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Solo Traveler to Krakow in August - Random Questions/Thoughts

14 Jul 2014 #1
Hi all,

I wanted to know what you impressions might be on certain questions/scenarios I have regarding my upcoming week-long trip to Krakow towards the end of August. Some background info: I'm an American born asian male in his early thirties, raised in NYC, and this will be my first trip to Europe. I'll be traveling solo as well, to which some of my friends say I'm crazy, but nevermind them.

1) While I imagine western/American influences have certainly creeped into the local culture, my understanding is that Poland is very homogeneous and I will (presumably) stick out like a sore thumb. If not because I can't speak polish (more on that later), then simply because I'm east asian and I'm guessing there simply aren't a whole lot of my ilk out and about. Will my presence draw any kind of attention, negative or positive, or will I simply be ignored? For a point of comparison, I was recently in Chennai for business and when we had the chance to go out in public, I drew a fair amount of attention to the point where, at some visitor/tourist sites at least, the young kids/teens would scramble to have a picture taken with me, ask me my name feel my biceps, etc... I don't know if it was specifically because of my ethnicity (my polish coworker received her fair share of attention as well) or the fact that I'm fairly athletic/muscular which may have been contrary to their typical body type, but I found it all quite amusing and not at all threatening/annoying. Obviously Krakow is a more popular tourist destination so I can't imagine a re-enactment of this exact scenario taking place, but I was just curious to see if I would be considered a curiosity at all.

2) I'm not very adept at learning foreign languages. My parents tried to teach me korean as a child and that went nowhere fast; I took 12 years of spanish when I was younger/teens and at this point I would probably have a hard time properly navigating a Taco Bell menu. Having said that, I've made recent efforts to learn some polish. Now, despite the advent of technology and the ability to listen to phrases and pronunciations online, I'm fairly certain I'm butchering the pronunciations. Sure, it sounds reasonably okay when I repeat them to myself.... but I liken this to singing in the shower. It all sounds well and good when you're on your own, but go out in public to a karaoke bar and belt out those tunes and... well, things may go sour in a hurry. So I guess my question is this... If I do attempt to speak polish, assuming they can even vaguely understand what I'm saying, will they simply laugh (in a nice way) and appreciate the fact that I'm even trying, or will they be upset that I'm committing a verbal assault on their language and ears?

3) I have a polish co-worker who goes back to visit relatives every so often. When I mentioned to her that I was going to Krakow she said I could probably get through the city/sights in about 2-3 days. I'll be staying for a week. Obviously the 2-3 day timeframe is meant more for someone who wants to power through the sights and move on, but I'll be taking a more leisurely pace. Even so, I will concede that at some point I will likely run out of things "to do," and was wondering if anyone could recommend any non-touristy things to occupy my downtime. I guess I'd want to know what a typical Krakovian day would be? Naturally, I wouldn't be following anyone to their workplace or anything, but still. I know places like Tripadvisor and other travel sites/blogs could probably fill the void, and I've started going through them, but I figure exhausting all options can't hurt. :-)

4) Finally, are there any places (either websites, or in Krakow) where I can meet someone in Krakow? I'm not talking about a guide, per se, or a future girlfriend/wife/hookup (although, it that happens to happen all the better), just someone to chat/hang with to, again, pass the time if need be. I would have no problem buying food/drinks (within reason), but wouldn't want to pay for anything like a "service." To be clear, I have no problem hacking things by myself... I wouldn't be traveling alone otherwise. I am also staying at a hostel for the first half of the week, so I'd like to think I'd meet some people there, but as noted earlier it's never a bad thing to have options.

Anyway, I've enjoyed reading the various posts/threads on this forum site and I welcome any and all responses... Even if they are to say my questions are ridiculous. lol. Dzienkuje!
Marysienka 1 | 195
14 Jul 2014 #2
1) Kraków is a tourist city. There are hundreds of East Asian tourists every day. Make sure you have a camera and take a picture every 10 seconds and you will fit in ( a stereotype of them).

2) I'd say learn few polite words and switch to English with anything more complicated than good morning/ thank you / etc.
3) Well I don't know about typical Krakow day. The way I see it it's usually do to work/ uni, go home, eat dinner, spend time with family/ sleep. But if you have more time you can see more:

- you can walk along a river
- you can visit less obvious historical places/ museums
- you can vistit Nowa Huta
- you can go for a one day trips to Wieliczka Salt Mine/ Auschwitz/Zakopane
- you can slow down and not rush to see all "must see" places
Dont gag me yo 7 | 156
14 Jul 2014 #3
Make sure you have a camera and take a picture every 10 seconds and you will fit in ( a stereotype of them).

lol that sounds like typical Japenese and korean tourists with a high lense powered(atleast looks like one) big camera hanging around there neck and a hat all around the world.
JamesK - | 2
14 Jul 2014 #4
lol, I don't own one of those fancy cameras... I'll have to make due with my camera phone I suppose, but without the neck strap, constant fiddling with the lenses, etc... the camouflage won't be as effective.

Although I think it would be hilarious if I found one of those packs and just managed to merge my way into them and followed them around. Not creepy at all.
Snowflake - | 71
14 Jul 2014 #5
JamesK , you are the best! Don't worry about what people say, just be our guest! Have a great fun. Here is nothing to be afraid about. And remember that here is very strong alcohol. Good luck.
JamesK - | 2
14 Jul 2014 #6
Haha, I don't know much about brits, but I'll take your compliment for what it is. I generally have a very dry, sarcastic kind of humor... and if you don't know me well (or even if you do, perhaps) I can come off a bit like a jerk. But I don't mean anything by it, and certainly if I can go ahead and poke fun at others I should be able to take a good ribbing myself... so I take things in stride.

Thanks Snowflake, I'm sure I'll have a great time as well. But you did bring up one thing... alcohol. Amongst my peers at least, I am considered a very heavy drinker. As luck would have it, vodka happens to be my drink of choice. But I typically drink vodka in a mixed drink (vodka & seltzer) in a larger glass. Speaking with my coworker, she said she thinks traditionally it is served in a shot/small glass, and is sipped directly that way, with beer being the primary drink. Is that accurate, and would it seem odd if I ordered vodka mixed with something? I'm sure this is a non-issue in the more club-type places if I decide to go, but I'm thinking more about the smaller, traditional type places. But yes, I have heard the drinks in Poland pack quite a punch... I'm sure I will err on the side of caution my first few times out... both for personal safety reasons, and also so I don't act like a fool (although those two are probably more than a little related).

Also, kind of a random question regarding food at restaurants. I tend to eat a LOT, but sometimes my eyes have a larger appetite than my belly. Is taking extra, unfinished food back home ("doggie bag") a common occurrence in Poland, or is that culturally frowned upon? I generally don't like to waste food.
Snowflake - | 71
14 Jul 2014 #7
I'm sure you'll be surprised while experiencing different culture and customs, and i'm sure that first will be the way of eating habits in Poland. We are more or less like Italians, celebrates meals, without hurry. Don't be surprised when waiter won't be hanging around you all time. It is not rude, it just the way it is. Or tips are not something you must give, in very fancy restaurant is mandatory, but in pub stuff really not expecting to gain some extra money. It will be ok when you leave something, but it won't be rude if you don't.

And in some restaurant you can ask for " doggie bag" but in some small ins or eateries is not common occurrence, so to avoid misunderstanding better ask before you'll order the mill.
15 Jul 2014 #8
James, be careful when you pay for your meal at a restaurant. In Poland if you hand the server your money and say "Thank you" it means you are not expecting any change. This could present a problem if you gave a larger bill.
Dont gag me yo 7 | 156
15 Jul 2014 #9
very true as it happened with me i said that and my change for 58pln didnt come for almost 1/2 an hr and had to ask for it.

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