Overnight Trains, Fire Breathing Dragons, and Perogies
This past weekend my boyfriend and I took an overnight train from Prague to Krakow, Poland. Personally, I love overnight trains. The first overnight train I ever booked was when I had plans to meet my friend in Internlaken, Switzerland. I went to the Prague train station and booked my ticket a few days before I was supposed to leave. This would be my first overnight train and I was taking it on alone. But I wasn’t worried, I had been traveling all semester and how difficult could it be to fall asleep on a train alone. Well, turns out falling asleep wasn’t the hard part, booking the ticket was. It was the final departure day from the ECES program in Prague, so needless to say it was a day filled with tearful goodbyes. I was a mess crying the entire way to the train station, I actually almost missed the train completely. When I boarded the train I was walking up and down the cars trying to find my bed, I learned the hard way this is something you need to state when purchasing an overnight train ticket. I ended up booking the storage car, it was me, luggage, and bikes for a 14 hour overnight train to Interlaken, after the last night of the semester and a day of sorrowful goodbyes you can only imagine what this must have looked like. I can proudly say I have never again made this mistake and you may wonder why I love overnight trains after this nightmare. First of all this fiasco taught me a very, very valuable lesson and I am always grateful for these travel lessons, it truly is the only way you become an expert traveler. Second, once you are able to successfully book your sleeper car overnight trains remind me of home, they remind me of nights sleeping on my boat in the Great South Bay on Long Island. The movement and rocking of the train puts me right to sleep. And finally, you wake up to a new adventure, a new city, and most of the time a new country – how awesome is that?!
Back to the weekend in Krakow – when I studied abroad in Prague I attended the ECES school trip to Auschwitz and Krakow. My boyfriend felt a certain obligation to experience Auschwitz, which I felt and satisfied two years ago, so I decided to spend Saturday exploring Krakow rather than accompanying him.
Last time I was in this Eastern European city it was February and absolutely freezing, so it was nice to spend a beautiful autumn weekend in Krakow. I had a lot more time to really wander the streets which was really nice. Last time I was here we didn´t have too much time to explore on our own because we had different tours to attend and time constraints to abide by. When I travel I enjoy just wandering and sitting in parks or city squares. Tours are nice, and I did the free walking tour, but I find that I learn the most about a culture when I simply just walk around or curl up in a cafe, so this is exactly what I did on Saturday while my boyfriend was on his tour of Auschwitz.
While I was wandering around I ran into one of the boys we woke up with in our sleeper car on the train. I went over to say hello and it turned out we were staying at the same hostel, and he was already exploring Krakow with two Germans he met that were also at our hostel, so I got to spend the day with them. We went on the free walking tour of the city and met a Peruvian boy who had already been in the city for a few days. After the tour the Peruvian told us we had to follow him to this restaurant he found out about two days ago. We followed him past the main square and through the windy, cobblestone streets, into this strange building with no sign that lead to a courtyard. Then through the courtyard, down these steps, into the restaurant. It was such a cool place and had excellent fried perogies, one of the reasons I went back to Poland. Krakow is a great city with great people and I’ve learned this mostly by observing and wandering. When you travel try to sit back some days and just watch, just take it all in. Take in the people, the tourists, the architecture, think about the people that have walked, or marched, over those cobblestones and think about the stories the people you see must have.
Oh – Title explanation – Krakow’s most famous symbol of the city is a fire breathing dragon statue that sits on the river bank. This dragon breathes ACTUAL fire, it is one of my favorite statues for just this reason. There is a corny medieval legend that goes along with it that doesn’t interest me too much, but did I mention, ACTUAL fire.