// Overseas travel blog
The rest of the week in Poland thankfully went wonderfully (see previous post for the bad start). The highlight was a Polish food and drink tour through the Old Town in Krakow, followed by a night out with the randoms I met on the tour.
With the incredible amount of food to try, I was glad I didn’t eat lunch beforehand. After picking up a few of the local (name?) street breads which are pretty much a version of a German bretzel or American bagel, we snaked through 50 metres of alleyway and into a little fish restaurant. While we waited, we learnt a bit about food history and shared around the bread. Soon after, the plates came out and we tried two local delicacies: pickled herring, and lard on bread. The lard sounds disgusting, right? It was actually smooth and salty kind of like chicken stock, with bits of fried bacon throughout for some crunch. Of course to wash these down, we took a shot of pure Polish vodka. It had minimal burn. Although I haven’t drunk vodka for years in Australia, when in Poland! The vodka was so smooth, and had been chilled which actually made it quite pleasurable to drink. The burn was more like warm wax on your skin, as opposed to most of the crap on the shelves at home that’s more like picking up a hot oven tray with no gloves.
After this it was through a few backstreets, and to a tiny little shop on the corner of a block. And I mean tiny: 2m x 2m inside. Needless to say, we took our seats outside and were soon delivered 3 types of pierogi, or Polish dumplings, to try. The first was a combination of cottage cheese and potato, the second a spinach or cabbage combo, and the third was of the pork variety. The cottage cheese was my standout, but I do have an addiction to dairy food tourism (have I mentioned that I’m in love with Polish kefir?). After this we walked through the Jewish quarter, which was oddly quiet once you moved into the square. We didn’t stop for any samples, as apparently the restaurants there aren’t into giving food away cheaply to the tourists. I don’t know if the tour guide was joking when he made this comment…
Next we had a soup. It was a thick creamy soup made by boiling flour, herbs, and leftover meats. It wasn’t too bad, but I’m not huge on the soups. I opted out of the next tasting which was a cream cake that was a local favourite. It had gone through a hipster moment in the past when the Pope had once announced that he’d eaten in the day before, and the following days the queues to buy a piece were down the street. I was saving space for the final stop.
Lastly we came to a pub with another round of lard on bread, and the official end of the tour. We could choose to continue on and have a drink with the group, which we did. The group divided into two as we arrived because there were too many for one table. The Scottish group of six took one table, and I took a seat with 2 Belgian couples who were mid-forties to fifty, an Indian and a fellow 60 year old Aussie, Greg. He was only the second Australian I’ve met since moving to Berlin 2 months ago! Greg and Nico, one of the Belgian men, went to grab us some beers. I was a bit slow drinking compared with the men, so after their first one was finished Nico decided to shout his wife and me a shot of vodka instead.
We asked a few questions around the table to get to know one another. Greg’s wife was back at the hotel with a headache, so he gathered the ladies around and took a picture to send her to stir her up. Nico and his wife Yolanda were lovely, and ran a B&B in their town in Belgium, the other couple owned a restaurant. Rav from India was in his thirties and was self-employed. He told us he’d started his own business last year and developed an app for skin conditions. It reportedly functions through anonymous self-referral. People can send pictures of their skin via the app so that the condition can be monitored or they can seek advice. After hearing all about it, it sounded very much as though a non-medically trained third party would give a subjective opinion of whether the condition looks better than the last picture or not, so I asked about how dermatologists and pathologists were integrated in the functionality. He replied that they weren’t. I bit my tongue very hard and quashed the pervasive thoughts of engaging in a debate about evidence-based medicine versus the Google doctor phenomenon and left the table to buy another beer. I wasn’t allowed to buy that drink either because ‘It’s the Belgian way.’
We decided to move on and all go out to dinner together. We took a 15 minute stroll to collect Greg’s wife outside their hotel. As soon as I saw her, I was already thinking how enjoyable it would be to watch how the other cultures interacted with a true-blue Aussie bogan. She had a nose stud, skin beyond her years, and a gravelly voice. She was friendly and interactive. Rav oddly invited us up for a drink at his nearby backpacker’s hostel (cultural differences?), despite it getting late and everyone being hungry. So as to be polite, the group obliged. We collected his roommate while we were there, a Polish-Canadian lady, and she also came to dinner. After getting halfway through our terrible beer and after a friendly visit to the hostel by local police, we took off and went for some traditional Polish food.
I went to the bathroom as we arrived, and by the time I was back more vodka had been ordered, as well as platters of food to share, and a couple of bottles of red wine. By this stage the banter was hilarious, inappropriate and at times nonsensical. Nico spent a lot of time using one arm wrapped around the other to imitate an elephant – or a penis – and grabbing food with the end of the ‘trunk’. I offered that it was funny that a little Australian girl could hold as much liquor as him, yet still be acting like a human rather than an elephant. Yolanda was also a hoot, and helped a bit with translating English to Dutch when the words got too complex, or too slurred. People then took sides for a friendly argument and the conversation roared. I admitted that I’d only made the comment to ‘stir the pot’ and they revelled in the Australian colloquialism.
Greg and his wife’s banter was cringe worthy, particularly when he announced that he needed 4 Viagra tablets to make it happen, but don’t worry – that would last a good 48 hours. He then asked how much everyone else needed, and said he didn’t give a shit because let’s face it, none of us will ever see each other again! So the night continued like this and yet more vodka – this time a delicious cherry-flavoured variety – was served after dinner as a nightcap.
The Belgians were excellent company and I was glad to have met a friendly and hilarious bunch. On the way home, the four of them we walked with us for a little before going their separate way back to the hotel, and then I was stuck with the Canadian, Rav the skin observer, and Kath & Ken. Once we made it to the well-lit main square, their brief stop for a photo was my opportune moment to wave goodbye and make a dash for my hotel alone, hoping never to see them again.