Back in our planning stages, I loved reading travel blogs to day dream, but the practical side of me was always wondering: how much did it cost? Here’s a brief breakdown of our average daily cost to travel through Europe. This figure does not include supplies or gear; costs at home; misc. fees like ATM fees; or most significantly, major transport (which we define as anything that takes us from one overnight destination to another, whether it be plane, train, bus or rental car). Basically, the average daily cost includes things like accommodation, meals, snacks, alcohol, activities, and minor transport like subways. Any oddities are noted below.
There are a lot of factors that affect costs, and I plan to write in the future about some of them, including tips we’ve learned for saving money. To give you a sense of our travel style, we are not eating ramen noodles and staying in hostel dorms, but we watch our spending. Where you stay has the biggest effect on the budget. In general, when it comes to accommodations, we always have a private double; we try to avoid shared bathrooms, but will share if we’re feeling cheap; we try to find clean, simple budget accommodation, which means a variety of hostels, pensions, apartments, guesthouses, and B&Bs; and we will sometimes spend $10 or $20 more to get a private bathroom, free wifi, better location, or overall nicer place. When it comes to eating, we always eat 3 meals a day and usually dessert or snacks; we usually order a drink or two with dinner, and occasionally have a few drinks at other times; we stay at places with free breakfasts if it makes sense, but tend to self-cater breakfast otherwise; we tend to eat out almost every day for lunch and dinner, but sometimes self-cater if we have a kitchen; we usually spend our most money at dinner, as it is typically our nightly entertainment; and overall, we tend to eat what we want and not skimp on food.
Hope that helps to put the European portion of our trip in context. Europe is definitely not as cheap as developing countries, but as you can see, it does not need to be outrageous. If you have any questions about our European costs, leave a comment or send me an email.
Krakow’s main square, Rynek Glowny, is one of the largest of the European cities. It is filled with people, vendors, Polish food, pigeons, beautiful buildings, and churches. We spent lots of time just walking through the square.
Unfortunately, it is also filled with people trying to sell you tours around the city and the sites close by. Some days we could not walk two steps without someone new asking us to take a tour. Mostly because of this, Krakow felt more touristy than the other cities we visited in Europe. Despite this slight annoyance, we think Krakow is a great city to spend some time in.
When we were in Munich visiting Abbie, we visited Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, which was the site of the first concentration camp in Germany.
We also went to Auschwitz while we were in Krakow. Auschwitz was designated by the Nazis as the place where the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe” would take place. As if there were any questions to answer other than how people could act so cruel, depraved, and sadistic towards their fellow human beings.
I don’t have much to say about our experiences at Dachau and Auschwitz, other than I think it is important for everyone to visit a Holocaust memorial somewhere at some point in their life. To pay respect to those who suffered and died. To learn more, to ensure that history never repeats itself in this way. The experience at the memorials is sobering. Particularly at Auschwitz, where each pair of shoes, laying in piles and piles, in all shapes and sizes – including children’s shoes – really makes it hit home, the shear enormity of the number of individuals who died there at the hands of others.
We also visited the recently opened Schindler Museum at the site of Oskar Schindler’s former factory in the Podgroze neighborhood of Krakow. It is designed to demonstrate what life was like for Poles and Jews during the time of Nazi occupation of Krakow. Having visited Auschwitz the day before, the musuem’s exhibits were all the more poignant.
Hall of Choices, showing people’s ethical dilemmas:
Quote about the lives Oskar Schindler saved:
I’ve never been fond of pigeons. They congregate around you when you are trying to enjoy a nice meal outside. They crowd you. They stare at you, and try to coerce you to feed them. They have beady eyes. They poop. Everywhere. (Particularly up and down the side of your house when they live in your neighbor’s roof. Not that we ever lived next door to a house like that or anything). And they make annoying, persistent, cloying gurgling noises.
As a long-time reader of Ginny Montanez’s blog That’s Church and previously, the Burgh Blog, my distain of pigeons has been taken to a new level, incited by Ginny’s boundless hatred of pigeons. So I am posting this to warn her, and others who truly, deeply hate pigeons, that Krakow is best to be avoided. Apparently, pigeons in Krakow are legendary and respected. The horror.
They are EVERYWHERE in Krakow, especially in Rynek Glowny, Krakow’s main square. And they are ready to attack. One morning, I was taking pictures of the square, when I spotted a congregation of pigeons. Suddenly, they took flight and aimed themselves directly at the people like missiles. It was like a scene out of that horror movie The Birds.
Pigeons surrounding, getting ready:
Pigeons on attack:
Being from Pittsburgh, I am well versed with the pierogi. Pittsburgh is a city with many neighborhoods still filled with the descendants of the Central European immigrants who settled there many years ago. It even has an entire hill devoted to the Polish – creatively named Polish Hill. So Sean and I were eagerly anticipating tasting actual Polish pierogies. I’ll admit it – there were days in Krakow when I ate pierogies for lunch and dinner. They are filling, cheap, and delicious. What’s not to love? Probably all of the calories due to the fact they were most frequently served swimming in lard.
Krakow has a 24 hour pierogie place. This is a fantastic idea. I am not sure why someone in Pittsburgh has not thought of this. It would be perfect on the South Side and would give that dog kebab place a run for its money. It fits well in Krakow, which appeared to have lots of young party-goers. Being old farts ourselves, we visited Zapiecek Polskie Pierogarnia for lunch.
We started with the basics. The most common pierogi in Krakow was the pierogi ruskie, also known as a Russian pierogi. Pierogies ruskie were filled with potato and cottage cheese and had a rather creamy texture.
That same night, we tried pierogies at U Babci Maliny, an obnoxiously ornate restaurant that was redeemed by their excellent pierogies. Sean especially liked the beef and cabbage filled pierogies there.
We ventured out in the pouring rain the next day to try a milk bar, which is a cheap cafeteria style restaurant that was common during the communist area.
Almost everything in Krakow is in English, but not the milk bar. This made ordering very difficult. We finally saw a British family and asked what they ordered, and tacked on an order of pierogies ruskie for good measure. The pierogies at the milk bar were surprisingly tasty, and cheap to boot.
Our final pierogie tasting was the most adventurous. Pierożki u Vincenta, located in the Jewish neighborhood, has fun and creative pierogi fillings. We sampled the sundried tomato and mozzarella filled pierogies, but the sweet pierogies we ordered stole the show. They were filled with grilled plums and cinnamon, and were scrumptious.
I think it is possible for me to subsist on a diet consisting primarily of pierogies forever. Luckily for us, the Polish store in the Strip District at home will keep us filled with pierogies when we finally make it home.
P.S. Those travelling to Krakow with a sweet tooth and a slight case of homesickness should be sure not to miss the cookies and brownies baked up by an American ex-pat at More Than a Cookie.
Nor should one miss the cupcakes at Cupcake Corner, which have actual substance as well as style. According to an article I read Cupcake Corner is apparently known as the Polish Magnolia Bakery a la Sex in the City after they were featured in a Polish television show. Personally, I think the Polish picked up the American cupcake thing quite well, for their cupcakes were even tastier than Magnolia’s cupcakes.