Playing Tourist In Krakow

By Jane Mountain | June 8, 2013

2788 km so far.

Went out for pastries before everyone was up. At 7am Kraków was still sleeping, with just a few people out, some heading to the bakery like I was, some headed to work. The trams were running, but were mostly empty, and the city felt quite peaceful.

Cycling Is So Much Easier Than Walking

Fast-forward 3 hours and we are standing in the main square, surrounded by thousands of people. Groups of tourists gather under various Free Walking Tour signs (us included), many more sit at cafes lining the square, others seem to wander aimlessly, flower sellers sell their wares, and two high school girls teams are competing in the international soda branded national high school tournament on a real grass football pitch which has been temporarily installed in the middle of all the hubbub.

old town in krakow poland

View into old town.

A very different view of the very same city.

Our walking tour guide, Maciek, was terrific. He was incredibly knowledgable, witty, and personable. The tour took us to many important sights within the city walls and then up to Wawel Hill, which is thought to be the original center of the city, dating back to the 7th century.

Wawel Hill also has a chakra center, which is a totally made up story from the 1930s about it being one of the seven chakra centers on Earth. It apparently emanates mystical energy, but in reality it just annoys the leaders of the church of which it is in the middle. Maybe this was the goal of the Indian visitors who first proclaimed its mystic status.

Or maybe the guide just made it up because he could see that after 2.5 hours we badly needed more energy. Why are walking tours so long?

All the better to enjoy post-walk peirogies, I guess. We had a savoury kind we hadn’t tried before, filled with mushroom and cabbage. They were delicious! We also finally got to try dessert pierogies, and we all decided to we like the savoury ones better.

Unravelling More Russian Red Tape

This afternoon Jane and I spent a lot of time planning our route to St Petersburg. You need a Tourist Visa to go to Russia, and to get the visa, you need a letter of invitation. To get a letter of invitation, you need to know what date you’ll be arriving in the country, what cities you’ll visit, and where you’ll stay in each city. Phew.

All this means that we have had to do more planning than we have done so far for the trip, just to get to go to Russia. Plus, without getting the much more expensive Business Visa, you can only get a visa for a maximum of 30 days. Think about how big Russia is. It’s almost like they don’t want tourists, or at least don’t want you to see anything other than Moscow and St. Petersburg.

You also need to be near a consulate to pick up the visa, which takes 10 days. This means that after we go south with my parents for a week, we’ll be coming back to Krakow to pick up our visas.


Before I knew it, it was time to find a restaurant for dinner. Since I have been using the Happy Cow website so much on this trip, I decided it was time to support them and buy their app. Cafe Mlynek won today and it was such a great choice. Good for vegans, vegetarians, and others, the food was fresh, delicious, and served with excellent drinks. I hear their vegan breakfast is also tasty, so we will no doubt go back to try that one day soon.

We ended the day with asana, as Jane and I have challenged ourselves (and our 40 Day Challenge students back in Los Angeles) to practice yoga every day for the next two weeks. This was inspired by our trip coming to a pause as we’ll be settled into Kraków and Łosie for the next two weeks.

Self-portrait of our evening practice.

Self-portrait of our evening practice.

I love and really need this sort of challenge to motivate me. As always, it felt great to be ‘on the mat’ and because we offered the challenge back to the 40 Dayers, I felt connected to them as I practiced. If any of you out there want to join in, please do. You can give us a progress report on the comments below.

Namaste, yo.  

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