Greetings from Krakow
A soft landing, thanks to a friend of friends
This is Marek.
He’s a scholar deep in thought, a writer on deadline and an all-around mensch. He’s also my introduction to Poland.
Marek and I have mutual friends in Roanoke, Va. who have a knack for collecting interesting and big-hearted people. As soon as he got word that I was flying to Krakow, he got right to work arranging my hotel and was at the ready answering my many pre-travel questions.
Just as promised, there he was, waiting in the arrivals area at the airport, ready to take me on a Krakow adventure. We arrived at the main train station in Krakow, just a few blocks from my hotel in the famously historic area known as Old Town. As we walked through the station, Marek pointed out the service areas for Ukrainian refugees, including a shelter, a food pantry and hot food. The long line, comprised of women and children, was my introduction to the war in Ukraine. (As of April 22, more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since February 24 , according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.)
After hotel check-in, we set out on foot in search of lunch. He had an old favorite in mind, a homey spot called Jadlodajnia U Stasi, just a few blocks away. He wasn’t sure if the restaurant had survived the pandemic, but sure enough, the tiny yellow dining room was full of locals slurping on soup and tucking into pierogis. Of course we followed their lead, and to drink, I had my first-ever cup of kompot, a lightly sweetened fruit juice.
Before the pandemic, Marek ran his own business as a tour guide specializing in the renowned historic area known as Old Town. As we walked through the cobbled streets, he shared historical tidbits and what I could see as a deep love for his town of 20 years.