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University Krakow, Poland

Blog entry 2 - Erasmus students in leisure stress

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 | Universität Krakau

It has been four weeks that I am now in Krakow. However, I have experienced so much during this time that it rather seems to me already four months have passed. At the beginning of the semester the ESN team (Erasmus Student Network) from the University organized the Orientation Week. For a whole week there were lectures, workshops, guided tours and parties. The week was obviously for one thing: for new people to meet, with which one can discover together, for example, the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants of Krakow.
Food and drinks are much cheaper than in Germany, for a meal, you pay 12-25 PLN - representing about 3 to 6 euros - and thanks to the size of the portion you're really tired afterwards. Traditional dishes such as pierogi (dumplings with various fillings) and Barszcz (a soup of beetroot) are of course a must. In addition, one finds in Krakow food from virtually all parts of the world and what vegetarians get - contrary to the expectations, as the Polish cuisine overall is very heavy on meat - is a lot. Some cafes have even specialized in pure vegetarian cuisine. So it is no wonder when you've forgotten how to cook in Krakow, is because the offer to go to the restaurants and cafes is just too tempting.

By far the best cafe I have discovered incidentally is in Lanckorona, a 2000 inhabitants large village near Krakow.

Actually we wanted to look at the pretty old houses there, but due to continuous rain we decided to go for coffee and Szarlotka, the traditional Polish apple pie. So we found in the middle of nowhere with love a detailed spaced Café that would attract visitors in masses in any big city.

On trips like this, I want to see as much of Poland and Eastern Europe as having spent my recent weekend in Krakow itself. Smaller and larger excursions led me among others to Wadowice, the hometown of Pope John Paul II. The church and religion play an important role in Poland and the first Polish Pope is still one of the most respected people in the country.
Wadowice has to offer a very modern and interactive museum about the life and work of the Pope, and the local specialty Kremówka, a delicious cream cake.

A week later, we went with a diverse group of seventeen students from six different countries to Zakopane, a famous ski resort in the mountains near the Slovakian border. Here one can not only go skiing, but also very well go hiking. An approximately four-hour tour took us through the snowy mountains to the lake "Morski Oko" (Sea Eye). The lake is still frozen this time of year and you can just walk across over to the other side. This experience and the panorama was great, that even slipping on the icy paths was definitely worth it. To relax and warm up, the next day we drove to the thermal baths.

Almost a must go excursion for a student in krakow is a trip to the 70 km distance Oswiecim and a visit to the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau . The exhibitions that document the terrible atrocities of the Nazis, and the incredible size of the bearing can back a shocked stunned and depressed. Nevertheless, it is worth visiting in any case, and every person in my opinion is obliged to grapple with history.

Incidentally, there is a semester course not only trips, despite leisure stress, the Erasmus students have time to visit the university. The courses are usually quite interactive and provide space for interesting discussions. We also discuss, for example, in sociology and anthropology not only theories but deal with it, where they can apply in everyday life, for example, hoe does certain phenomena emerge in our culture, which I find very exciting. My goal for this semester is to also broaden my cultural horizons and I believe with lectures on Iranian cinema and media art from Poland, I will succeed quite well.

The only thing that bothers me here so far, is the extreme air pollution. The city is number 3 within European cities with the worst air quality and on particularly bad days, the smog can be clearly visible. Main source of pollution that is still very popular is heating with coal in many private households, and of course the transport plays a crucial role. A cold wave has spread at the beginning of the semester like wildfire among all Erasmus students and the bad air naturally contributes in its share to lasting cough and sore throat.

One bright spot in this situation is that, slowly spring is on the horizon and the hope that the whole summer will be better, because the coal stoves are not going to be operating.

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