July 2015

Most of my time in Poland was spent in the city Krakow. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland and is often considered to be the nation's cultural capital (with Warsaw being the official political capital). Krakow is pretty unique by Poland's standards not only because it's one of the countries most historic cities, but because it is one of the only major cities not to be damaged during the Second World War. Therefore nearly all its historical sites are left in tact, like the colorful old town city center with its classical architecture and Wawel Castle.

One thing particularly struck me as interesting though. Most of the city, especially that which was centered around the old town, did not shut down... at all. Whether it be bars, restaurants, cafes or shops, nearly everything seemed to be open 24/7. (Unfortunately I found this out while getting incredibly lost on my way back to the hostel after a night out). New York may claim to the the city that never sleeps, but state law has everything shut down at 4:00am. In Poland, no such foolish law exists, so the nightlife lasts well into the daylight of the next morning.

While I was there, however, there was one thing I knew I needed to see most of all: the Wisla River. Like many cities, Krakow has a source of water, and here the long blue Wisla flows its way through a little valley in the middle of the urban setting. The view is overall pretty calm and peaceful, surrounded primarily by nature with very few buildings in close proximity. And although it does not have any big reputation for being special or majestic, the Wisla has a personal connection to my family.

As legend has it (or as my Grandma has often told), her family arrived to the US in the height of prohibition. But in this, father/my great grandfather, Bronislaw, saw a business opportunity and decided to open up a "soda" bottling company in Philadelphia which he named the Wisla. Therefore, I needed to see this river. I needed to see the inspiration for my family's connection to the other side of the law. And of course, I ultimately decided to go running along it each and every morning I staying in Krakow.

Overall, it is a great city to visit and spend time in, as Krakow has a little bit of everything. Culture, green space, history, nightlife, and some wonderful architecture all mix together and make the city what it is. Not to mention, everyone seemed super nice and friendly, which is always a huge plus no matter where you are. There was one regret I had however. I never got to make it to the district Kazimierz, which is supposed to be one of the most interesting sections to see. Oh well, I guess that means I'll be coming back.