poland — the land of my people.
well, at least where, thanks to my mother, my 50% polish heritage comes from. but i’d like to think that this (occasional third-person speaking) 50% polish girl found her other half in krakow…no, no, not some grandmother-approved-handsome gentleman named “jacob” or “dominic” but a charming, history filled, coffee-caffinated city that she fell in love with.
while the rest of my heritage somewhat resembles a european mutt, my polish majority is something i clung to as fervently as i stuffed my face with my grandma’s neighborhood polish bakery purchases. my grandmother taught me the essential polish words/phrases (thank you, cold, cheers, buttocks, big, and i want to give you a kiss) so that someday i’d be prepared for a trip to the motherland.
as a neighbor to ukraine, poland was just a short hop and a skip away (and by short i mean a 12 hour train, another hour bus, then two flights) but my chance to visit was more possible than ever. my parents and i decided that on their way to visit me in the land of borscht and babushkas, they’d first meet me in krakow. i had sort of recently seen them on my visit home last summer but this time they were heading to my carb-loading eastern slavic neck of the woods.
their 2-week eastern european journey began with 4 days in krakow and 8 days in ukraine. don’t worry i’ll write separate installments for their ukrainian excursion (as well as our visit to auschwitz-birkenau because i think that deserves a separate post). they liked ukraine and ukrainian hospitality, but really, i think they would have prefered to stay in krakow…and i don’t blame them. i think about every 20 minutes or so i’d exclaim “no, but like really, like i could totally see myself living here. for serious.” okay, so i don’t talk exactly like that, but i did say that. often.
of my friends that had been to krakow, they warned me that it was a definitely a “kristen place”. and they were pretty spot on. it felt like i was home, as though i had already known the city, as though we were good friends. the number of art stores and corner coffee shops, women’s fashion of oversized canvas jackets with chunky cowl scarves, masculine boots, and a very low stiletto-infection rate, the character-filled architecture, windows, and doorways all ranked high on my highly scientific “kristen-livable” check-list. not to mention that i felt so cool for being able to understand some polish (not just the words my grandma taught me, but mostly because ukrainian is a close linguistic brother).
i wondered if my ancestors, the ones that gave up everything to start anew in america would throw their arms up in the air in aggravation at the idea of me leaving the country the worked so hard to get to. then again, that was a very different time. it was a time when one based their “livable” check-list on a few more substantial things. but maybe they’d be happy to see me return and find my roots again (not to mention marry a nice polish boy).
i realize i didn’t get to see all of krakow, but what i did see i loved. what i did see left me yearning for more and left me wondering what i could do for a living if i decided to pack-up and move there. technically, the city of boulder, colorado still ranks the highest on my places to live list, but for my list of non-american cities, krakow certainly takes the perogi.