5 months in Kraków

In August of 2019 my family and I moved to Kraków with the expectation we would live there for three or four years. We moved into our house, unpacked our boxes, started school and jobs, and began our love affair with Poland. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to last as long as we had hoped. I wasn’t able to say goodbye properly but I wanted to share my favorite things about these precious 5 months in Kraków.

There is a beautiful quote by a famous author of children’s books, Dr Seuss. I have been repeating the words in my head when I am missing Kraków. It goes like this:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

I will forever smile because of my 5 months in Kraków: the city, its people, the food, the difficult but wonderful language I tried to learn, and the friends that I made.

My time was short but I made some wonderful, life changing discoveries and some beautiful friendships.  I have lived in ten different cities in my life, Kraków is the stand-out favorite.

Here is why:  I love Polish food. I love pierogi, bigos, żurek, gołąbki, etc. I love the food because its uncomplicated, hearty and because everything I eat in Poland tastes like it was made by a family member who loves me. I preferred to eat in milk bars like Polakowski and Milkbar Tomasz, or small restaurants like Gospoda na Woli (up near Wola), for simple, delicious food brought to you by friendly people.  Before we left Kraków, we got to have a traditional Wigilia Dinner on Christmas Eve at a local woman’s house through

I have a few food related regrets. One is not eating enough pączki. I was intentionally pacing myself and only ate three of the homemade doughnuts because I thought I had years to eat my fill. My advice, when you walk by a place and you smell that unbelievably delightful pączek smell, stop and eat one. Eat a warm one if you can.  Do it for me.

I also regret not joining many of you on expeditions to the small markets throughout Kraków on Saturday mornings. If I had known my time was limited I would have traded those extra hours of sleep for coffees and outings with my IWAK friends.

I really like coffee shops, especially coffee shops with decent coffee and a good view. My favorite was Klub Pod Jaszczurami. Grab your coffee from the bar and a table by the window, and spend time watching the activity in the Rynek outside. It is a “student” hangout, a beautiful historic building and one of my favourite places to sit and watch the world walk by. I spent many hours here with my Polish Language instructor and received additional language training from the bartenders. I am very good at ordering a large, white coffee and paying my bill.

Many of you, reading this, have lived in Kraków for years and know its secrets and the great spots better than me. After only 5 months, I was still a tourist, a novice getting excited about every new street food or newly discovered building I found. It’s a good thing to act like a tourist in the city where you live. It keeps the relationship fresh and exciting. And if your time living in a place is cut short, you will have walked the streets and met people. You will have filled yourself with memories that linger and put a smile on your face. Some of you work, and have children and families to care for so I know you don’t have unlimited time to be strolling aimlessly through Kraków’s streets and squares.  My suggestion is to give yourself permission to roam a bit more, snack a bit more, and do it with a friend.

IWAK provided me with such a remarkable opportunity to meet people from all over the world, who have lived all over the world. I know that I would have continued to explore Kraków with my IWAK friends, climb mounds, visit museums, wander the streets and eat pierogi. I will miss visiting with you and getting to know you at International Nights, Movie Nights, Book Club, and Coffees. Enjoy Kraków. Enjoy each other. And eat some pierogi for me.

Rachel Hofmeister

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