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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How To Survive World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Dearest Krakow expats and friends,

Let's face the facts, we are almost there: World Youth Days 2016 will be upon us soon! The questions is... how will we survive it? Beside the heat wave knocking us out this year, we will have a million or so more sould coming in for a week in Krakow and the nearby surroundings. I was mentioning this last year in October but now we are in the "home run". World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland July 25 – 31, 2016. But that's not all, the pilgrims from all around the world will come one week before and will be hosted in different cities in Poland. They will stay the week before in singing and prayer, to get ready for the WYD 2016 week. Pope Francis will be coming for only 3 days but those 3 days the city of Krakow will be invaded and nothing regular will be able to be done... so everyone living in Krakow, be it regular Polish person or expat, is well aware that the particular week in July when WYD 2016 happens will be a nightmare for locals. For a couple of months now I have told my friends and family that this week that starts and the next one after are completely off limits for reaching Krakow and speaking to myself. For a couple of months now I have also been warning people reading the blog and people who are part of the expat and travel communities to reconsider their holidays so they would not reach Krakow when "all hell breaks loose" (so sorry for the expression but if ever you were at a pilgrimage you will understand!). It will be hard to stay in Krakow and try to do something regular/normal at that time... So here I am, sharing some thoughts and ideas on the subject ;)
How to survive World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow:
1) Shopping - be it for groceries and stuff that you need at home on a daily basis or cravings that you might have... plan this well! Some shops and shopping centers plan to close out the gates during the week or have a shorter schedule. Also think about all the extra people coming and doing groceries as well... I do believe the safest and wisest thing would be to stock up a week or so before, with the goods you really need and you know you will use during that week. If you have a big fridge stock up on veggies, fruits, cheese and ham, maybe some eggs. Add to that some water (and or beer) as it's hot season... and the things you can't live without - like toilet paper, tampons and tissues. Better to be safe than sorry! ;)
2) Work time - even from the beginning of the year the corporations have been working towards settling somehow the logistical aspect during the WYD 2016. There are always people who come to the locations like Kraków Business Park or Buma or Quattro from one side of Kraków to another or even from Wieliczka and Katowice... that's a whole lot of way to go for work and during WYD it's gonna be a nightmare, so companies / corporations are more permissive during that week when it comes to having ones holiday ;) and if that a not possible they are even more permissive when it comes to the Work From Home options or even working remotely from a different location - for example teams in Capgemini are relocated temporarily to Katowice while WYD lasts. But it's better, if possible, to take the whole week off and go somewhere else, as far away as you can from Krakow: it will get crowded and all you will be able to do is stay indoors... and not get pissed :/
3) Using ones car to travel inside the city - don't even attempt it! Some areas and roads will be completely closed for the procession and others will be flooded by mindless people who will try to use the roads only to block them and kill any means of transport. The city has been split in areas and according to the area only certain people with special IDs will be able to have access. If you need to reach the hospitals that are in the blocked area you would have needed to apply for a permit that would allow you to get temporary entrance to that region... but just drop the car, that week you might get quicker on foot anywhere.
Advertisment on the WYD in Krakow in a bus stop
4) Public transport - now don't get me wrong... I love Poland's and Kraków's public transport and railway system and I use it everyday! But it will be hell during the WYD - some lines will be closed and others will have a smaller number of trams and some... will be just used by the Pope and pilgrims. I won't be using public transport that week, unless I will be forced to do so. I can imagine how packed the trams and buses will get and how they will resemble a pack of sardines in oil... the human oil of summertime... mmm... better not!
5) Banks - be careful and make sure you have some money out, just in case. The banks (most of them if not all) announced that they will have during the WYD week a very short schedule: Monday and Tuesday short program and the rest of the week they will close their gates. Online banking will probably be still available but if you need to deposit some money make sure you do so in advance and not wait until that week. I guess in the city center the exchange offices (Polish language: Kantor) will still function so if one needs to change some currency they would have where.
6) Going out - I would suggest limiting that to a minimum and if possible staying inside the house, as it may be safer with all the people coming from a over the world. Everything is booked and every place will be overcrowded. I know how Kraków looks like in July - August when most of the tourists come... now I multiply that at least by a dozen times and I already start having a headache and think how one would be able to breathe with all those people around. I am a people person and I love people but everyone has its limits and I know for sure that a large audience gathering into one place (whatever the reason) is a thing one is normal to fear. I would rather stay at home and breathe easy than have people bumping me around - especially in the condition I am in now!
7) Pilgrims are people too! Let's face it, if you will get outside you will eventually bump into the pilgrims and you should not take up your frustration on them. Don't blame them, help them! Put yourself in their shoes: they came from miles and miles away, from across the sea / ocean even, spent a lot of money and time to get to Kraków and see the Pope. Most of them won't be able to see him even on the special screens! Be kind to them and think of what they have to endure, being far away from home, in a foreign country who's language they cannot understand... they may be sweaty and tired and enthusiastic at the same time. Help them out if they ask for any guidance! If you would be in their shoes you would like some help!

But don't worry, if you wish to be part of the madness and try to see the Pope live, you can check here the latest schedule of Pope Francis. Try not to get into too crowded places (if you can!) and drink more than 2 litres of liquids (water if possible, not beer!) each day. If you are still sure you wanna do this, and I have yet not changed your mind, I wish you the best of luck and I really wish you would write back to me and tell me how your experience at the WYD 2016 went. I will surely listen with an open heart and I wish you all the best! :)

Yours sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that will stay indoor all WYD 2016 week!