Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Our First Day in Poland

Lily McGartland
April 1, 2013

Our First Day in Poland

When I woke up this morning the only thought I had was going to Krakow, Poland, my favorite city in the world. We woke up very early, at about six, to catch taxis to take us to the international airport in Rome. We stayed in Rome for one night, last night, as a sort of layover from Salerno and Pompeii to Krakow.

As we drove out of Rome and towards the airport, my anticipation of being back in Krakow grew larger and larger. We flew on the Italian airline, Alitalia, and had an uneventful flight. Our landing in Poland was extremely graceful; it was like the plane didn’t weigh a thing. We walked through the gate for non-EU citizens and into the main terminal of the airport. On the other side of a tall silver dividing fence was our taxi driver; he held a small sign with my dad’s name written in oversized capitals. We piled into the two large vans they provided for us and relaxed in the comfort of the seats. On the drive into the center of the city, the people in my van spent the entire time thinking up April Fools tricks we could play on the other group, as it was April Fools’ Day. As we got closer and closer to our destination, our attempts at thinking of good pranks were becoming more and more pitiful. At the last moment, just as we pulled up to the front of the hotel, we decided to tell the others that Casey Anthony had hid out in our hotel for two weeks after being found not guilty.

When we arrived at the Hotel Eden, owned by a Franklin Pierce Alum, we told the others what our taxi driver had “told” us about Casey Anthony. They we absolutely appalled and wondered what they would tell their family and friends back home. The hotel we are going to be staying at for the next few days is very nice. It is located in the old Jewish quarter of Krakow, called Kazimierz (pronounced like
cashmere), on a skinny cobble-stoned street.

We were given our keys to the rooms and went in search for them. It took a while longer then normal because the rooms in the hotel were not numbered in the usual way, with each floor having a different beginning number (ex: 100, 200, 300, etc). The first floor, where the front desk was, had rooms that were in the 100’s, but only ones with a zero in the ten’s place (ex: 101, 102, 103, etc., all the way to 109). On the second floor, our floor, there were rooms with the number one in the ten’s place (ex: 110, 111, 112, etc.). Then the next floor was numbered with a two in the ten’s place, then a three, etc. this way of numbering the floors and rooms had us all very confused. I spent a few minutes running up and down the stairs trying to find our room. But in the end it all worked out, and we were all able to relax in our rooms for a bit a recover from the change in time zones.

After a little bit of a nap and rest, we all congregated together in the main lobby in order to meet the founder and owner of the Hotel Eden. Allen Haberberg is an alum of Franklin Pierce University who started one of the first and only Jewish hotels in Krakow. He welcomed us to his business and told us about the “good old days” back at his alumni school. He also good-naturedly warned us about the tradition young Poles have on Easter Monday; they toss water on unsuspecting people (We thought he was playing an April Fools joke on us!). He was very nice and down to earth; I’d met him once before, the last time I was in Poland, but I don’t think he remembered me.

After introductions and thank you’s, the group set off in different directions, in search of food. We hadn’t eaten since the airport early this morning. My dad and I decided to eat at a small pizzeria, called Fabryka Pizzy, we had discovered the last time we were in Krakow. The pizza we got had red peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic. It was very fresh and perfectly seasoned. I could taste the sweet flavors of the tomatoes and the crunch of the peppers. It was the best vegetable pizza I’d had in a while.

After we all returned to the hotel after getting food, we set out for Market Square (The second largest public square in Europe!), in order to orient ourselves to the city so we wouldn’t get too lost. The walk was only about ten minutes, but it was so cold that it seemed like forever. The temperature was around 28 degrees Fahrenheit! When we walked into Market Square, there was a small outdoor market set up. We learned later that it was for Easter, since it was Easter Monday today. We strolled through the market and browsed the crafts and food specifically for the holiday; there were chocolates, and beautifully decorated eggs, and perogies (dumplings), and jewelry, and many more knick-knacks. Once we got too cold to be outside, we ran into Cloth Hall; the huge building in the center of Market Square. It was originally a market for fabric and cloth, in the 15th century, but is now filled with vendors selling amber jewelry (the biggest souvenir in Poland) and more typical souvenirs, such as: t-shirts and hats with “Krakow, Poland” written on them. We all walked among the stalls and vendors, doing a bit of window-shopping and a bit of real shopping.

Once we began to get too cold to be outside anymore we rushed back to the hotel and made plans to meet at seven thirty for dinner. We didn’t remember it was Easter Monday and all the shops and restaurants were closed until we were out on the snowy streets, in the dark. An impromptu decision was made, so we could get out of the chilly weather, to eat at a restaurant, called Nova, that looked very welcoming from the outside. We sat at a long table with soft couch-like benches and ordered from the menus. The d├ęcor in the place was a lot better than the food; there were black and white photographs of landscapes, and on the lampshades and walls were blown-up photographs of paintings by Modigliani, an Italian artist.

The food was nothing special; it varied completely in quality. Some of the group loved their food, and others, like me, didn’t. I ordered penne pasta with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. It wasn’t the worst meal I’ve ever eaten, but it definitely wasn’t the best. My main problem was that there just wasn’t enough food; I finished within minutes, and sat and watched as everyone else ate their large portions of food. The other problem was that it was so simple, without any spices. I could have made it at home. I did enjoy the cherry tomatoes; they were very juicy and sweet.

As we were leaving the restaurant, after we finished our meal, I ended up walking outside by myself. There was a young man on the same porch I walked onto; he was holding a large water bottle and was smiling at me. It only took me a few seconds to realize what was about to happen. I stepped away from him and said, “no, no, no” and wagged my finger. He got the hint, and walked away from the restaurant. Afterwards, the rest of the group came out and I explained to them that I almost got water poured all over me. I am very relieved that I didn’t get wet; but I’m also slightly disappointed that it didn’t happen.

After we had a good laugh about my almost becoming an “honorary Pole”, we walked the few blocks back to the hotel and crashed after our long day; sleeping was a huge relief!

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