Click the dots on the map above to view pictures I have taken in these locations.
One of my very best Couchsurfing experiences was in Poland for Easter 2011. I planned on taking the train to Krakow and spending the long weekend in the city. I sent out several requests to Couchsurf, and I heard back from a girl saying that it’s okay to stay with her. However, she says, she would be going back to her hometown for Easter to spend with her parents. She told me that if I didn’t want to go, no big deal. Spending Easter in a small Polish town with locals? Yeah, that sounds right up my alley.
I arrived in Krakow, a city often compared to Prague, after a 10 hour overnight train ride. The city was just waking up, as I roamed the streets waiting for the Couchsurfer to pick me up in the main plaza. From there, we caught a bus to head to Limanowa, her hometown. I wasn’t the only Couchsurfer, either. Another guy from the Ivory Coast was also visiting. Over the course of the weekend, all three of us became very good friends.
Since Poland is a very Catholic country, Easter is an extremely important holiday. Having a typical Polish Easter and learning about their traditions was so interesting and exciting for me. On Saturday, the day before Easter, it’s traditional to take a basket full of food to the church to have it blessed. I was thrilled to see numerous families walking in and out of churches with their baskets in hand.
Limanowa is a humble town about two hours by bus from Krakow. I can only imagine what my friend’s parents thought when they knew she was bringing Couchsurfers home. I don’t even know if they knew what Couchsurfing was before this. But her parents were so friendly and curious about us. We ate lunch soon after we arrived at their house. Immediately afterwards, her father pulls out the Polish vodka. My friend explains how this vodka is now illegal but her father knows a guy who makes it. It was something along the lines of 150 proof (75% alcohol), and it was the smoothest shot of alcohol I’ve ever had. I now understood why the Polish like their vodka!
On Easter Sunday, the rain was pouring down, but we walked across town to the church. In front of the church stands a statue of Pope John Paul who happens to be Polish and popular. Arriving at the service, the inside was completely packed. With umbrellas up to block the rain, we listened to the almost two-hour service. This was another fantastic experience that I’ll never forget.
By the time we went back to Krakow, we all had already become good friends. It wouldn’t have mattered if we were in Krakow or Russia or the US; we were going to have a good time. It turned into more of hanging out with friends than touring a city. Because of that, I don’t feel like I can give a lot of detail on Krakow. It is, however, architecturally beautiful. I said before that it’s often compared to Prague. In many ways, the cities are similar; the look, the atmosphere, and the size.
This experience left me wanting to see more of the country, to learn more about the people. I’ll always remember Poland by the overwhelming generosity and kindness of its people.