Taking a Chance: Krakow, Poland.

Sometimes the best adventures happen on a whim.

About a month into school a classmate, Ingrid, and I were discussing our interest in visiting Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland. I shared my thoughts of really wanting to go but not wanting to go alone. Ingrid then suggested we go together. My type A mind raced through the idea of traveling with a classmate I’ve only know for a few weeks to a strange country to experience something as emotionally heavy as Auschwitz. “Sure!”, I respond. Deciding to try to live in the moment and travel with this amazing, creative lady from New Jersey who shared my desire to go on this trip. By saying yes I was attempting to grab hold of the opportunities everyone raves about when they talk about studying abroad.

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A few weeks later I find myself sitting in Ingrid’s apartment in downtown Copenhagen. Were seated at her large Ikea kitchen table. A guitar and two ukulele’s are sprinkled thought out the room. A roommate is singing in a nearby bedroom. This is exactly what one might imagine a music living learning community might look like. Sitting at that table with our laptops in front of us we are on a mission; looking up cheap plane tickets to Krakow, Poland. Neither of us have ever bought a plane ticket on our own. We scan through various travel sights until we find what we need. After receiving the confirmation email from the airline that our tickets were bought we high five. Making faces at each other we both let out a little scream. We are going to Poland!

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A month later I find myself sitting in the common room of our hostel. We are starving, scouring the internet for a restaurant. “Here I found a restaurant. It’s 4.6 stars and serves traditional polish food”, Ingrid showed me the website on her phone. After looking at the website I agreed it looks good and off we go. Our hostel was located just a block from the historical center of the city. The restaurant was somewhere within. Walking around a circular brick building with a moat we try and guess what we are looking at. Nearby tour guides with bright yellow umbrellas lead tours. The small British flag atop the umbrella indicates the tour is in English. A simple, ingenious solution to indicate the free tours language.

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Wandering down the narrow streets lined with colorful buildings, we admire the horse drawn carriages passing. Filled with tourists. A well dressed young woman takes a selfie as the husband/boyfriend stares out absently, clearly bored.

“I think it’s here”, Ingrid looking at the map on her phone. We both look up at the grand building before us. Its old wooden doors with wrought iron detailing tower over us. Not exactly what we pictured for the quaint, local restaurant we are looking for. Shrugging at each other we enter. A grand hall with vaulted ceilings and marble floors open before us. Definitely not what we were expecting. Timidly we step farther into a building. To our left a large marble staircase rises up. As we are looking around a small old man pops out of a little doorway. Taking in the obviously lost tourists he simply points down the hall.

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Following his wordless instructions we go through a door, entering into a large cobblestone courtyard. Here we find what we have been searching for! A sign advertising the restaurant. Indicating the large door to it’s left we enter. Finding yet another grand staircase the winds up endlessly. But under the first level we find an old wooden door with the restaurants logo.  Through the door we find yet another unexpected space. The room is decorated like an old log cabin. Complete with a bed and children’s toys in the corner. No restaurant in sight.

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Nervously Ingrid and I look at each other, joking we agree that if it’s not through the next set of doors we are giving up! Turing the corner we find two doors. Before we can decide which one to go through a man with a motorcycle helmet comes out of one. Equally startled we stare at each other before he wordlessly points to the double doors. Once again we follow the wordless pointing. Timidly I open the door. With a sign of relief I turn, telling Ingrid we have found it!

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Only a handful of customers are seated in the space. All look up as we enter, eyeing the strange new comers. Picking up the menu we try and decide what to order. Luckily the are English descriptions accompanying the Polish ones. After scanning the menu Ingrid decides on “pancakes with cream” while I pick “pancakes with apples”. After ordering the woman behind the counter hands us a number.

Sitting down we look around. The eclectic interior is decorated to look like a historical log cabin. Long wood tables with matching narrow benches fill the room. In the center is a large circular fish tank with four flat screen tv’s hanging above. The walls are lined with signed photos of what we assume are famous wrestlers.

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Polish Pancakes

An odd little chime plays before our number is displayed on a screen. Indicating our food is ready. Walking up to the counter we pick up our plates. As we sit back down at our table we look at the pancakes before us. Mine are thin and covered in powdered sugar, reminding me of a crepe.  Warm apple sauce is dripping out. Ingrid’s pancakes are thicker, some sort of fried vegetable mixture with creme on top. We look at each other and laugh. This is not what either of us expected but it’s what we got.

Here we are, too classmates who have only known each other for about two months, sitting across from each other in a strange hidden restaurant eating strange food in a strange country. This is what you get when you take a chance.

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