join a Polish party you will have to follow the rules. You cannot just start drinking like a fool, you need to be able to level up and maintain decency. The way to do it is by creating layers. The first layer, before going to a party, must be some kind of heavy food that would protect your stomach and help you keep the drink, without knocking yourself out from the first shot. You usually can have a soup called zurek or you can have lard. What is lard... lard is pig fat and here in Poland you can cook it with bacon, onion and spices, spread it on bread and eat it right before having your shots. The second layer, that's simple! The shot of vodka! - girls may like it here flavoured but the best is the clear vodka ;)  (the one you will try on this tour). The 3rd layer = The Afterbite = usually pickled cucumber or herring. That's for cutting the taste of vodka ;) In Krakow there is one great place for all 3 layers = Ambasada Sledzia.
Stop 3 - Pierogi (dumplings) - are one of Polish dishes that can be named a wonder. Even thought may look like a hard dish to do, don't be fooled! Dorota, our lovely tour guide, recalled a story from when she did her first pierogi and she could not believe that only from flour and boiled water you could create such tasty things. The secret, I believe, is in the way the filling is done. The most common types of pierogi are the pierogi ruskie (translated: Russian Pierogi, but I was told Russian people do not have this dish so do not be fooled by its name!). Pierogi ruskie have potatoe & cheese (combined) filling. At the tour we tasted both the ruskie but also a version with season fruits - blueberries.
Stop 4 - Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - The next stop took us to the farmers market in Kazimierz, where we tasted 2 typical types of Polish cheese from Krakow region. You may have heard me mention oscypek before (as it is my husbands favourite) - this is smoked sheep milk cheese from the Highland area (Zakopane). It is made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. Also from the same region came the "Polish mozarella" = bundz ;) - also made from sheep milk, but softer.
Stop 5/6 - Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka -While at the farmers market in Kazimierz, we also had a stop to taste the pickled cucumbers & pickled cabbage - that would have went lovely also for stop 2, along with the clear - crystal - water-like vodka. The 3rd stop on our way through the local market was at the meat stand, where we tried 2 types of local meat products. The sausages, in Poland, are usually called kielbasa. We tried kielbasa Krakowska & kielbasa Lisiecka - both produced in the Malopolska region. It also seems, the guide told us, that the late Pope John Paul 2nd was a fan of the Lisiecka ;)
Stop 7 - Zurek - the White Barszcz Zurek (Sour Bread Soup) or simply called Zurek, is perfect instead or lard (see stop 2) when you are on your way to a party. It is a creamy soup made of soured rye flour and meat (usually boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham + the additional boiled egg + boiled potatoe on the side ;) That's how you want it!). Passing through to the next stop you will be able to see the Plac Nowy. Pin the place down and come by on an empty stomach. This place has THE BEST ZAPIEKANKA in town! :)
Stop 8 - Bigos - The Hunters Stew, or the Bigos, is a traditional meat and cabbage stew. It is indeed a Polish national dish, and you can see it served in all the traditional Polish eating places. Here we ate it in a place extremely close to Plac Nowy - called Wrega - and I would really like to come back and try some more as it is the best one I have ate until now (except the ones home-made). Typical ingredients include white cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. In very rare cases bigos can be made without meat or cabbage, but the presence of sauerkraut is absolutely essential.
Stop 9 - The Sweets: Racuchy - And here comes the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top: RACUCHY! Racuchy or racuszki is a traditional Polish dish from the same family of foods as the crêpe and similar to American pancakes. Racuchy is made from some flour, milk, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt. Racuchy are made with yeast or, in other versions, baking powder or baking soda is used. Rauchy are pan fried in oil. In Poland, racuchy are usually eaten as dinner, snack or supper. Racuchy can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar, or topped with powdered sugar. In alternative versions some cream or sour cream can be used. The most popular version of racuchy is stuffed with slices of apple and served with sugar and that is exactly what we had - I actually had one and a half ;))) They were so finger-licking good! And we ate them at Marchewka z Groszkiem, so I know now where to go ;))

The cost of the FREE walking TOUR - Foods of Krakow:
  1. The Obwarzanek - free, on the house :)
  2. Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - 4 zloty for the vodka shot + 1 zloty for the afterbite of herring = 5 zloty
  3. Pierogi (dumplings) - 1 zloty each - if you tried the Russian one + the blueberry = 2 zloty
  4. Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - 0.5 zloty to taste both of them
  5.  Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka - 1 zloty for each pickled veggie = 2 zloty if you tastes both + another 2 zloty for the 2 types of meat = 4 zloty
  6.  Zurek - free, on the house :)
  7.  Bigos - 1.5 zloty per the try-out (slice of bread included)
  8.  The Sweets: Racuchy - 2 zloty per wonderful yummy sweet :)
The total amount =  exactly 15 zloty :) 
The time needed = around 2.5 hours (I was Saturday from 10:30 to 1 PM)

I recommend this tour with all my heart, of you wish to know more about the typical dishes of Krakow. I have been living in Krakow for more than 4 years now, and I was trying to get to this tour for a while but during the week I cannot manage & during weekend we are always away... Even if I knew most of the food and I had already tasted it, it was still a pleasure to find new good places to eat out. Some I knew and some I didn't but this was indeed fun :) Please do try it out as well and let me know how much you liked it. 

#FreeWalkingTourKrakow offers the best walking tours in town, so check out their offer:
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - StreetArt - FreeWalkingTourKrakow provides city tours in Polish, English & Spanish. You can find them on Facebook or on their website or you can just call them at +48 513 875 814. I joined them in a StreetArt Tour and it was amazing!
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Macabre Krakow - stories about ghost and real vampires... methods of torture, bodies under the Main Market Square with their hands and legs tied, stories of impailing living people... dark and twisted and perfect for a rainy Saturday evening :)
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Her Story - there is a saying that if the men is considered to be the head of the family, than the heart belongs to the woman.
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Pagan Krakow - do you wish to know about the old beliefs of Polish people but also about interesting facts like: "Did you know that General Hans Frank along with other members of the Nazi party celebrated the Yule holiday when they were living inside the Wawel Castle?" - join this tour once you see it up and running ;) (Beginning of March)

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Friday, 18 September 2015

How You Should Visit / Travel - Tips & tricks

My dear friends that love to travel,

Isn't it wonderful how now days the world has no borders? You can get from one continent to another within hours and the plane tickets get cheaper and cheaper. The European Union opened up the borders between the European countries so being a person living in a country in Europe actually means that Europe is your homeland - not the city or country that you were born into, but the whole European land. The English language is also so widely spread, hence things get easier for people who like to travel. Even so, there are still things one should consider when visiting another country - when travelling - especially of you do it over seas.
Warsaw Mural - Poland
1. Be mindful of the local manners! Learn the common curtsy of the land you visit. Did you know, for example, that in Poland they always kiss 3 times on the cheek? Left - Right - Left. Did you know that in Japan you should wear white - instead of the typical black - when going to a funeral? Be nice towards the people and their culture and don't step on their toes. You will learn more about them and they will be glad you took the time to research.
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2. Embrace travel like it would be your friend, and enjoy the small things. Often we like to do tours or get inside museums and before we know it the time passes us by. I have realised that the beat travels I had were the ones where there would be a balance between tours & museums vs. Taking tine to know the place at your own pace. Enjoy the experiences that are free and within hand reach: read a book in a local park or just watch people passing by and think of their life and struggles; walk the streets of the city, without the map, and get lost & find yourself back again; climb the highest point of the city and take in the view (this is my personal favourite!)... enjoy just being there...
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3. Leave your worries behind. When you travel don't think about work and the day to day job. Disconnect yourself from all this and focus on recharging your batteries. That is why you are having the time off at the first place! Think not of the electricity, gas, phone, Internet bill... think not of the crazy neighbours... think not of the piles of emails that will appear, you will handle that when you come back. Why would you worry now?!
Auschwitz Memorial - Poland
4. Cut back on the things that harm you: coffee, smokes and beer. In exchange you will have extra cash for the travels.  Plus you body will feel way better. Who knows, maybe you will even drop the nasty habits ;) in some places the smokes are so bloody expensive that you will think twice at least before you buy them. If you really must have them, try buying them in your country, if cheaper, and take some more with you.
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5. Wake up as early as you possibly can, considering it is vacation time... Let's face it, that early in the morning no criminals are lurking in the shadows.  The only people outside will be locals, opening their shops. It is wonderful to see the cities bright and early, without the huge tourist crowds. Plus you have a head start and you will probably be the first in the museum, without having issues with taking a good photo. Plus the early morning is that time of day when all pictures just look magical, due to the soft light.
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6. Scarfs and shawls may be your best friend. I am not a huge fan of them, except autumn and winter, but I know people who cannot get out of the house without it! The best is to make sure the scarf is 100% cotton, if possible! It will protect you from sun,  you can create a bag out of it and carry things, it can be used as a dust mask or eye protection... you name it! I always forget about it and figure it out when I am in the plane and my neck gets frosted by the AC! :/
A mural in my hometown, Iasi - Romania
7. Earplugs may save your life. Well... Almost! Think of an overcrowded plane with children. Once one will start crying the next will jump in as well... do you want to make sure you will be able to rest? Get some earplugs or good headsets and listen to some calming music... be zen!
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8. Slow down and don't believe you can travel the world in a week! Your brain will not stand the information and your body will probably shut down. You cannot try to cram 7 countries in 7 days and expect to say that you really know what they were about. You are NOT at a marathon!  Spend more time in one place and really learn to know it's wonders.
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9. Pack less stuff than you first planned! You do not need 4 dresses, 3 pants, 2 skirts, 4 blouses and 5 tshirt for 3 days :/ and you don't need all that makeup that takes more than half of the luggage space! If you doubt about packing an item of clothing than just don't pack it. Focus instead on items unlikely to find where you are going - for example, toilet paper and tampons in India.
Mural from Czestochowa - Poland
10. Take care of your body! You will take it with you back home so make sure it comes in a perfect state. Drink fluids regulary, wear sunscreen, sleep 8 hours a day if possible and maintain a positive attitude towards life. Make sure you eat regular healthy meals. Your body does not run on Snickers and Pepsi / Cola + Redbull!
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What are your tips and tricks for traveling? How do you stay in touch with the local life of the country you visit? Do you mingle with the crowd of tourists or do you like to speak to the locals? :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there.
Take me in your backpack! :)
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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

How to... Be Prepared For Coming To Poland

My dearest travelers,

One does not simply walk into Mordor! ;))) kidding aside, Poland is not a 3rd world country. Poland is a highly development country, on the rise, facing huge economic growth. You need not be afraid of coming to Poland - people are warm hearted, places are clean, public transport is good and on time, food is finger-licking good and the architecture is lovely! But it is good to know a fee things before coming to Poland, so you would be prepared. Here are a couple of things you should know - do's and don't:
1. Do try out the local cuisine! As I was saying, the food is amazingly good, orientated mainly on quite fat/heavy dishes. If you are vegan/vegetarian than probably you will have trouble finding a good spot to eat. If you are in Kraków I can recommend one of the below options:

Vegan/Vegetarian/Healthy Food - Slow Food:
A must do is tying out the traditional dishes like pierogi and zurek. Also please be warned that usually the portions are quite huge and the meals are heavy, so you can actually make do only with breakfast and dinner in a day. Read more about what to eat while in Poland and pick your meal in advance ans learn how to pronounce it - this gets me to point number 2.
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2. Don't even try speaking the language - it's a pain, and you won't learn it during you short stay. Exception: Asian people, who seem to have a predilection for this frightening language! Polish language stands in the top 3 most hardest languages to learn, in the world.  Also the grammar is mostly made out of exceptions from the rule... I was told more than once that even Polish people don't speak it correctly, so don't even try! You can get along, in the big cities, mostly with English language.
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3. Be courteous and learn the basics: Hello, Goodbye, Sorry and Thank you. I know... you just read point 2 and now I am coming back to you, saying you should learn the language. It's not a must but it may help you - or at least you will be seen more polite and in touch with the culture you are visiting.  For Hello and Goodbye you can use the same word "Czesc". For Sorry - this is a hard one - you will use "Przepraszam" and for Thank you: "Dziekuje". You will hear them very often so open your ears and pay attention. Repeat after Google until you make it ;)
4. Don't change the money at the exchange office, unless you have to. As I was saying in a previous blog post, it is better to pay things by card or withdraw from the ATM directly. There is a smaller fee for that (for paying by card, it is almost none - depending on the bank you use: eg. If you have a Romanian card from Banca Transilvania, then there is no fee for paying products directly with the card).
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5. Don't feel obliged to leave a tip, if you feel the service was not up to your expectations. It is common, amongst the travelers in Poland, to leave around 10-15% of the cheque, no matter what. Tipping is not obligatory and you can tip as much as you wish! :) most of the times I have seen locals that do kit tip at all, even if the product and services are impeccable. The locals reply mostly on the tips from the tourists. If you feel the service was good, be generous!
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6. Don't overdo the drinking and don't drink in public places! It is illegal to drink in public places and if you are caught you will get a fine. If you are standing outside a bar/club and they have outside seating, and if you have a beer or a glass of wine in your hand, this  can be acceptable if you are out for a short time - out for a smoke.
7. Be careful where you smoke! The law passed in November 2010 stating that one cannot smoke in public transport. You can smoke in your car though. You cannot smoke also at the bus stops. Inside bars and café  houses / restaurants you can smoke only if there is a separate smoking area. Be careful as the tickets are very pricey and people are vigilant about that...
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8. Topics of conversation - Attention!!! When it comes to conversation skills, people in Poland love to complain ;))) starting  with weather to politics to sports to... everything! They live to enter discussions and contradict. The touchy topics that you may encounter are: World War 2, Red Army / communism, relations with Germany (though relations with Russia is even a more touchy subject!), religion (especially John Paul the 2nd).
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9. If in Kraków you encounter people who ask you if you are a Wisla or Kraków fan, just say you are a tourist and walk along! These 2 are the main football clubs in Kraków and the fans always get in a fight one over the other... be careful! Especially if you are around one of their games - the crowds of fans will get very much wild during the major soccer matches.  Especially if it is between these 2!
10. Do try to visit a much as you can of Poland! Poland has both mountains and see, it has both old towns and new places - freshly build, it has shopping malls and museums alike. Poland can fulfill everyone's dreams of a perfect vacation. If you are in a mood for a new tattoo there are a lot of really good artists here. If you wish to cross off an item from your Bucket List and do zorbing or tandem parachute jumping... Poland is the place to be!

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland - scheduled 22.09.2015
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - here to help the travelers of the world :)
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Sunday, 13 September 2015

10 Tips For Newly Expats

Good morning everyone!

Good morning to all you lovely expats / expats-to-be out there!

Rise and shine! Today is the day in which I will share some more of my expat wisdom with you :) In case you have not dropped by the "Me Expat" Page, you should give it a go, as soon as you read this article, as you will find out The Stuff That None Tells You About, when Moving Abroad + some tips & tricks for when you start missing people back home (right about the time in which you will think about maybe opening up your own blog, just to make sure you know everyone is aware that you are alive and kicking). Let's face it! Some do traveling for a living, some do traveling for fun, some travel to distant places for their job - I fall under the last 2 categories: I am an EXPAT! :) 
Nobody helped me much at the beginning when I came to Poland. I basically took the jump, closed my eyes and said that either way nothing can go wrong and I would learn how to swim. And guess what? I didn't drown! I am alive and kicking, working in Poland - Krakow - for more than 4 years now! Everyone has its turning point where you will ask yourself if you should take one direction or the other - should you leave the nest and fly or stay home where it is safe and secure? Sometimes you need to have a bit of madness in yourself and do what your heart says... I followed my heart and came to Krakow, where Love found me :)
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I wanted to share with you today 10 Tips For Newly Expats & Expats To Be:
1. Get rid of the clutter and un-necessary stuff! During our life we get attached to small, insignificant things, things that take out space, things that sometimes we do not even touch once a year... ok, maybe once a year, when you dust them out at the spring cleaning... We get easily attached to things, to items of clothing, to books, to anything! and when you will want to move out, especially in a different country, and you will need to pack, you will truly see what is important for you to take. Throw the rest! You don't need it!
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2. Bring more cash than you actually think you need! You will need it, and if you don't... well... you will, trust me! Unexpected things happen! Not to mention that you will have to live the first month, as you will probably not be payed in advance. And you will have to pay rent (probably some months in advance + deposit) and eat in the meanwhile. 
The LadyBug In Its Natural Home-City: Iasi, Romania
3. Visit the country, especially if it is overseas! Don't go head on in a country you have never been before. Spend there your holiday, talk to the locals, mingle, taste the local food... see if the climate suits you. I was not going oversees, but before coming to Poland, to Krakow, I actually visited the region and the city pretty well + I knew city center already pretty well. It helps to be familiar with the places ;)
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4. Be patient - maybe even take some yoga classes to learn breathing & calming techniques! You will get pissed, you will have bad moments in which you will want to pack your things and go, but be patient! Learn to know yourself and your limits. You will not be able to learn fluent Polish after one year in Poland! (don't even try it!)
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5. Get new experiences! Be it new types of transportation/transit, be it places to eat, drink & have fun, be it places that your could interact in / museums... Explore your city, region and expand your knowledge. Be open towards people and people will be open towards yourself. Speak with the locals, they have wonderful stories to share. Learn the language, it will make your life easier, especially in situations like going to the doctor / tax office. 
The LadyBug Going To The Stanley Kubrick Expo
6. How far away from home is it = How often/long you will be able to go back home on holidays. If it is overseas, or you are in a situation like myself where there is no direct connection and you usally have to take around 2-3 planes to reach the destination... well... I can tell you this is going to be a pain! You will be happy to see your family, face to face, at least once a year & you will find that the Internet / Social Media like Skype / Facebook / Instagram is you BFF!
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7. If you thought about it, even once! then DO IT! Be an EXPAT! :) If your mind started working towards this goal, than for sure you need to try it. Nobody tells you that you should remain there forever: you can go further on in other countries, other cities, or you can go back home. But try it! Be confident and pack you bag and try it! It will be an adventure! It will be a story to tell your kids when you are older ;)
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8. If possible, research ahead and see if there are any expats groups in the area. You will find here that Facebook is your great friend. You will start google-ing places where expats meet and your ear will stay tuned into searching your home-language. Everything that will remind you of home will pop-up in front of your eyes & you will feel the need to hear your own language. Working in a corporation will help, as you will have more expats working there. 
Get NEW Experiences! Go to the museum / expo or just pick a random sports show ;)
9. Take all your paperwork with you - ID, passport, driving license, marriage license, study papers. If possible, translate them in the mother tongue of the place you will be living in. You never know when it may come in handy & for sure some of them you will need for registering yourself in the adoptive homeland. Not to mention that the tax office will always be very picky, so have both ID and passport with you, if ever you choose to move to Poland.
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10. Home will always be there. If you feel that you really don't fit in a place, move on. If after several tries you still can't get the feeling you arrived home, than come back to the motherland. I am sure the family and friends will welcome you with open arms. There is no shame in that! Think of all the information/knowledge you have gathered in the meanwhile: you are wiser now! Also, if you wish to remain in the country you have moved to, be not afraid. You will come back home to visit - probably your whole holidays will be spent going home ;)
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Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was. — Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Such is the nature of an expatriate life. Stripped of romance, perhaps that’s what being an expat is all about: a sense of not wholly belonging. […] The insider-outsider dichotomy gives life a degree of tension. Not of a needling, negative variety but rather a keep-on-your-toes sort of tension that can plunge or peak with sudden rushes of love or anger. Learning to recognise and interpret cultural behaviour is a vital step forward for expats anywhere, but it doesn’t mean that you grow to appreciate all the differences. Sarah Turnbull 

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Friday, 11 September 2015

10 Reasons Why Foreigners Love America

My dearest friends,

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Today we commemorate the people that died 14 years ago, during the September 11 attacks in the United States of America. It is said that the 4 coordinated attacks were done by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda - I rather preffer not to comment on other theories, but rather focus on the huge loss that the USA had suffered that day. The attacks consisted of suicide attacks used to target symbolic U.S. landmarks - the World Trade Center twin towers, the Pentagon & the potential Washington DC (where brave people inside the plane tried to take it away from the hijackers - it crashed in a field). It is amazing for me to see the rapidity with which this country regenerates from its loss. Immediately the contest of a new design of the Ground Zero took place, and by the time I visited NYC in the summer of 2007 the ground was already worked upon to build what stands tall this day: the One World Trade Center Spire (the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. In order to celebrate America and its courage and power to stand up and fight on, I wish to share with you 10 Reasons Why Foreigners Love America (foreigners just like myself :) ).
1. America = The Land of Dreams. Everything can happen if you truly believe in your dream and yourself. They have signed off the first Constitution in the world, they brought to us Windows / Mac, filled all our heads with the Motion Pictures, took the first man on the Moon... they even got the first colored President in the White House! :) It is indeed a relief that even though failure exists, also big things can come into motion - unlike Germany who kinda promotes an Yoda vision  over the world: "Do or do not. There is no try!"
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2. America = The Greatest Engine of Innovation. I will just leave you with this quote by Thomas L. Friedman (American journalist, New York Times): “America is the greatest engine of innovation that has ever existed, and it can't be duplicated anytime soon, because it is the product of a multitude of factors: extreme freedom of thought, an emphasis on independent thinking, a steady immigration of new minds, a risk-taking culture with no stigma attached to trying and failing, a noncorrupt bureaucracy, and financial markets and a venture capital system that are unrivaled at taking new ideas and turning them into global products.”
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3. American People Are Friendly. If you ever met someone from America (and you most probably have, as they surely love to travel the world!) you will immediatly be their best friend. You will be able to sit down and pick up a conversation with them, basically on any topic. They love to share their experiences and expertise and they are enthusiastic about everything you will tell them. They will always ask you how you are feeling if they see you are unwell and they will most probably go after police/ambulance if you are in trouble/in need. They just love to jump in and help!
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4. Connected to the point 3 I need to point out that I have never seen anywhere else Customer Care/Service as I have seen in the USA! There, indeed the Customer is the King! People look enthusiastic about helping you (even if they do not feel well they will still give their 100% during their working hours!). You never get pushed / bullied / given the angry look... they always smile and talk nicely, they give their best to make you feel comfortable and they always smile. They really work their arse off and they do not complain at work - sure they do it at home, but hey! I ain't listening then ;) am I?! Home is ones kingdom!
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5.  America = Big Houses. I have to admit it, when I say big houses I do not talk of the big cities like NYC where people live in really tiny apartments (usually)... I am talking about those huge mansions everyone sees when strolling down, let us say the Atlantic Ocean shore... The houses are always so big and you start thinking how much does one pay for cleaning, does everyone own a housemaid and a pool-boy to cleanup from leaves and god knows what?! The basement has to have at least a washing machine, dryer, a place to workout / relax / keep the Harley... then you get the ground floor with the living room and guests quarters and bathroom + the 1-2 other floors with rooms for family / friends / gym / baths... ghosts, gouls, you name it! :)
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6. America = The Liberty. Should it come as a hint that The Big Apple (NYC) has a Statue with that very same name? I mean, you know I love the Big Brother theory but still... I have to say it that at least on the surface everyone admits that America is the country with the greatest liberties. Let's take for example the Internet, the tech that has been produced and it is available now for the wide audience (you can even buy a drone in the mall!)... People in USA talk about the freedom of speech and take Martin Luther King's example - would you see that happening anywhere else? He had a DREAM! and he could say it out loud!
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7. America = Patriotism. Should I point out that one of the MARVEL heroes is Captain America?! Nope... that goes without saying... America, even though has not much history to brag about - like other countries in the good old Europe, knows how to show it's true red-white-blue blood :) Every visitor remarked how the level of patriotism is high and how flags can be found everywhere! Not to mention all the clothing with the specific colors & other merchandise. 
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8. America = Coffee Culture. Have you ever been to a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks in the USA? There is ALWAYS a queue! People in the USA really do love their coffee. It is their fuel and the morning cannot start without it! Let's face it, people even work from Starbucks - it's comfortable, it's peaceful (nice background music) and one can enjoy it's coffee in peace. You may not understand why the locals are willing to pay daily at least around 4 dollars for a cup of coffee, instead of doing it home and lowering the expense, but hey! that's life in the USA :) and in case you did not know: "everything runs on Dunkin Donuts" ;)
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9. America = Good Music (I mean... at least some of the times :) Now don't jump at me!). If Americans gave Blues and Jazz to the world, you must forgive any trespasses... In turn, from Blues and Jazz came Rock & Roll + Pop Music, so we need to admit to the fact that good music came from USA. You may remember James Armstrong for blues, Frank Sinatra for his kick arse swing music, the King of Rock & Roll - Elvis Presley and for sure you know Madonna (Louise Ciccone) The Queen of Pop.
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10. America = Huge Sizes. As I was also saying in point 5, American people think big! Be it towering buildings - cities filled with skyscrapers, huge cars to transport the huge loads of groceries / electronics (their several inches long TV, computer monitor...), giant portions when it come to food... Should I mention here all the places everywhere, where you can have all you can eat food? Should I mention the free refills in KFC / Mc Donalds / Burger King when it comes to juices?! Or should I just stop at the home-made theaters where you can make your own popcorn at your very own vintage popcorn machine?! You name it - America has it ;)
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Why do you, as a foreigner, love America? And if you are an American, do you agree with all the above? Why do YOU love your homeland? Why do YOU think Foreigners should love it? Or is it wrong to say Foreigners? After all, America came to its glory and form in which it is now due to the immigrants as well... and how much native blood of the people that actually were in America, before it was colonized, still exists? Do you wonder, as I do?

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

How To... Spend One Day In Krakow

My dearest travellers,

For thousands of years Kraków has been the centre of culture, arts and science in Poland.  Krakow was the capital of the Crown Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596; the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodship from the 14th century to 1998. It has also been the capital of Lesser Poland Voivodship (Malopolskie voivodship) since 1999.
Now that you know how to get to Poland, when to come and what money is needed, it's about time to focus on what you can do in Poland.  If you are just transiting Poland, than for sure you may get to pass either Warsaw or Kraków - the most transits when it comes to airports and buses go through these 2 lovely cities.  If you pass through them, try to put some money and time aside to have a short trip. Today I will share with you what you can do in Kraków in one single day :)
Kraków dates back to the 7th century and has not been destroyed by the Germans retreat during the WW2. The city was lucky enough to have an admirer in the General Hans Frank. Kraków became part of the General Government - separate administration region of the Third Reich - in September 1939, and from 4th November (same year) it's capital. Although the city was pillaged when the army was retreating, Hans Frank disobeyed Hitler's order to blow up the city. He was too much in love with it, to let it be destroyed.
Clock Tower In The Main Market Square
Kraków is one of the few medieval towns in Poland that does not have a historic Ratusz town hall in the Main Square, because it did not survive the Partitioning of Poland. The city was included as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. If you have only one day to spare I recommend you to get up early, have good walking shoes and a map of the city center and Jewish district (called Kazimierz).
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For many centuries Kraków was the royal capital or Poland.  The route that you should follow, for your one - day tour of Kraków can start from the Royal Road - the coronation route that the kings of old used to take, the Kings of Poland.  The route starts outside the old city walls, in the Planty area, at the Barbican (Barbakan) of Kraków - build in 1499, it is one of the 3 such fortified outposts in Europe, and the best preserved. The Barbakan was linked to the city walls but now it is separated. The passage took the people through the St. Florian Gate - the second checkpoint for entering the city.
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From the Florian Gate, passing though the old city walls, go straight forward to the Florianska street  - one of the most expensive streets in Europe. The road is not long and it will take you to the Main Market Square, but the first thing you will lay your eyes upon will be the magnificent St. Mary Church (or as the locals call it, Mariacki Kosciol). Make sure you get there at a fixed hour - each hour, on the dot, there is a bugle call from the tallest tower. There are 2 stories related to the church, but maybe I will tell you them another time ;) Go inside the church and enjoy the view - look at the ceiling and imagine yourself under the sky full of stars or climb the several hundred steps to the tower and enjoy the view (open only in summertime).
As you are now in the Main Market Square - the biggest main square in Europe - take your time and breathe in its culture and charm. Kraków historic center is one of the 13 places in Poland that are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The architecture manages to live on from the medieval times. The Old Town is home to about 6000 historic sites and more than 2.000.000 works of art! Every house in the main city centre has a 15th century cellar and guess what? Most of them are refurbished into coffee shops or pubs that you can enjoy! Maybe have a stop here and also enjoy the oldest bookstore in Europe - at Rynek Główny 23, Matras Bookstore.
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Get inside the Kraków Cloth Hall (Sukiennice ) as it is one of the city's icons. As the name says, it was a centre of trade - during its "golden age" in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports: spices, silk, leather and wax. On the other hand Kraków was very popular as well in the export of textiles, lead and -most important- salt from the mines nearby (both Wieliczka and Bochnia). Just as a small fyi, the Sukienicce had many distinguished guests,  such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan. Now it holds 2 things that are a must, if you visit Kraków for more than one day: the Cafe Szal on the 1st floor (lovely coffee shop, not for smokers, with a lovely view over the Main Market Square) and the National Museum - Gallery of the 19th Century Polish Art on the 2nd floor (Jan Matejko paintings included + the lovely, and my fav, painting called Frenzy of Exultations by Wladyslaw Podkowinski). In the lower side, you can see handmade beauties done by the locals - buy some amber broch for the one you love, or a handmade wooden box with the Kraków symbols.
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Walk out a bit and have a look at the square, on the left side you will see the St. Mary Church towering over you - in the middle you will see the statue of their national writer Adam Mickiewicz - and on the right you will see a small white church: St. Adalbert. It is said the building was done in the 11th century by the martyred missionary Saint Adalbert. The place of worship preceded the square by nearly a century! The interior is rather claustrophoby-inducing, relative to its larger exterior. If you have a look outside, on the side going to Grodzka street, you can see that the floor level is situated under the actual present level of the square. It was not uncommon at those times to replace a place of worship for multiple gods to a place of worship for the newly Christian believers... the switch was easier for the people.
Collegium Maior
The Royal Road continues from the Main Market Square up to the Grodzka street, that leads straight to the main attraction of Kraków: Wawel Castle. But don't wonder off quickly to the end of the street... enjoy the walk there - you will be passing 3 lovely churches but I would like you to focus of a specific one, called St. Peter and Paul Church. It is the Church that has always reminded me of Rome - and after point this detail to my friends, they all agreed ;) with the 12 apostles at its gate, it reminds me of the Vatican City, the square in front of the Cathedral of Saint Peter. To be noted, of you reach it on a Thursday, going inside is a must! You will be able to see Foucault 's pendulum working there - it is recommended to stay there at least one hour to perceive the movement. This is the Church where I got married to my beautiful Polish lad, but also this is the Church where St. John Paul the 2nd (the Polish Pope) parents got married :) also it is the first baroque architecture building in Poland!
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Once you are ready, go further on to the Wawel Castle - you could also make a small detour to the street called Kanonicza. Many museums and historical organisations reside on this street, as well as the Catholic Archbishop. The street is one of the oldest ones in Kraków and it is made out of cobblestone. On the street the is also the house where John Paul the 2nd lived there, for a couple of years, when he was the Archbishop of Kraków - he lived on Kanonicza 19-21 from 1951-1963. The street also has a very nice coffee shop - bookstore called Bona (I may have mentioned it before half a dozen times ;))) ) so I recommend it highly! Kanonicza will bring you to the foot of the Wawel Castle.
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I recommend getting up the hill and quickly having a look around the Castle with its inner gardens and the Cathedral. Begin by checking out the Cathedral and it's main doors. Above the doors you will be able to see, what it is believed to be the bones of the last dragon that lived in Kraków.  In the inside of the Cathedral, in its highest tower, you will find the Sigismund Bell - it weights 13 tons and it takes at least 12 people to ring it! It usually rings only on special occasions and national holidays. This is the end of the Royal Route, but I suggest going forward, exiting the other way in the Castle and reaching forward to the Kazimierz region.
View from the Inner Court of the Wawel Castle, looking toward the Krakow (Krakus) Mound
Kazimierz abounds in renaissance buildings and very small and quaint streets. Kazimierz is the old Jewish district of Kraków, founded in the 14th century.  By the 1930s, Kraków had officially 120 registered synagogues and prayer houses. The oldest synagogue building standing in Poland was built in Kazimierz - either in 1407 or 1492, different sources show different dates. The Old Synagogue can be visited still.  Also, in 1993, Steven Spielberg filmed the Schindlers List here... in Kraków 's own heart. Each year at the end of June, there is the Jewish Culture Festival. It is Europe's largest Jewish festival or culture and music. You can visit the remains of the Ghetto Wall and/or drop by the amazingly well done museum Schindlers Factory (Museum). I believe the museum is a must for everyone visiting Kraków. I went there, in 4 years, for at least a dozen times (if not 2!).
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Just walking from the Barbakan to the Schindlers Museum, not stopping, not looking sideways and getting distracted by the wonderful architecture, you could get there in under a hour... but take your time and enjoy Kraków. Have a coffee on the 1st floor of the Sukienicce, have some icecream at the Bona coffee - bookshop next to the St. Peter and Paul Church, lay down on the grass next to the Vistula, eat a fresh Zapiekanka in Plac Nowy ;) and visit the museums at your own pace. I can tell you that for sure you will want more ;))) so go now and check our more about the accommodation in Kraków.

Possible expenses:
- entrance fee to the Barbakan and the Old City Walls - 8 PLN (6 with discount)
- entrance fee to the Sukienicce museum on the 2nd floor - 14 PLN (8 with discount)
- coffee on the 1st floor of the Sukienicce - Cafe Szal - around 15 PLN
- getting up-up in the St. Mary Church tower - not sure about this one, to tell you the truth, I have not yet done this (when I wanted to do this it was under renovation for 2 years, but I know now it is open again)
- lemonade and homemade lemon cake in Bona coffee - bookstore - the lemonade will be around 12-15 PLN and the homemade cakes can be between 10-15 PLN as well, but they are yummy! :)
- entrance in the Cathedral of the Wawel Castle - 12 PLN (7 with discount)
- entrance to the Old Synagogue - 9 PLN (7 with discount)
- entrance to the Schindlers Museum - 21 PLN (with discount, if you are a student, 16 PLN)
- traditional zapiekanka in Plac Nowy, Kazimierz - around 15 PLN
TOTAL of the Possible expenses = around 139 PLN (approximately 30-40 EURO).
NOTE!!! Prices were taken as of end of August 2015. Please note that the prices may have slight changes, as the seasons shift - also please check the opening/closing hours.
Other related ideas on one - day trip in Kraków:
- Free Walking Tour Kraków - Old Town - around 2-3 hours, no pre-booking needed, runs everyday at around 10 am and 3:30 pm (during Spring and Summer; during Fall and Winter it may be even earlier so check their FB page to have the latest date/time)
- Free Walking Tour Kraków - Jewish district - around 3 hours, no pre-booking needed, runs everyday at around 11 am and 2:30 pm (during Spring and Summer; during Fall and Winter it may be even earlier so check their FB page to have the latest date/time)
- Free Walking Tour Kraków - Foods of Krakow - Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 pm and Saturday at 10:30 am (date may change in different seasons so check their FB and Internet Page).
NOTE!!! For all the 3 tours above the starting point is in front of the St. Mary Church (Mariacki) in the Main Market Square. The tours are free but the tour guides have to make a living, so it is accustomed to leave a tip at the end of the tour route. The team usually has a little red bag that they hand out at the end, when they also hand out the Free Walking Tour Map Guide, with discounts - make sure you get one as it will come in handy!

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland - scheduled 15.09.2015
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland - scheduled 22.09.2015
If you have any other questions that I have not managed to fulfill, please raise a hand / drop me a line on Facebook - Instagram - Tumblr - Twitter / wave a flag or send me a messenger pidgeon :) I will be more than glad to help you discover magical Kraków.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves Kraków
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