Our trip to the city of many names was relatively uneventful, given how we chose to get there: we walked across the Polish-Ukrainian border. It’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds, and apparently much quicker than taking a bus or train directly through from Krakow. The way to do it is: you take a train from Krakow to Przemyśl (something like 40zl per person), then from Przemyśl, you take a minibus to the border town on the Polish side, called Medyka (2zl per person). At this point, you begin the walk across the border, which took us about 30 minutes, including passing through both checkpoints. As one would expect, given that it is an external EU border, the Polish checkpoint is a lot more professional-looking than the Ukrainian one. After passing the Polish border, you walk for a few minutes through a fenced in area, after which the Ukrainian border guard will give your passport a cursory glance and a careless stamp and wave you on through. I was very excited, because this stamp became the first on my passport extension!we

This is what you'd see if you were going into Poland - a long line of people waiting to get back into Ukraine.


We became very excited when we saw the Ukraine sign.
Ukraine welcomes you!

So anyway, we successfully crossed the border. Then, after the border crossing, you have to walk a ways down the road and then turn left at the first intersection to get to the bus station, which I believe Wikitravel described as ‘new and modern’, although I would beg to differ. From there, it’s fairly easy to catch a small bus, called a marshrutka, to L’viv. Of course, you must first contend with the taxi drivers who will tell you that there is no such bus, as well as the hordes of people trying to push their way onto the bus without tickets. The ticket taking process is a bit suspect – before we boarded, the driver announced, “Only people with tickets can get on!” because of how many people were pushing and shoving. However, once the bus was full, he simply said, “Ok, does everyone have a ticket?” and then we set off. Along the way, we’d stop periodically and cram a few more people from the side of the road in, to the point where the door was bulging outwards.

The bus makes many stops along the way, and the road is in relatively poor condition (perhaps a slightly surprising fact, since it is the main east-west thoroughfare and connects Ukraine to Poland), so by the time we got to L’viv, it was already early evening. Our hostel was fairly mediocre (“WC and shower on the floor” that you actually had to go outside to get to them…although they were on the same floor), but we were seduced by the fact that it had historical value – Pilsudski lived in the building! – and was centrally located. Also, it was 9€ a night,

I’d heard mixed things about L’viv from various people, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The city itself has a slightly more bohemian, laid-back vibe than Krakow – for example, you see many more casually dressed people going out for the evening. Admittedly, we did have a number of excellent recommendations from a friend who is a L’viv native.

Our first night we ate at a place called Gasova Lyampa (Oil Lamp – apparently the first one was invented in L’viv), on Virmens’ka Street, followed by snacks and drinks at a magical place called Kryivka, at Rynek Square 14, where we returned the following evening. Kryivka is a 24-hour Ukrainian-resistance themed restaurant/bar, and you need the password (“haslo” in Ukrainian) in order to enter, after which you are offered a shot of vodka. The restaurant is decorated with pictures of resistance fighters all over, as well as some military equipment, and many of the dishes are named for fighters, with their biographies underneath. Both Gasova Lyampa and Kryivka serve very tasty western Ukrainian food, and they were the culinary highlights of L’viv for me, although the cafe at Dzyga Gallery has some excellent teas (we didn’t eat there).

As we only had one full day in L’viv before heading off to Kyiv, we mostly spent it wandering around the city somewhat aimlessly. We followed some dirt paths up into the hills and simply enjoyed the fact that, for once, it wasn’t pouring.

Also a common sight in Poland (although the Lada is not) - heels, baby carriage, middle of cooblestone street


JP2 - Ukrainian Edition

After cavorting about in the fresh air, we decided to set out for Kiev by the 8:37 train, which we missed by about 2 minutes after a 15 minute wait for a taxi, followed by an incredibly slow-moving ticket line after the realisation that it was not possible to buy tickets on the train.

Summer Travels

On Saturday, I will be embarking on my voyage of the summer, to (ideally) a whole slew of places I’ve never been to before. My current plan is:

Train to L’viv/Lwow for a day or so
Train to Kyiv for a few days
Train to Odessa for a day or so
Ferry across the Black Sea to Varna (Bulgaria)
And from there, I will meander my way through the former Yugoslavia, perhaps going to Belgrade (provided that things with Kosovo don’t really deteriorate further in the next few days), Sarajevo and Split, and then up the coast to Zagreb somewhere around the 18th to catch a train to…
Salzburg, to see a friend perform in Die Zauberflote
And finally to Munich, where I’ll meet up with my parents/sister

I want to see the Balkans before the EU gets its claws into them, and I want to see summer (Krakow has had rather a lot of rain lately…). Along the way, I’ll try to be posting updates here/on Twitter/on Facebook to confirm that I am alive.

Restaurant Review: Manzana

I know I like to complain about the lack of culinary diversity here, but really, it’s true. Eastern European and Italian are the only two types of cuisines that are consistently done well. However, every so often, I come across a place that is a standout and doesn’t happen to fit into either of these categories. Manzana, a relatively new addition to the Krakow restaurant scene in Kazimierz, serves up refreshingly authentic Mexican food in a relaxed atmosphere. They also have an awesome drinks menu. With real cocktails. And – they’re really good! Manzana is not particularly inexpensive, with entrees in the 19zl-59zl range, but most are under 40zl, so it’s possible to keep the

We started with chips and guacamole and salsa. Look at that top photo there. REAL GUACAMOLE. Not just some identifiable green paste called guacamole. It was bliss.

For my main course, I had the Goat Cheese Enchiladas, and my friend sampled the Stuffed Chili Ancho, which is a chile relleno with meat.

Goat Cheese Enchiladas
Stuffed Ancho Chili

The enchiladas themselves were excellent – yummy veggies in corn tortillas – although I do perhaps question the inclusion of the rice and salsa, which didn’t really add anything. I’m assuming that the stuffed chili was also excellent, given by how quickly it disappeared off of the plate.

Also notable: we found out that they have a happy hour on Fridays & Saturdays with 8zl cocktails, as well as something called Taco Tuesdays, where tacos are 5zl.

Anyway, this one’s a keeper. I’ve been looking for a good Mexican place here, and my quest is complete (sorry, Burrito Buffet, The Mexican, and all of the other horrible, faux-Mexican places here). Next time, I intend to try the Chicken Mole, one of my favourite dishes from home.

ul. Miodowa 11
7am-11pm (I would possibly question the 7am part…)
most entrees 19zl-40zl

How to Vanquish a Pigeon

Have you ever had to vanquish a pigeon? As of the wee hours of this morning, I have.

You may not be familiar with Krakow’s other inhabitants if you’ve never been to Krakow. Allow me to enlighten you. They are plentiful. They are everywhere. If you are me, you avoid trees and building overhangs, and you constantly look around to make sure that you’re not in a pigeon’s flight path.

Of course, there’s a justification for the presence of the pigeons. They’re knights, or so local legend says. I’ve read different stories about their origins, but that one that was told to me was this:

Once upon a time… a prince wanted to attack the city. Unfortunately, he couldn’t breach the walls because they were too high. Time for a new plan. He had all of his knights transformed into pigeons so that they could fly over the walls, but when they landed on the other side, they stayed as pigeons, and the attacker was left with no army.

The more common tale seems to be:

Once upon a time part 2… the kingdom of Poland had been divided up into smaller pieces, and a prince from Krakow wanted to reunite them. Unfortunately, to do this, he needed vast sums of money, but there were no venture capitalists to turn to for support. He also needed to travel to Rome to get the approval of the pope, another expensive undertaking. So the prince turned to the second-best option – he asked a witch for help. The witch agreed to assist the prince on the condition that his knights be turned into pigeons until he successfully returned to Krakow. Well, what was the hapless prince to do? He agreed. The next morning, the knights gathered on the Rynek Głowny, and the witch transformed them all into pigeons. As the pigeons flew to roost on the Kosciol Mariacki, the large church, they knocked showers of pebbles from the roof, which magically turned into gold coins upon hitting the ground. Soon the prince had enough money to set off on his quest in style. But as we know, style costs money. To make a long story short, the prince ended up broke, never made it to the pope, failed in his quest, and couldn’t find the witch to put the knights back into their rightful forms.

Regardless of the story, the people of Krakow have been taking care of the pigeon-knights ever since. Babcias feed them. Children feed them. Tourists feed them. And they multiply. Which brings me to my story.

At 2:46am, I received a phone call from two of my friends:

“A pigeon flew in the open window and landed on Kirsty’s bed and seems to have gone to sleep. We can’t get it out. What do we do?”

I googled. “Google says to chase it out with darkness, but since it’s sleeping and it’s dark outside, that won’t work. Google says to throw a blanket over it and chuck it out a window. Try that.”


“Do you want me to come over and do it for you?”

“No, we’ll do it.”

“Ok, call me and let me know how it goes.”

5 minutes later, another phone call:

“Did you get it out?”

“Well, if it’s not too much trouble, could you come over and do it?”

So, armed with a pair of leather gloves and a sweatshirt in case the pigeon woke up and was aggressive, I set out on my quest. When I arrived, the pigeon was presumably asleep on the bed, although I never saw it as my friends had thrown a sheet over it and weighted the corners down with books, presumably to discourage it from flying around in case it awoke. There was also a trail of bread leading out the window. My friends were keeping their distance, thoroughly disgusted by the pigeon.

I took stock of the situation. With some assistance, I gathered the still-sleeping pigeon up in a duvet and shook it out the window. After a moment, the pigeon was dislodged and flew all of about 2 meters and went to sleep again under the balcony.

Thus all was right in our little corner of the world. The pigeon was unharmed, the duvet went in the laundry, and I did some math puzzles before going home.

Layer Cake

In general, I haven’t done as much baking in Krakow as I used to in New York (I don’t have my Russian class as a ready-made audience anymore, and certain ingredients can be hard to find here). However, for my friend BB’s birthday, I promised her a cake of her choosing. Well, her birthday was over a month ago, but it was a very busy month, and I needed to wait for raspberries to appear in the market! At last I delivered…

That would be 4 layers of chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting and raspberry filling in between, covered with more chocolate frosting. And in a MacGyver moment, I improvised a pastry bag out of a pen tip and a ziploc bag to do the writing. Yep.

Questioning Quality Control

I recently purchased a bag of pistachios for my snacking-while-studying method of studying (pistachios because they reminded me of the massive jar of pistachios that my mother gave me for Christmas one time, which took three apartments, a roommate, and 2+ years to finish). Well, in my pistachio-filled opinion, this bag of Polish (well, it actually says that the country of origin is Iran, but it implies that they were packaged in Polska) pistachios contains a very large percentage of empty shells or shells with a small, inedible, and dessicated-looking nut inside. Also, so far as I can tell, there’s no EU seal of approval or whatever it is on the packaging, which I think means that they are for domestic consumption only. Anyway, my question is this – will someone in the US go and buy a bag of salted unshelled pistachios and count the number of ones which contain no nut, the number which contain an inedible nut, and the total number? And then I’ll do the same with a fresh bag of Polish ones. And then I’ll compare! Who wants to play?