Beyond the Borders of Krakow

I’ve had the chance to visit a couple of other Polish cities so far and for some reason it feels pretty weird to be in Poland but not in Krakow. Each city has been so different that it seems like I might as well be in a totally different country, only I can still sort of understand the language.

Zakopane Image 1Less than 2 hours after getting home from our Prague/Vienna trip, we were back on a bus to Zakopane to visit Tatra National Park on an organized API excursion. The national park was beautiful and the town was quaint, touristy and exactly how you would imagine a Polish mountain village to be. Zakopane is one of Poland’s most popular destinations for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter and October is generally considered the off-season. On our first day we arrived a little later than anticipated- the one and a half hour bus ride ended up taking closer to 3 hours! But we quickly checked quickly into our hotel and went for a hike in the hours before sunset. After our hike the squad met back up for some traditional Polish dinner and had an early night because we were all exhausted. The next day we were scheduled to take a cable car ride up to one of the highest peaks in the national park, but for the first time in over ten years of API Zakopane trips it was “too windy” and the cable cars weren’t running! I was not happy. Luckily, Piotrek had a backup plan in mind and we took a tram up to the top of a different mountain and spent the afternoon checking out traditional Polish products at souvenir stands, laying in a field relaxing and taking in the beautiful views. We were only in Zakopane for 24 hours before it was time to head to the bus station and load back up. This bus ride also took almost twice as long as it should have and after being in and out of trains and busses for a week, I had never been so uncomfortable in my life.

Zakopane Image

The following weekend I had the opportunity to visit Lodz, a city in the central most part of Poland. Lodz apparently has a reputation for being “the second ugliest city in Poland” but I thought it was nice! My hotel wasn’t exactly in the nice part of town and it’s true there wasn’t a whole lot to see but I did get to experience the annual “light move festival” which was really awesome! All of the buildings in the city center light up and there are coordinated light shows, laser shows, aerial dancers, orchestras choreographed to lights, etc. The one street in the city that actually had anything interesting to see was kind of hipster and reminded me a bit of Portland, Oregon. Lodz was an important city in the 19th century in the textile industry, so there are a lot of buildings and museums dedicated to the industrial era. The city is also home to the famous “Manufaktura”, an arts center and shopping mall built in a renovated factory complex. It was one of the coldest weekends of my life (coming from a school in upstate New York this is saying a lot) but very enjoyable nonetheless.

As nice as it is to have the chance to travel so easily to other countries and regions of Poland, Krakow really feels like home to me and I am always relieved to come back.


Madison Goddard is a student at Hartwick College and an official API Blogger. Madison is studying abroad with API in Krakow, Poland.

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