I Hate Saying Goodbye

I’ve been putting off this last post because writing about the end makes everything feel too real. By ignoring this I’ve been trying to ignore everything that has changed, even though I can’t.

The view from my classroom was like a postcard- I'll definitely miss that!
The view from my classroom was like a postcard- I’ll definitely miss that!

My semester abroad actually ended a few weeks ago, but it feels like I’ve just been on a long trip and I’ll go back. I’ve taken all of my exams, handed in my papers, received my grades from my university and even moved out of my flat and into my family’s home, but I’m still holding onto the memories because they were too amazing. Even though I am spending the rest of my summer in Europe and meeting my parents in a few weeks, there’s so much that I already miss and that I know I will miss even more when I return to the U.S.

Massolit- one of my favorite cafes that was the perfect study spot
Massolit- one of my favorite cafes that was the perfect study spot

I’m going to miss the public transportation in Kraków—the buses and trams are so convenient that they make getting around the city so easy, even though it is small enough to walk just about everywhere. Because I had an unlimited pass, I could get on any bus or tram and on my laziest days I am not ashamed to admit that I would occasionally take the tram one short stop just because I could. And especially with phone and internet apps like jakdojade.pl, navigating the city is so easy and because of that I was able to explore so much more than I would have been able to otherwise.

While living in the city can be overwhelming, Planty park was always a great place to stroll or sit down and read
While living in the city can be overwhelming, Planty park was always a great place to stroll or sit down and read

I’m going to miss living in a city—my flat was so much more spacious and conveniently located than I could have imagined! I lived right across the street from a market called Nowy Kleparz (New Market) which had everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, flowers, and even clothes. There was also a bakery next door along with a few other shops and even a doctor across the street when I was sick. Sometimes it did take a bit of planning because there aren’t as many 24-hour stores, but I could usually find something—everything I needed was just outside my doorstep. Living in a city also meant that there was always something going on like concerts and festivals, so I was never bored. I can’t even count the amount of times that I walked into the main square and they were setting up a stage for a concert or putting up booths for a fair.

Even though travelling was so much fun, coming back to my flat in Krakow always felt like coming home.
Even though travelling was so much fun, coming back to my flat in Krakow always felt like coming home.

I’m going to miss traveling—I didn’t go somewhere every weekend because I loved exploring Kraków so much, but I was still able to see so much at a really affordable price. I’m used to riding Megabus to and from school in the U.S., but Polskibus offers even better prices all across the country! And with cheap airlines like Wizzair and Ryanair along with rideshare sites like BlaBlaCar, there were so many different ways to travel in a way that didn’t break the bank. Hostels have also been so reasonable and I haven’t yet had a bad experience, but I’ve actually met a lot of interesting and helpful people along the way. While I hope to travel more in the U.S. now that I’ve done so in Europe, I know it won’t be as easy or as cheap.

One of my new favorite foods-- zapiekanki-- toasted bread traditionally made with mushrooms and cheese with optional fancy toppings and sauces
One of my new favorite foods– zapiekanki– toasted bread traditionally made with mushrooms and cheese with optional fancy toppings and sauces. I’ll have to recreate these in the U.S.!

I’m going to miss the culture—even though both of my parents are Polish and I live in a very Polish city (love you, Chicago!) it’s still very different. While learning Polish has been extremely difficult, even with my familiarity with the language, I love trying to speak with shopkeepers and servers, especially when they are so patient and encourage me. I will admit that sometimes I get too frustrated or embarrassed because I know that I’m not saying something correctly or I can’t think of the right word, but that has just helped me to be more patient with myself and with others. Now I even get excited when I am in another country and I hear people speaking Polish because I feel like I share some secret with them.

While Polish food is widely enjoyed, burger are becoming more popular- and they are huge and delicious!
While Polish food is widely enjoyed, burger are becoming more popular- and they are huge and delicious!

I love all of the Polish food that I consume in shocking quantities, from obwarzanki sold by little old women on the street, to the best zapiekanki in the Jewish district of Kazimierz, to the cheapest and most delicious Polish food sold at Bar Mleczny (Milk Bars). There’s still so much I’m not used to, but that always keeps me curious because I’m constantly learning and adjusting everyday. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been exciting, and I am so grateful for that.

The view of Wawel Castle outside my Polish language classroom- a sight I've never been tired of, and one I'll surely miss
The view of Wawel Castle outside my Polish language classroom- a sight I’ve never been tired of, and one I’ll surely miss

I’m going to miss the people—I have met so many amazing individuals from around the world who have introduced me to their cultures and practices and have given me a new perspective on life. I’ve learned how to properly cheers in German (exclaim “Prost” while making good eye contact—otherwise seven years of bad luck!) and how to properly address individuals in Polish with Pan or Pani, plus so much more. I’m also going to miss my family, which has welcomed me with open arms and been willing to help me every step along the way. And all of this has helped me better understand and appreciate the new cultures and practices that I’ve come into contact with along with my own. I’ve met some of the most amazing people who have changed me for the better and who I wish I could thank a thousand times over for the experiences they have given me.

Krakow, you are amazing. Thank you for the best semester and I can't wait to come back!
Krakow, you are amazing. Thank you for the best semester and I can’t wait to come back!

When I was initially deciding where to go for study abroad, I thought about India and Italy and countless other places because I didn’t want to be somewhere that I knew anything about. Quite honestly, I thought that Poland would be too familiar, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I came to realize that every city is full of so many different experiences and adventures if you take the initiative. I know that this whole post may sound too sentimental or cheesy, but I’ve had amazing experiences in every town that I’ve visited, and Kraków has still been my favorite because of a combination of everything, from it’s beautiful architecture to its long history, from the people I’ve met here and the adventures I’ve had. I will carry these amazing experiences with me for the rest of my life. It’s not do widzenia, but na razie.

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I Hate Saying Goodbye

A Few Last Things

A Few Last Things

I am extremely late in writing this post because of how busy I have been, but I want to catch up with the last few weeks of my semester! As the semester started to come to a close and papers and exams started looming in the near distance, the weather was absolutely beautiful and the last thing on my mind was studying. To try to be productive and enjoy the sun, I was able to reward myself with some pretty cool study breaks:

Looking at the super fans--a huge group of red and white jumping around!
Looking at the super fans–a huge group of red and white jumping around!

Football Game
One of my program excursions involved attending a football (or soccer) match at Wisła Stadium. It wasn’t one of the bigger games since it was approaching the end of the season, but a good part of the stadium was actually full—especially the section with the super fans. Kraków has quite an extreme rivalry between two of the major teams Wisła Kraków and Cracovia. Intense super fans are actually called ‘hooligans’ and the evidence of the rivalry is spray-painted on walls and buildings throughout the city.

I actually enjoy watching football matches, but this wasn’t the best game and we lost in the end. One of the coolest parts of the game though was actually seeing the super fans who were cheering during the entire game! The huge mob of red and white were proudly chanting for the entire game, keeping in time with the steady beat of a giant drum and made the air electric with excitement!

Slowly cruising down the river, but not without some help
Slowly cruising down the river, but not without some help

Rafting

Another one of my program excursions involved rafting down the Dunajec River, which forms part of the border between Poland and Slovakia. The rafting location was about a two hour ride away from Kraków and absolutely perfect weather. During the raft ride we sat in large traditional flat-bottomed boats while men dressed in traditional highlander gear guided us along the way.

Slovakia on the left, Poland on the right
Slovakia on the left, Poland on the right

It was more of a peaceful coasting down the river rather than intense white water rafting, but the sights were so beautiful since the river goes through mountains and scenic hiking paths. If I would ever get the chance, I would love to go back and do some more exploring.

Biking

Yet another program excursion brought us outside to enjoy the beautiful weather to go biking to Tyniec Monastery, about a 45 minute ride outside of the city. Biking in busy cities has never been my favorite thing, especially with so many pedestrians, trams, and horses and carriages in the road, but once we got into the countryside it was so quiet and serene. One of my favorite things about Kraków is that I can go ten minutes outside of the city and it feels like a completely different place. The monastery itself is very old with some of the building beginning in the 11th  century and was very important in restoring the Polish state and the Polish Church after Poland was invaded. We did not get to do too much exploring, but the monastery was on a hill that had amazing views of the countryside–a perfect place to rest before starting the trek back to the city.  (www.tyniec.benedyktyni.pl/en/history/)

Tyniec Monastery
Tyniec Monastery

When I was asked if I knew how to ride a bike before the trip started, I laughed because I’ve known for so many years! I always considered it a right of passage. But I shouldn’t have laughed so soon… On the way to the monastery we had to bike down a steep and sandy hill, and in my attempt to not crash into my friend in front of me, my brakes skidded and I fell head-over-handlebars onto the ground. I received a nice scratch on my arm and leg, but no broken bones!

Zakrzowek Lake

In an attempt to study while enjoying the beautiful weather, I went with a few friends to Zakrzowek Lake, which was actually an old mined quarry that has been filled with water. We brought some snacks and drinks and had a picnic along the lake, taking in the sun and the amazing sights. We sat and made an earnest attempt at studying (really!) but it was so hot outside and the temptation of swimming was too great, so we just decided to jump in! The water was absolutely freezing since it had been so cold recently, but it was so refreshing in the afternoon heat. We perched ourselves on some rocks to dry off before heading back inside to do some real studying.

A hidden gem! Already looking forward to going back when it's hot!
A hidden gem! Already looking forward to going back when it’s hot!

Looking back, this semester has felt so short, but I’ve been trying to enjoy the last few days and the warm weather as long as I can!

A Few Last Things

I Went for the Pasta: Italy Part 2

Adorable lemon street art during the festival
Adorable lemon street art during the festival

Another early morning, another adventure—on Saturday, Connie, Tia and I rode three hours on the train to Monterosso, which is one of the five towns of the national park of Cinque Terre on the Northern coast of Italy. Each town is on the coast and they are all very small, but so picturesque with their steep cliffs and colorful buildings.

The day that we arrived was actually the start of the Lemon Festival in Monterosso! As we walking through the small crowded streets, we saw lemons everywhere—there were lemons in windowsills, lemons floating in the fountain, and of course lemon-flavored desserts sold along the streets. We walked along the beach, and though it was a bit chilly and raining (of course), I still took off my shoes to walk in the sea.

Look at all that delicious pesto
Look at all that delicious pesto

We spent that first day exploring Monterosso’s winding streets and then we took the train two stops over to the town of Corniglia. While all of the towns sit on cliff sides, Corniglia was up on one of the highest hills, and we had to climb so many steps that my legs were almost shaking. And by the time that we reached the top, we decided that we wanted to see the small harbor on the other side, so we had to do the workout twice! We worked up a hearty appetite and promptly went for an early dinner. Tia mentioned that the Cinque Terre region is known for its pesto, so all three of us tried different types of pasta with pesto, and they were all amazing. It was quite a big plate, but I enjoyed it to the very last bite.

The alleys of Monterosso
The alleys of Monterosso

The next morning we got an early start to the day so we could do some hiking; each of the five towns is connected by two hiking trails—a coastal trail and another more difficult trail that goes through the forest. Some of the trails were closed down while we were there, but luckily we were able to take the coastal train from Monteresso to the next town over, Vernazza. And while the day before was chilly and raining, Sunday was warm, sunny, and absolutely perfect!

To hike we actually had to buy hiking passes—after living in Kraków, I couldn’t get used to how expensive everything was in Euros, but I couldn’t pass up such an amazing opportunity. But unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have the same idea and the trail was packed—I think during my whole stay in Cinque Terre, I heard more English than any other language!

Views from inside the cave
Views from inside the cave

The hike started out with so many stone steps that it felt like they would never end. What I thought was torture the day before at Corniglia was nothing compared to this. We would stop every so often to ‘enjoy the view’ but really just to take a break so we would stop wheezing. But once we got to the top, there were amazing sights of the rocky cliffs and the bright blue water. The whole hike took about two hours, and by the time we reached Vernazza my legs were shaking and we were all drenched in sweat. Gelato was the only way to reward ourselves for such a strenuous workout, so we each got a cone and wandered around the city. We went through one cave and came upon a beach on the other side! It was so unexpected and so beautiful—I really wished I was wearing a bathing suit, but instead we just took some pictures and sat down to enjoy the sun.

I can't stop taking pictures of my food- but it's too amazing
I can’t stop taking pictures of my food- but it’s too amazing

I had to grab some pizza while I was in Italy, and of course it was delicious. After that we were off on the train to the do some exploring in Manarola and Riomaggiore. We had planned on doing more hiking, but we were a bit caught up in exploring the cities that we didn’t really have enough time, but I was glad to be able to see so much of the different towns. And at the very end of the day, we stopped for some more pasta—of course! I don’t think I’ve had so much pasta in a really long time, but it was so delicious that I couldn’t help myself! I had to try seafood pasta since we were on the coast, and I was amazed. I’m not usually a fan of seafood, but I tried so many new things like razor clams, mussels, and even crawfish. It was a bit messy, but I was too entranced to be embarrassed! And in true Italian fashion, I finished my dinner with a digestive shot of limoncello—yum!

A shot of the cliffs of Rio Maggiore
A shot of the cliffs of Rio Maggiore
The beaches of Monterosso and some of the bluest water I've seen
The beaches of Monterosso and some of the bluest water I’ve seen
Manarola after sunset
Manarola after sunset
The Duomo in Milan--it was so huge that I couldn't take one picture to capture the whole cathedral!
The Duomo in Milan–it was so huge that I couldn’t take one picture to capture the whole cathedral!

After a deep sleep from the exhausting weekend, I was back on the train early to catch my flight in Milan. Luckily I had an hour to do some exploring, so by Tia’s recommendation I saw the Duomo, the Galleria, and I got one last gelato! It was another warm and beautiful day, and I’m sorry I didn’t get more time to explore the city, but I was glad to at least get a glimpse of it.

In Italy, gelato is a form of art
In Italy, gelato is a form of art

Italy was an amazing adventure, and I am already looking forward to my next Italian adventure—and my next gelato!

I Went for the Pasta: Italy Part 2

I Went for the Pasta: Italy Part 1

Having grown up in Chicago, I would think that I should be used to cold and crazy changing temperatures. Really I should be prepared for everything, from -15 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But I’m not. Every spring I am surprised by how sudden the weather changes and how unprepared I am. And nothing has changed since I’ve been in Kraków. The lingering cold temperatures, even through May, still surprised me even though they really shouldn’t have. Regardless, I was ready for some warmth and sunshine and a trip to Italy was exactly what I needed.

Every alley had a small restaurant--they were all so cute that I couldn't stop taking pictures!
Almost every alley had a small restaurant or shop–they were all so cute that I couldn’t stop taking pictures!

Early on a Thursday morning I hopped on a five-hour Polskibus to Warsaw where I would be flying to Milan and meeting some friends from home—Connie and Tia. It was an extremely long and exhausting day of traveling, taking multiple buses, trains and an airplane, so by the time my head hit the pillow that night I was asleep. But I only had four hours of sleep because of the early train the next morning.

Connie and I woke up a bit later than we intended, so we had to sprint to the train but we made it t just as the doors began to close. We had some trouble printing our ticket and I didn’t know that very few people in Milan actually speak English. In Kraków, most adults speak some English and much of the younger generation is completely fluent. But despite our troubles we still made it and in that moment that was all that mattered.

Juliet's balcony- it cost around 5 Euro to go up there!
Juliet’s balcony- it cost around 5 Euro to go up there!

It seems that in almost every city I’ve traveled to, it has rained and Verona was no exception. My plans for a warm getaway were sadly not going to happen but I still had an amazing time! We wandered the city streets, through busy town squares and abandoned alleyways, ducking under balconies when the rain picked up. We stumbled upon Juliet’s home, which we only recognized by the huge mob of tourists crowding around the entrance. The courtyard was actually a bit smaller than I imagined, with a statue of Juliet in the corner, an entrance to the museum and the balcony, and, of course, a small souvenir shop.

Giardino Giusti
Giardino Giusti

I was glad to see Juliet’s balcony because I’ve read Romeo & Juliet and I’ve seen so many film adaptations of the play. But it was also stressful being pushed around by so many tourists looking for the perfect picture with Juliet and others writing their names on the walls. People were shockingly aggressive! I think my favorite part of this trip was actually visiting Giardino Giusti—it was a beautiful garden of hedge mazes, lemon trees, and beautiful sculptures and fountains. It was actually hidden behind some gates and I’m not sure I would have found it without my map, but I was so glad that I did. Everything was so green from the rain and the garden was empty except for the two of us—it felt like a fairytale.

Pasta and wine- a perfect break from the rainy day
Pasta and wine- a perfect break from the rainy day

Before our train back home, of course we had to eat some pasta! We escaped the rain in a small restaurant to warm up with lasagna and penne with wine, and it was some of the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had. Macaroni and cheese from the box, though still delicious, just doesn’t compare.

After our long adventure in Verona, we returned home in the evening to prepare for our trip the next morning—Cinque Terre!

I Went for the Pasta: Italy Part 1

The City of Gnomes: Wrocław

Since I’ve been in Europe, so many people have told me how amazing Wrocław is and how I have to visit while I am in Poland. I’ve traveled quite a bit around Poland, but I hadn’t been there yet so I decided to finally take the advice and visit with my friend, Sofia.

The colorful buildings of the Wrocław Old Town square
The colorful buildings of the Wrocław Old Town square

When we decided to go last minute on Friday (as usual…) we booked our tickets online for Polskibus and woke up early then next morning to begin our trip. The bus ride to Wrocław was about three hours, but we got free snacks on the bus which was such a nice surprise! We arrived on a perfect day with warm and sunny weather that was a nice break from the recently chilly and rainy days we’ve had in Kraków.

A tired traveler gnome
A tired traveler gnome

One of my favorite things to do in the Polish cities I’ve visited has been going on Free Walking Tours, which offer different types of tours ever day from old town tours to food tours, and I’ve had a great experience every time! I highly recommend them for getting to know a city and the tour guides are usually so knowledgeable about recommending great places to eat or things to do—check out more at http://freewalkingtour.com/

Veteran gnome
Veteran gnome
A gnome who realized he got a bit too much ice cream and wants to share
A gnome who realized he got a bit too much ice cream and wants to share

Unfortunately none of the tours really fit into our schedule so we had to do some self-guided tours instead. We stopped by tourist information, grabbed some free maps, and started exploring.

Wrocław's main square from above
Wrocław’s main square from above

The history of Wrocław is particularly interesting because it was previously a part of Germany and is also known by its German name, Breslau. The city became a part of Poland after the border changes of World War II though the German influence is definitely visible in the city’s architecture. The buildings in the main square are so distinctive and unlike any others that I’ve seen in Poland, and they are so beautifully colorful as well! One of my favorite parts of the trip was being able to see the market square from the top of St. Elizabeth’s Church. We paid a few złoty to climb something like 300 steps and by the time we reached the top my legs were shaking and I could barely breathe. But once I stopped wheezing and stepped onto the balcony area it was all worth it for the amazing views of the whole city!

The bridge into the oldest part of Wrocław
The bridge into the oldest part of Wrocław

A short walk from the center market square across the bridge brought us across the Odra River to Słodowa Island, which were so peaceful with people just sitting and reading, enjoying the weather. We then crossed into the very old part of Wrocław and saw the oldest part of the city with beautiful old churches and small winding streets.

Papa Krasnal!
Papa Krasnal!

Wrocław is particularly known for little gnome sculptures hidden around the city—there are rumored to be over 300! There is even a free walking tour on the gnomes that I would love to take if I would ever be able to go back because they are so silly but they can also be really easy to miss.

It wasn’t until I did some more research on them that I found out that these little statues are quite new—the first one was placed there in 2001 and others have been popping up since then. The first sculpture, Papa Krasnal, was apparently placed as a symbol of the absurdist movement of the ‘Orange Alternative’ against communism in the 80s, but since then other artists have joined the movement and they are so popular that apps even exists to help tourists find them! A website even exists that tells some of the stories of the gnome: http://krasnale.pl/en/  http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/wroclaw/sightseeing/Wroclaw-s-Gnomes

Gnomes waiting to withdraw some cash
Gnomes waiting to withdraw some cash
My favorite little scholar gnome
My favorite little scholar gnome

There was still so much that I would have liked to see, like one of the many museums or the botanical garden, but as usual there is never enough time. We had decided to make our visit just a day trip because we had a lot going on in Kraków, but I am still grateful for the short time that I spent in this beautiful city, and all the little gnome friends that I made on the way!

The City of Gnomes: Wrocław

The Communist Chronicles

I am a bit behind in posting about my weekends so I have some catching up to do!

The still-operational steel mill of Nowa Huta- we could only see the outside since no tours are allowed!
The still-operational steel mill of Nowa Huta- we could only see the outside since no tours are allowed!

A few weekends ago I took a tour with my program of Nowa Huta, which is a district of Kraków to the west of the Old Town. Nowa Huta literally translates to “new mill” which refers to the steel mill that originally employed most of the citizens of the area and is still operational today. Nowa Huta was initially planned as a communist paradise which is reflected in the symmetrical layout of the city and even in the sparse and simplistic architecture of the buildings built in the style of Socialist Realism. The district is quite spread-out and it was built on previously unused land, which allowed it to continue expanding as more people moved to the city.

Cruising in our Trabant!
Cruising in our Trabant!

When we went on our tour, we were picked up in small cars called “Trabants” which were popular in communist states because they were cheap to produce and cheap to repair; the ones that we were riding in were built in the 70s! The cars are absolutely tiny and we could barely fit in the back and it was a bit like a game of tetris, but it was a really cool way to see this part of the city.

http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/krakow/sightseeing/Nowa-Huta

We drove around the neighborhood and went to the Avenue of Roses, which was a very important square when Nowa Huta was initially built. There were parades and demonstrations there, and a large statue of Vladimir Lenin once stood there as well. Polish citizens continually tried to deface the statue and tear it down as a symbolic protest against communism, and eventually it was taken down in 1989 and the area is now used as a park for kids playing soccer.

As part of our tour we also saw the inside of an apartment furnished with some of the original furniture and appliances of the time. It was quite literally like stepping into a different time period, with framed pictures of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin on the wall and a lot of the original furniture and appliances. Indoor plumbing wasn’t that common across Poland, so these apartments were also particularly impressive, and they were also reasonably priced and overall a pretty good deal.

What most of the apartments look like from the outside- and a Soviet tank standing as a monument outside!
What most of the apartments look like from the outside- and a Soviet tank standing as a monument outside!

Later on we sat down to watch a propaganda video about Nowa Huta used to convince citizens around the country to come to the new ‘communist utopia. It highlighted the available jobs at the steel mill, schools for education, and above all equality of opportunity. But what the video didn’t show was the empty shelves in stores, the ration cards, and the high inflation that made it quite a problematic paradise. Still, watching the video helped me understand the conditions that many Poles experienced after the war and it helps me better understand my own family’s history because my mother grew up in Nowa Huta before she moved to the United States.

At the very end of our tour, after seeing enough communist propaganda for one afternoon, we all had to lighten the mood so we participated in a Polish tradition—shots of vodka with a pickle!

The Arca Pana Church (constructed to resemble Noah's Arc) was especially important during Solidarity movements in Poland and as a symbol of religious resilience against secular communist laws
The Arca Pana Church (constructed to resemble Noah’s Arc) was especially important during Solidarity movements in Poland and as a symbol of religious resilience against secular communist laws

Before I actually visited Nowa Huta I thought that it was a small and almost abandoned neighborhood that would look gray and dreary, but as with so many of my experiences in Europe—I was surprised. Not only is Nowa Huta so large and open, but it is very green and full of parks and even lakes to visit. The district is still filled with the older generation that moved to Nowa Huta during communist rule but younger families are also coming into the neighborhood and more businesses are coming in as well.

Our trip to Nowa Huta was so interesting but we really only saw a small part—I’ll definitely have to go back to do some more exploring!

The Communist Chronicles

Students Take Over the City: Juwenalia!

After having studied abroad in Kraków for a few months now (which is crazy to think about) I have come to really appreciate the history and traditions of this city. One of my favorite things about this city is that it is largely a student town where students can make up approximately 20% of the population of the city. There are always so many things happening for students or led by students, but one of the biggest events that happens in Krakow is Juwenalia, which is usually celebrated for a week in May and apparently goes back to 1964 when students first organized different competitions and events as well as a parade through the streets. There are actually different Juwenalia celebrations depending on the university, though there are a few events, such as the parade, that every university takes part in together.(http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/krakow/Juwenalia_72156f)(http://www.krakow-poland.com/krakow-tourist-information/students-in-krakow)

Enej on stage!
Enej on stage!

There were many different events for the Juwenalia for Jagiellonian University that I didn’t attend, but I went with a group of friends to a big concert on Thursday to kick off our Juwenalia experience. I didn’t know any of the bands and I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but it was so cool! The concert was set up on a huge field with a second screen because the concert grounds were so large. All of the bands were a lot of fun, but I think my favorite was Enej- they had such a fun energy that had everyone up and dancing and trying to sing along, even though we didn’t know the words!

The next day was a big day for Juwenalia week—it was the day of the big parade! Early in the morning, university students all met together to march around the whole city together. The group of exchange students had the theme of “cowboys and Indians” so we just threw on some plaid shirts and called it a day, but when we arrived to the meeting point we were all shocked. It turns out that this parade is bigger than Halloween back in the US—everyone was dressed up in crazier costumes than I had ever seen! People were so silly and so creative—there were people dressed up as Sims, there was someone dressed up as a milk carton, and others even built huge cardboard spaceships that someone could ride in! The theme for Jagiellonian University was Star Wars so I saw a very real looking Darth Vader and a few storm troopers as well. People must have been working on these costumes for weeks because they were all so extraordinary, and I was so impressed!

None of my pictures could really capture how much fun the parade was, and how crazy the costumes were!
None of my pictures could really capture how much fun the parade was, and how crazy the costumes were!

We joined the huge mass of students and paraded around the city until we eventually ended up at the main square where there was a big concert area set up. Everyone formed a big group and just started dancing around to the music, which partially turned into a big water fight in the heat of the day. The big moment came where the mayor of the city then symbolically handed the keys of the city over to the students and Juwenalia officially began!

We went to another concert later in the weekend, and it was the final concert for the Jagiellonian Juwenalia celebrations. I didn’t know that one of the most popular Polish bands would be playing, and the concert was absolutely packed! HappySad was jumping around the stage for more than two hours and the crowd was loving it the whole time! I haven’t heard of them before, but they are all over the Polish radio stations and I think I will have to listen to them again in the future.

Overall, Juwenalia was surprising in all of the best sorts of ways, and I am so glad that I have had the chance to participate in such an amazing and unforgettable student tradition!

Juwe, Juwe, Juwenalia!
Juwe, Juwe, Juwenalia!
Students Take Over the City: Juwenalia!