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One Month In Krakow, Poland

11.20.17

I’ve struggled with how I can best summarize our months on this trip. These Cities are large; Krakow is about 6.5 Granadas, pretty close to 1 Panama City. I never felt like I did PC justice in my Summary, not in the way I was able to capture the sum of our experiences in other towns like Esteli. The European portion of this trip could easily be a series of 8 (or something) Summaries about how I failed to fully grasp what was going on, but instead I’m going to rejigger the format a bit and provide a less authoritative recap of my impression. Here we go.

The short of it: Krakow is a historic city even by European standards and we found it affordable, charming, and incredibly easy to navigate, both geographically and culturally.

Pros: EU member allowing for visa-free travel within The Schengen Area, high availability of goods and standard of living, seemingly dependable infrastructure, very affordable, Poland is generally is considered one of the safest countries in Europe with regard to violent crime.

Cons: Tourist dollars set the agenda for much of the downtown, giving much of the entertainment on offer a disconnected, mediated feel.

Distortions: Renting via Airbnb saved us from having to arrange for utilities and complete other potentially bureaucracy heavy tasks. We visited in September of 2017 and stayed near the city center, 10 minutes on foot south of the trendy Kazimierz neighborhood, just over the river.

Overall: The Girlfriend and I agree that Krakow would be very easy to live in, if only for the 6 months out of the year that our tourist stamps would allow. The average monthly high temperatures range from 32 F in January to 77 F in July, making it similar to Chicago with a milder summer. Our credit card was accepted nearly everywhere with no minimums or service fees and ATM cash was easy to come by as well. Small grocery stores and cheap restaurants were ubiquitous.

Food and entertainment: One of the first things we evaluate when we arrive somewhere is whether or not there is cheap, filling food available nearby. If so, great, we can be a little more leisurely with getting our bearings and figuring out groceries since we won’t risk undermining our budget or going hungry. Krakow’s Milk Bars fit the bill perfectly. They’re a holdover from the communist era and provide authentic Polish food at minimal cost, usually around US$3.30/meal for me without be too selective about it. The prices really encourage you to experiment, since if you don’t like the result you probably haven’t blown your budget for the day. The experience from bar to bar will differ, but we always left feeling like we’d gotten value for our money. Our closest option was also one of the best reviewed, Krakus. I don’t know how I managed to post photos from 4 different Milk Bar meals without any perogies (dumplings), since they were probably our most common order, but it looks like it happened. Had we not had this option, we’d still have been fine. Corner grocery stores abound and the pricing fit easily in our budget.

Beyond the low cost standby, Krakow has a large and crowded nightlife district in Kazimierz, an old Jewish neighborhood before the local Jewish population was forcibly relocated by The Nazis. Jewish culture has experienced a renaissance in Poland generally and Krakow especially over the last couple of decades and its in full evidence in Kazimierz. You’ll also find picturesque cafes and bars (often at the same place in the typical European style), nightclubs, street food and all of the typical diversions you’d expect in a tourist heavy nightlife destination.

A slightly more upscale grouping of cafes, bars and restaurants can be found at the foot of the pedestrian bridge that crosses the river past the Southern edge of Kazimierz, amid what appears to be a gentrified/gentrifying neighborhood of newly restored and/or built mid rises.

Most of the local museums, of which their are many, offer a weekly free day. The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum is particularly good, covering far more Polish and Krakovian history than Schindler’s famed Nazi subversion.

We toured a few local gyms when we first arrived in The City, but decided to spend the month canvasing the city on foot as much as possible rather than pursuing our normal fitness routines. We liked Power2Fit, which would have run us about US$25-30/pp/month. Saturn Fitness was amazing, if small, but came in at about twice the price.

Our place: Our Airbnb rental had a combined living/sleeping room, a separate kitchen and bath. It worked great for the two of us for one month, though we’d probably want either a separate bedroom or at least a little more space to accommodate a bed and couch or set of comfortable chairs for longer stays. But overall we were very happy with both the rental and its location.

Infrastructure: We experienced no utility outages during our 30 days. Internet speed was about 20 Mbps down / 2 Mbps up at our rental.

Numbers: Our 30 days came in at US$1,512.62 covering two people all in, occasionally including simple healthcare but not accounting for insurance or major medical costs. Our Airbnb rental ran us US$665 of that. You can see a detailed enumeration and broad summary of our spending here. Be sure to look at both tabs.

 

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