Correspondent Update: Paul in Krakow, Poland

1 08 2013

Paul VanDeCarr at Sibro cafe-bar, Krakow

ManAboutWorld Correspondent Paul VanDeCarr traveled to Krakow, Poland with his boyfriend. He brings us back this report.

I just had a really fun and affordable four days in Krakow with my boyfriend. And so can you. Except maybe not with my boyfriend. This beautiful Polish city has a relaxed vibe and plenty of English-speaking folks (helpful for a non-Polish speaker such as myself), and, at least at this time of year, an agreeable climate.

We stayed in the lovely Kazimierz district, the old Jewish quarter, at the comfortable and gay-friendly Młynek hostel. The stay came with a delicious breakfast (there’s a good veggie option) at the ground-floor restaurant, which stays open late; and, in one-stop-shopping style, there’s even a weekend nightclub, called Love, in the basement, where lesbians, gays and straights drink and dance to what I must say is rather loud music.

We had a pleasant afternoon in the old town, reachable either on foot or by tram, including a visit to the Wawel Castle, and a stroll around the market. A bit farther is the worthwhile Museum of Contemporary Art; next door to that is the excellent if a bit overlarge museum at Oskar Schindler’s Factory, which tells the story of Krakow under Nazi occupation (and only glancingly of Schindler himself).

We took day trips with Cracow City Tours to a couple locations (you can get there on your own, but the package tours are more convenient). First, the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine (4.5 hours including transport), a vast underground complex that’s been in operation for hundreds of years, now boasts a fascinating tour of its many tunnels, rooms, artificial lakes, and even a cavernous chapel with salt sculptures and stations of the cross. There’s a longer journey (6.5 hours including transport) to the sobering memorial and museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which communicates something of the scale of the murder that took place there, with large displays of hair, shoes, suitcases and other personal effects of its victims. It’s among the most important Holocaust sites in the world.

Our hostel was located within walking distance of most of the city’s gay clubs. We started one happy hour at Sibro, a café-bar that doubles as a mini LGBT cultural center, where we met some friendly locals who gave us the lowdown on other spots in the city (some of which are listed here and here). Past midnight (things start late here) we went to Cocon, which has three bars, two dance floors, and various lounge areas; it wasn’t my kind of music (I favor disco and funk), but it was fun anyway. Then there’s Blue XL, a divey basement sex club with a quiet little bar and a maze of rooms.

Both those places have a 10 złoty cover (about $3.50 at current exchange rates), and at Blue XL that gets you a drink ticket good for beer, water, or juice. Other bars we were sent to, like the two locations of Kitsch, weren’t as gay or as busy as we’d hoped, but fine for a drink or two. I sensed an easygoing attitude in Krawkow, perhaps because it reminded me of New Orleans (another beautiful medium-size city on a river), and because it’s represented in parliament by a trans woman. But that doesn’t mean it’s a gay paradise; there are incidents of violence, and major politicians have also said untoward things about homosexuals. Use common sense with PDAs.

In the way of food, may I point you to this list of vegetarian restaurants in the city, which were a treat, even for a meat-eater such as myself. The pierogi at Glonojad (next door to the Cracow City Tours bus stop) made me want to start a worldwide campaign in support of dumplings.

So I guess what I’m saying is, go to Krakow for 3-5 days or more. Tack it on to another destination, or not. You’ll totes have a good time.

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