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From Prague to Krakow: A CEA Trip to Poland

This past weekend, CEA study abroad Prague recruited around 90 students for a legendary trip to Krakow, Poland. Although not the capital of the country, Krakow is an up and coming city in Eastern Europe, boasting entertaining nightlife, delicious cuisine, and incredible historical sites. After meeting at Prague's train station in the early AM, we began the eight hour bus ride to Hotel Wyspianski in the heart of Krakow.
 Enjoying a meal at Milkbar Tomasza

Since the first night was ours for exploring, I gathered a group of friends and we ventured off into Stare Miasto (Old Town) to eat at a milkbar. Known as Bar mleczny in Polish, milkbars were popular in communist times for providing affordable, cafeteria style food for workers who couldn't afford anything else. Since 2010, milkbars have been making a comeback as reliable, small restaurants with friendly service and filling meals for cheap. And by cheap, I mean really cheap - my whole meal was less than 8 USD.

At Milkbar Tomasza, I dined on a mix of traditional Polish dumplings, fried to perfection and served with sour cream. Beef, wild mushroom, potatoes and spinach paired together deliciously in each dumpling, and the gorgeous salad that my friend ordered tasted as good as it looked. I also managed to nab a bite of my other friend's omelette (did I mention they serve breakfast at all hours?) and fell in love. Who knew Krakow had foodie potential?

 Enjoying a kebab in Kazimierz

We devoured dessert - a generous portion of Nutella spread all over a thin pancake, crepe style - and ventured further into the city, taking in the environment around us. Although we'd walked through a park to get into this area, we were suddenly surrounded by historical buildings and energetic people, pulsating through alleyways and sidewalks with a fervent urgency. We figured out that the reason they were walking so enthusiastically is because they were headed toward Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter in Krakow and a hub for nightlife. As we followed the crowds and were consequently enveloped in a diverse crowd of deliriously happy people, we stumbled upon a kebab stand with a line out the door. Taking that as a sign that we simply must try it, we indulged in dinner round two, with a kebab served Krakow style!

After exploring a bit more, we hurried to bed, knowing that our walking tour the next day would be tiring. We weren't wrong, but it was absolutely worth it! Our two-hour tour around the city was filled with incredible sights and nuggets of information.

 Different sights in and around Krakow.
 
 A shot of the Birkenau Concentration Camp

Finally, on our second to last day, we paid a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Powerful is a bit of an understatement when it comes to describing what it was like visiting the camps, though I'm incredibly happy that we did. As we walked through prison cells, rooms, and gas chambers, I was overcome with a tidal wave of emotion that'll likely stay with me for the rest of my life. I'm especially grateful that CEA was able to set up this visit for us, as I'm not sure I would have found a way to go otherwise. It truly was a heavy experience, but necessary and humbling.

Although I didn't expect it, Krakow turned out to be a wonderful city that I will most definitely revisit in the future.

 Tansu Philip is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Prague, Czech Republic. She is currently a junior at Chapman University. 

 



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