An Eastern European Christmas

Snow-capped rooftops of Prague

The journey to Prague and Krakow was the last trip I took, and this concluded my 4 month exchange. This adventure was definitely the most memorable as it’s hard to believe that this many things can go wrong on a 2 week trip. After spending the last night in Lille partying til 6am with all of Sciences Po’s international students, my companion and I boarded a train at 8am to Paris.  Here unfolds the tumultuous series of events that occurred between reaching Paris and ending in Krakow. A few of the highlights are included below, and I’ve kept this documented as my personal guide of what not to do while traveling.

  1. Travel light: 6 pieces of luggage between 2 people defies this general rule of thumb quite aggressively.  Granted I had just packed up 4 months of myself and squeezed it into 4 bags but when traveling across Europe, or traveling in general, less is more.
  2. Be precautious and bring extra medicine: I know this goes against traveling light, but listening to your overbearing parents sometimes pays off. Paris was less than romantic, and we found ourselves down with fevers and colds.  The Buckely’s and Tylenol Cold I had stashed were well worth the extra luggage weight.
  3. The French don’t like snow (or anything inconvenient for that matter): Our flight to Prague was canceled because of extreme weather conditions (light flurries) and this resulted in a 16 hour wait in the less than accommodating CDG airport.  Moral: avoid France in the winter.
  4. Don’t lose your wallet: Self-explanatory and also why they invented money belts. This was definitely a set-back as paying for things is mandatory.
  5. When in doubt, take a cab: Basically why we missed our flight to Krakow from Prague as the tram decided to change course en route. The realization that we were nowhere near the airport resulted in a frantic dash across the city (with 6 pieces of luggage –him carrying 4, me 2), where we arrived at the airport 15 minutes before departure. My tearful plea did not grant us entry onto the flight. Our only alternative was a 9 hour train ride through eastern Europe where the frozen landscape and train stations built in the 30’s made me feel like a refugee escaping communism.

We finally reached Krakow and were thankful not to be left to our own bad judgement any longer. Despite everything, we managed to have a warm Polish Christmas in a beautiful city that is one of Europe’s hidden gems.  Highlights of Prague include the Charles Bridge, delicious pastries, a local brewery and a few days with friends. Memories of Krakow include the Salt Mines, my first real Christmas, the still-present visuals of communism, and zapiekanka.

Now to do it all again in the summer!

Charles Bridge, Prague
Jewish Town, Prague
Cathedral, Prague
Wawel Castle Cathedral, Krakow
Kazimierz – Jewish Town, Krakow
Beautiful Krakow
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