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Price of a beer in this bar: US$2.70 for (what I assume is) 500ml (~17 ounces) of local draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Black Cow (Steely Dan)

I’m sitting in a trendy coffee bar, the kind of place that serves bottled matcha to customers in fitted checkered suits and/or software vendor T shirts, ringfenced by what appears to be some kind of tech startup hub with high-density high rise housing rippling out from there. The place is typical 3rd wave coffee shop decor, a modernist restyling of a true industrial space, with more of a second wave intention. There are board games, 12 person tables, beer on draft and other aspects that invite customers to settle in for a bit of a stay. Fucking Europe, eh? They’re never in a hurry to turn over a table. I had a hell of a time finding this place and I’m pretty sure I had to cross the parking lot for a private loading dock to get here. The road sign with the red circle and line seem to be suggesting I was not welcome, but maybe it just denoted one-way traffic in the opposing direction. Meh. The coffee is good.

This place sits in the literal shadow of Oskar Schindler’s factory, depending on the time of day of course. Anyway, on to the meat of this.

Here is the my estimation of the cheapest practical Krakow month, in theory:

I’m talking full Walden style, without the weekend trips to his affluent family home, and I’m extrapolating from collected data about a town that I’m somewhat familiar with. Your mileage may vary.

I see several rooms for rent on AirBnB for US$350/month or less that include a washer and internet (as well as heat/water/whatever).

The girlfriend and I are feeding ourselves for about US$7.65/day, per person. That comes out to about $230/month. We eat out a lot, but it’s cheap diner food that runs about US$3.50 for meat, potatoes and small side. Our daily total includes all groceries, so there’s soap, coffee and a few other odds and ends that aren’t provided at the rental. In The Midwest I could eat for about US$5/day, mostly something kind of chili-like that involved legumes, meat and vegetables, in a bowl, prepared at home, maybe some cheese, bread and olive oil alongside. With enough time I could probably bring that US$7.65 number down here.

As far as I can tell, an unlimited monthly ticket for the extensive public transportation system in Krakow costs US$27.

A 750ml bottle of reputable Polish vodka should cost you US$8.50. Let’s buy 1 per week; we are emulated an author here. A 500ml draft beer can be had for US$3 in public, so if you want to reinforce the seams of your sanity by occasionally socializing, do your own math here.

That covers your bases for about US$700/month, with $12/week (here representing four pints of draft) dedicated to socializing. You’re probably not going to be able to perpetuate yourself indefinitely at this price, since there’s no allowance for health care (or anything), and your standard of living will increase significantly with each additional US$100/month you’re able to dedicate to this endeavor, but if you want to just seclude yourself for a month or six (which is the limit for all of use non-EU residents) and build your hot new app or perfect your forms alongside Adriene¬†and amid historic Euro environs, this is about as little as you can do it for and keep you sanity in Krakow.

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This is 500ml (about 17 ounces) of beer that costs about US$0.60 at a store. Its one of the cheapest and higher quality stuff costs about twice that, but it’s honestly not a bad beer. There’s also a lot of cider here. I’m told Poland is a major producer of apples for the region.

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An example of the aforementioned ‘higher quality stuff’.

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This is not an apple cider, but where there’s Perry, apple cider isn’t far off.

This fried chicken and french fries (ala carte, not their recommended combination or anything) ran me about US$3.

This spread, including a cup of borscht (out of frame), cost The Girlfriend US$4.92. Both of these meal were at the local Milk Bar, cheap and usually simple diners that are a holdover from The Soviet Era. There are quite a few of them around town and the quality of both the food and the room can vary significantly.

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The chicken, potatoes, soup and roll on the bottom cost me US$3.48, while The Girlfriend paid US$3.65 for the chicken, potatoes and beet/carrot compote toward the top at another milk bar a short walk from our rental.

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This schnitzel was fantastic. It was one of two plates we got for US$11.10 at a relatively nice milk bar in the old town, which is the touristy part within what used to be the moat and city walls.

 

Price of beer in a bar: 500ml (a heavy pint) of draft cost me 8 Zloty last night, which is about US$2.19 at the official rate, US$2.40 at the rate I’ve been using mentally.

Song currently stuck in my head: I Neva Seen (Galcher Lustwerk)

Reflecting on my pack on Day 19:

In a world of travel blog affiliate links for $270 pants, I’m singing the praises of US$6 thrift store finds. Let’s just say this blog isn’t a self-sustaining enterprise.

That said, these Dickies perform like a champ. I’m as surprised as anyone. A pigeon evacuated its avian bowels onto them while I was out and about and 10 minutes later when I was able to find a bathroom they wiped perfectly clean. The pockets do a good job of latching onto my possessions, they dry fast, the look is reasonably presentable and they give every impression that they’ll wear like iron.

I’ve been told since childhood that European men over the age of 20 would never be caught dead in trainers unless they were currently in the act of ‘making fitness’. My observations in Berlin and Krakow tell me otherwise. Fashion sneakers, gaudy flat out running shoes and everything sporty in between are evidenced on reasonably dressed men all over the place, including tourist areas that probably provide a solid cross section of European Nationalities. I suspected this would be the case, but had I known for certain, I would have probably only packed one pair of shoes. Neither of my pants look particularly great with athletic shoes, so the tweaks would have reached further than my footwear, but having one pair of shoes on my feet and none in my bag would be pretty fantastic. My skin-out pack weight is 13kg (28.5 pounds) and I could have dropped 7% of that by leaving my loafers at home. Oh well. I haven’t identified any duds in my pack. Everything seems to be serving its purpose well.

I’m told that Polish is an insanely difficult language to learn, but I have no idea. Nearly everyone speaks (or understands a little) English and I can get by with hand motions for the rest. I studied German for years and never got the hang of it, but having spent a few days in Berlin has made it unusually salient lately. Combine that with speaking English around the house, hearing Polish (and more) around town and binge watching season 3 of Narcos, which is mostly in Spanish, and my language faculties have surrendered entirely. Everyone says if you just learn a little of the local language, the local people will appreciated your attempt, but I’m here to tell you: no one in Poland seems impressed. Counter help here has the demeanor of a French clerk who’s been asked in English if they have any ‘regular cheese’, but I really don’t care. They’re genuinely helpful and somewhat patient, so I don’t care if they’re smiling. The language barrier is nothing compared to my days of navigating Central American bus routes with no Spanish and no idea how to pronounce the name of my intended destination. I have yet to wander into a Polish restaurant, point at a menu, shrug, point at myself, offer some money and hope that food arrives. Things here are pretty effortless.

Here are a few shots from around town.

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Warren Dunes

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Here are a few shots from around Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan, one of our stops on the roundabout way to Europe. The second shot is Weko Beach. The Girlfriend is from The East Coast and continues to frequent that region’s beaches with her family. I was pretty confused when I was introduced to their version of dunes, since I grew up with these mountains of sand.

 

 

 

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Price of beer in a bar: ~US$2 for 500ml of bottled beer, which is just over a pint for my imperial measurement aficionados out there.

Song currently stuck in my head: You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) (it’s playing here)

The girlfriend used to own a 2004 Pontiac Vibe. It had about 180,000 miles on it when we sold it a few weeks ago, having dedicated all 1.8 liters of its sluggish, high MPG fury to punch a hole in the domestic road map, traversing about 2,000 miles of highway while visiting friends and family in New Jersey, South Carolina, Suburban Chicago, Coastal Michigan and Rural Indiana with a brief overnight outside of Louisville. That trip ultimately led to a commuter rail station and our new trip immediately began; commuter rail to The Chicago Loop, CTA Blue Line to O’Hare, aluminum tube to Berlin’s Tegel Airport.

The idea to explore Central Europe came from frequenting various forums for Digital Nomads, remote workers attempting to earn in Euros and Dollars while spending in Pesos, working the angles of geoarbitrage in this global economy. They generally move between cities with high bandwidth, low costs and high quality of life. I’m not one of them, but there’s significant overlap in our interests. They put cities like Polvdiv (Bulgaria) and Split (Croatia) on my radar and a plan began to coalesce.

So we spent 5 nights (or something) in Berlin with expat friends, mostly staying in and ducking the drizzle that dominated our stay. We grabbed an 8-ish hour bus to Krakow, crossed the old town on foot and checked in to the Airbnb rental we reserved for the month. The Girlfriend and I are currently eschewing the gym, concentrating instead on canvasing this highly walkable town for hours a day. The Dickies pants I brought have a particularly rigid and unforgiving waist, which is becoming more comfortable by the day thanks to my ambulations and the modest portioning of the local restaurants. These factors allow me to make amends for the caloric free for all of several ‘bon voyage’ cocktail hours, sacks ‘o subs, servings of Carolina BBQ, boxes of wine and highway breakfasts smothered, covered and peppered that led up to our departure.

Overcast skies that alternate between drizzle and hard rain have been following us since Michigan, but a couple of days ago we spotted a big fiery ball in the sky and we’re told to expect to see more of it soon. Fingers crossed.