We came back from Oświęcim in surprisingly high spirits. Jim supposed that to some degree we were incapable of fully experiencing the horrors we had just seen; or perhaps we were subconsciously steeling ourselves against the tremendous sadness. Whatever the reason, it was a pleasant surprise. We decided to dine that night at a vegetarian restaurant in Kazimierz called Momo Bar, but they were closed when we arrived, so we walked around the corner to Manzana.
After our delightful experience with “Czech-Mex”, I was excited to try its Polish iteration. Upon entering Manzana, I was immediately aware of how “Western” the attitude was here. For one thing, the waitstaff was impeccably attentive, which was actually rather jarring after almost six weeks of the kind-but-distant European table service we’d gotten used to. For another thing, the silverware was given to us rolled up in our napkins, instead of in a basket. It’s the little things, I guess.
We started with an order of Mexican pierogis, which were deep-fried and served in a very pretty bucket.
Since everyone seems to love the food pics, here’s the rest of what we had:
The next day in Kraków would be our last; we had tickets back to Budapest on a train that left at 10pm that night. Originally I had wanted to take a day train because the route from Kraków to Budapest goes through the Carpathian mountains, which I really wanted to see. However, upon closer review, the trains don’t go through the mountains at all– only the buses do. A bus trip didn’t sound nearly as nice as a train trip, mountains or no. Plus, as Jim rightly pointed out, a night train would save us the cost and hassle of trying to find an extra night’s accommodations. So, night train it was.
We woke up the next morning, finished packing, and headed out of our flat one final time. Our plan was to catch a tram back to the north side of the river, find a breakfast spot, and get to the train station wherein we would leave our bags while we wandered around for the rest of the day.
Spring had suddenly arrived in Poland, and the heavy down coat I’d been sporting for the last six weeks became completely unnecessary. The city was alive with people enjoying the turn in the weather, and we decided an outdoor breakfast spot would be ideal. As soon as we crossed into Kazimierz, we spotted Café Młynek. It’s a bed-and-breakfast spot, but luckily the breakfast part is open to the public. We sat our bags down and perused the menu: simple fare, perfect for breakfast al fresco.
After breakfast, we made it to the train station to deposit our bags in one of their storage lockers. The plan was to visit an architecture exhibit at the Kraków Bunker of Art (hands-down the best name for a contemporary art museum ever). Then Jim had to do some work and I decided to busk on the Old Town Square once again.
I did all right again. This time, I took into account what the tour guide had said about the Polish being a sad people, and I tried to play as many sad songs as the ukulele could handle. People leaned out their windows to hear me, and the folks going by in hansom cabs seemed to enjoy it, so that made me feel good. After an hour or so, I decided to go meet up with Jim at Castor Coffee Club on the Square. My throat was pretty sore and I had my heart set on ice cream. Castor Coffee Club did not have ice cream, but they did have a killer mango smoothie, and after counting up the tiny Polish money I had earned, I had just enough to get one.
From there, we decided we had to eat dinner at a traditional Polish restaurant; we’d avoided it thus far because of our experiences with traditional Czech food, but this would be our last chance. Jim suggested Chimera, just on the other side of the Square from where we were. Personally, I found the name horrifying, but the menu seemed all right, so we went.
The restaurant was down a long set of stairs, in a cool and rustic cavern. The aesthetic fit the meat-and-potatoes fare we were to be provided. We started the meal off with a gorgonzola-stuffed pear.
As for main courses, I opted for grilled meat with grilled vegetables. Jim went with a platter of various vegetarian dishes, though he did help me finish the meat that I couldn’t finish on my own.
After the meal, which looked pretty but (aside from the pear) was rather mediocre, we checked the time and decided it was time to head to the train station. As you may recall, the train station is connected to the shopping mall, and the shopping mall houses what quickly became our favorite coffee shop in Kraków, called TriBeCa Coffee. We still had some time to kill, so we stopped in for one last cup: flat white for me and Americano for Jim.
After our coffees, it was officially time to board our train. This was to be my first experience in a proper sleeping car, and I was beyond excited. The room was tiny, and the top bunk (which I claimed) was only accessible by ladder, a point that was lost on me until I realized how tricky it would be once the train started moving. Live and learn, I guess.
Although we’d be sleeping while it happened, I was overjoyed to know that the train would be stopping in Prague and Vienna on its way to Budapest. We rocked off to sleep shortly after the train left Kraków. The alarm was set for 7:30am, and we’d be pulling into Budapest a little after 8am. The trip was about to come full circle, a bittersweet realization. On the one hand, I love Budapest so much and was so happy to go back; on the other, I was so not ready to go home and leave Europe and my love behind. We still had three full days to spend reveling, though, so for now it was time to drift off to sleep while the train carried us around the mountains and back to Budapest.