In this edition of the Euroculture City Guides, Rachele de Felice (Italian) will tell you about her experiences and recommendations for her current homebase, Kraków, where she has just finished studying at the Jagiellonian University for her second semester, after finishing her first semester at the University of Groningen.
The City Guide Project is led by Paola Gosio and Felix Lengers
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Why did you choose to study and live in this particular city?
Rachele de Felice (RF): I guess the two most focal points that motivated me to go to Kraków were firstly, the fact that I have travelled and lived in several Western/Southern European countries but have never made it to the East. In terms of experience, I thought Eastern Europe would definitely be the place that would challenge me the most to come out of my comfort zone. As Kraków has a reputation of being very international as well, I thought it would be a great option for me to gain a first-hand experience of life in Central Eastern Europe. Secondly, the focus of the IES at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków really caught my attention. I wanted to broaden my horizon in terms of learning about this region and the courses they offered for the 2nd semester also sounded the most interesting to me. Looking at my current situation, I feel I made the right choice.
EM: What are the aspects you appreciate the most about the city and which ones are those that you like less?
RF: What I love about the city is that its looks and architecture are just super beautiful and in my opinion, it is the perfect size as well. I enjoy wandering through the city centre and even though Kraków is the 2nd biggest city in Poland, everything is fairly closely located, and you can easily walk to all the hotspots, especially when you live close to the Rynek, which is the main square in Kraków. There is a lot of history to this city and I feel like you discover something new each time when you go exploring. It also has a lot of very hipstercafés and restaurants, which hits close to home for me. I’m a big coffeeholic and I can guarantee that any coffee lover and foodie will get their money’s worth in this city. There is a « Bar Mleczny » almost on every corner where you can buy Pierogis and other Polish dishes for very little money, I don’t think I have to add more right?
Something I don’t like as much about the city are the doves. I do not think I have ever seen a city that has more doves than here and they leave their marks everywhere as you can imagine. I also notice a lot of police everywhere. I am not sure whether that is due to the pandemic or just in general, but it definitely leaves an impression on you. So far, weatherwise, I must say I wasn’t very lucky either. Although spring has sprung, the weather is still quite bad and some days/nights it gets very cold, plus it can rain a lot, which has been hard on my Southern European soul.
EM: Was it easy to communicate with the locals or did you encounter any issues ? Do you have any tips on how to deal with the language barrier?
RF: In and around the city centre most people will be able to communicate in English with you, which definitely helps. However, once you go a bit outside the main square and try to communicate with people above a certain age, English is not very commonly used and known anymore, and you will have to rely on any gestures you can imagine in order to bridge the language barrier. For me, knowing a Slavic language has definitely helped a little bit in certain situations, as well as using Google Translate in certain situations, of course. It definitely helps to get familiar with some basic phrases in Polish. Another tip I can give you is to get to know international students with Polish roots or local “Krakowians”. It will increase your own experience in the city and it’s always handy to know someone who can help you out with the local language sometimes, when really needed.
EM: If you were in the city for 1 day as a tourist, what would you certainly do?
RF: I would suggest to go and visit the Rynek and walk around there, visit a Milk Bar for some Pierogia and Polish salads or soups. After I would suggest exploring the ulica Florianska, which is Krakow’s main shopping street and just a stunner to walk down. I would also suggest visiting Stary Kleparz, a really nice market in the north of the city, where you get to mingle with locals and experience the perks of a globalized world, hence trying dierent foods and groceries from all sorts of dierent cultures and countries. I would then continue to the Wawel Castle by the river, have a look around that area, which is super beautiful especially on a sunny day. After that I would definitely continue to Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter, get some local food, a coee to go, maybe a « Good Lood », which is a local ice cream chain that Polish people go crazy for (and I must say as half-Italian, the ice cream is really not bad at all and worth a try). Have a look at all the beautiful synagogues in Kazimierz, walk to Plac Nowy for a Zapiekanka, and admire all the beautiful gratis on the way. Enjoy the sunshine and architecture and as a culmination of the day in Kraków, I would recommend having a walk around the « green circle » that surrounds the city centre, where you can also easily stop and admire the dierent sights and views of the city. At the end of the daytrip, I would recommend checking out the southern part of the city and to have some food and beers at Hala Forum. There you can enjoy the sunset and views of the city next to the river and after you can check out Kraków from above by taking the hot air balloon that is right next to Forum.Continue reading “City Guide – Krakow”