A couple of days ago a friend of mine asked me for some suggestions for the upcoming trip to Krakow. That request made me think of two of my previous jobs: the time I spent planning others’ holidays as a concierge of a five-star hotel in Rome and the months of my technical writing experience in Krakow. The latter of the two is the experience I remember as a very special one.
And it is the latter of the two that I love to recall.
During my first business trip to Krakow I lived in a tiny room by the Wawel Castle. It was amazing to wake up early in the morning and have a chance to admire the walls surrounding that amazing royal palace every time I went to catch a bus to work and every time I came back home. Every day it reminded me of how lucky I was to have a great job that allowed me to live in such a unique place.
On my second business trip, I chose a slightly bigger accommodation – a studio in an old building situated on the border between the Old Town and the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. Coming back home from work, I used to go out of the bus several stops before mine and walk through the Market Square, have a glance at the Sukiennice and Mariacki Kosciol church, enjoy the amazing Krakow views and colours every time I could.
It was my second time living on my own outside my parents’ home with my own fridge full or empty, my bed and my shower, my dinners to cook, my shopping to make, my place to clean up, maintain and be responsible for, and my Krakow to enjoy. A very important, necessary and beautiful experience it was.
It was a charming spring, sweet and in blossom. I remember going out with my colleagues. We used to go around the city centre to explore new streets, try the restaurants we hadn’t been to before, have a drink in one of the numerous Krakow bars, listen to the Beertones in the Irish ‘Mbassy pub sipping pints of Guinness or Long Island Ice Tea from high glasses. Sometimes we went to listen to a jazz session or attend a concert of the classic music in a church or at the theatre. The choice of entertainment Krakow offered was always embarrassingly huge. I remember well that place in Kazimierz where I tried absinthe for the first time in my life and that other place called Kitsch. It was an enormous disco club occupying all floors of an old decrepit building in the city centre. Every ex-apartment was a mini club with its own bar and a different kind music. There you could find everything from pop to hard rock, and everybody as well, I guess. And after that organized madness was over my colleagues used to accompany me home and on the way we used to stop at a street food truck and devour grilled sausages with mustard at 3 a.m. at night, quite drunk, proud of ourselves and very happy.
Than they told me the Kitsch caught fire and got destroyed. It was a pity. I hope it is better off now.
I remember well my future husband to come to stay with me for a couple of days. I showed him Krakow. He was completely in love with the city. On one rainy day under the greyish sky we went to visit the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, some of its synagogues, the cemetery, the Jewish ghetto and the Schindler factory. When we came back I started crying and did not sleep for the whole night tortured by horrible nightmares.
And then my colleagues organized that one day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau. And we remained so shocked and so emptied by that experience to decide not to go out for dinner with the rest of the group upon our return to the city. I did not cry that night, I was too emotionally exhausted. I also remember the way back we made together with our friends, all of us becoming closer to each other in the ever so deafening silence.
And there was also a day at the Wieliczka Salt Mine that did not impress much either of us, against all my enthusiastic expectations. Maybe because it was my second time there and I was not able to impart any surprise any more. And there was some pretzel time for Massimo, too, on the Market Square of the Old Town we kept on coming back to every time we could. And there was the ‘zapiekanka shock’ time for both of us: who knew that that seemingly perverted open-baguette-style Polish sandwich could prove to be so tasty? And there were some chess moments like the chess board with the images of all Polish kings on it I bought as a present for Massimo, or a chess match we observed once on a Vistula shore right by the castle walls on a warm spring evening.
It was the time in which I took care of some people, met some others and made new friends, invited my old ones to come to see me but they never could and then regretted it a lot. It was the time that taught me some new kind of responsibility – that of my own self. And I learnt to cope with things on my own, to be alone but suffer less loneliness than many others would in the same situation, far from my family and my beloved ones. I learnt to reflect on things, to be more sensible and attentive to details. And I proved to be loyal to myself and those I cared for. And then I got to know a bit of that amazing city of Krakow, so generous and surprising, all to discover and to admire.
This is one of the reasons for which Krakow is a city that remains, reminds of itself in various contests and on numerous occasions, all of a sudden, always pleasantly. Are you planning to go there? Do so. You will have something to recall totally and forever.
Thanks, as always, to Machs Gut © for his great pictures!