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University Krakow, Poland

Blog entry 6 - Visiting the capital

Wed, 25 May 2016 | Universität Krakau

After more than two months in Poland it was high time to finally pay the capital a visit. Fortunately, we had the beginning of May for a long weekend, because in Poland is not only the first of May is a holiday, but also the third day of May. On that day the constitution is to be remembered in Poland, in 1791 they adopted the Constitution, one of the first modern constitutions in Europe. So, the third of May is celebrated big and the streets were full of Polish flags, even every tram and each bus were decorated with small red and white flags.

Beforehand I've heard quite different opinions about Warsaw. Some people were quite excited, especially from the museums, others said only the city is ugly and not worth a visit.

I think it depends on which setting you drive to Warsaw. The city's 1.7 million inhabitants, by far the largest city in Poland, the economic center of the country and was almost completely destroyed after the Second World War. As expected it will be something different from the pretty old towns and marketplaces such as Krakow, Wroclaw or Poznan is clear. I liked the city, definitely good, perhaps because it is so different from the other Polish cities that I have visited so far. A real flat city.

Standing in front of the main train station you can look between the skyscrapers pass directly to one of the symbols of Warsaw: Pałac Kultury i Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science). The skyscraper was built as a gift of the Soviet Union after the war and is not necessarily popular, because it is a symbol of oppression and foreign domination looked by the poles. For me, it was a very impressive building and from the observation deck it has a fantastic view.

Other highlights in Warsaw were the Łazienki Park, where you can walk and extensively tour the alternative district Praga. There is also in Warsaw countless exciting museums. Because of multiple recommendations, I went to the Uprising Museum and the Jewish Museum in Warsaw. Both museums are very modern and interesting and you should plan several hours for the visit, as there is much to see and read. Especially for the Jewish Museum, unfortunately I did not have enough time, the exhibition documents the history of Jewish culture in Poland from the Middle Ages to the present day and is accordingly extensive. Less exciting was the fairly small Old Town of Warsaw, at least if you're used to stroll over the market square and through the streets of Krakow.

It is hard to avoid comparing Poland's former and current capital together that exists between the two cities, if only because of the eternal rivalry. It is noticeable that Krakow and Warsaw have hardly anything in common. Not only the buildings and the urban landscape, the atmosphere and the people are very different in Warsaw. Everything is a bit rushed and businesslike than in Krakow, to find cozy restaurants and cafes, you have to look carefully. In Krakow one can hardly decide where to go to eat today, but given in Warsaw everything is much more expensive.

One tour guide told us that the people of Warsaw envied Krakow, the relaxed atmosphere and culture, while the Krakow's would like to have more large companies in their city, but they all have their headquarters in Warsaw. I believe this view about sums it up. All in all it was an exciting visit and about CouchSurfing, I also learned some people of Warsaw know that once a personhas a very different impression of the city,which is different and usually won by hostels or hotels.

Back in Krakow, it all went directly back to the program, for a week, I had a visit from some friends from Germany. It's pretty funny to play the tourist guide to explain peculiarities of Polish culture or in a restaurant to use a bit of my Polish-knowledge  to translate the menu or to help my friends with ordering. And I realize that I feel a bit at home here. What makes me sad is that far more than half of the Erasmus semester is over.

As a friend of mine a few years ago had been to Krakow, we could use the time for a hiking trip in the Tatra Mountains. Together with my roommates (incidentally, the first trip with the Entire appartment!). First we wandered  to Morski Oko and then made a climb on a somewhat slippery and steep route to the higher lake "Czarny Staw". It was very nice to observe the transition between winter and spring, Because in the mountains it snow's and the lakes were partially frozen shut.

It is definitely very interesting to witness a few traditions of Polish students, because otherwise, I often feel a bit that you look at an Erasmus student in a kind of bubble of simple international courses.

People, parties and a lot of free time moves. But simply the most probable advantages are which an Erasmus semeste so brings with it.


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