meißen to groningen.

Meißen was perhaps a bit of a step down in the accommodations department, but we'd done so well up to this point how could you really complain. Plus there was the normal German Sausage Array for breakfast.

The town itself was, as you can see, wunderschön, "best Saxon hill town we visited on this trip", etc. And then we hit the road, plowing through more endless fields of rape, listening to a little Barbra and Barry, and stopping for lunch at a combination gas station/Subway/pizza place/burger joint. The sign down there says that the meat they use is local and they slaughter it themselves. I don't even know what that is I'm eating, I thought I ordered a bratwurst, this was like a big delicious meatball. Everyone else pussed out and ordered a Subway because they included vegetables. I just needed one more moment alone with my meat: goodbye fleisch, it was nice.


kraków to meißen.

We were a tiny bit sad to leave Poland, because well, Poland was a big surprise. It almost immediately became my third favorite European country that I don't live in. You can't really tell from this day of photos, but Wroclaw was kind of wonderfully shabbily beautiful and Krakow was surprisingly grand and everywhere just reeked of history and atmosphere.

The people were without exception sweet and quiet. There was music everywhere. And Poles seem to put a little bit of extra effort into atmosphere and gezelligheid, more so than maybe anywhere I've ever been. Sure there are shitty soulless bars and cafes and snackbars, but it was very easy to find a place that was dark and candlelit and crammed with the furniture and belongings of millions of dead people. That's a horrible joke but A) I'm apparently half Polish and 2) it's true.

Above: the breakfast room of the Klezmer Hois. Below: trying to find kielbasa to take home, because somehow I managed not to fucking have one while I was there. Below that: gas station sandwich calling out to my apparently blood-genetics based Polish love of pickles and eggs. Below that, boomkanker, or as most people refer to it, mistletoe. It was everywhere along the Polish highways and its presence engendered a week-long discussion of the history, science and myth around this mysterious parasite. I guess we had a lot of long drives. Below that, the only bad meal we had in Poland, a case of the #1 TripAdvisor restaurant in town feeling like a depressingly inauthentic experience. There were real Polish people there, construction workers and what not, but 75% of the diners at my table didn't eat even half their food, some much less. The whole place just felt kind of off, and it was an unfortunate end to a few days of unexpectedly good eating.

Below that, the next logical step after our continuing to watch the temperature drop in five-degree increments from 55F to 35F as we headed west across Poland. Below that, arrival in Meißen.

krakow day 2.

Behold, our walk from the Klezmer Hois (our hotel) in the historic Jewish district of Kazimierz to the old center of Krakow. My lunch target was full Chinese tourists and seemed a bit ongezellig, so we moped around for a little bit and ended up at the other place I recognized from my research, Szara.

Which seemed like, oh shit, we walked into the most expensive restaurant on a touristy square in a touristy city, it's very empty in here, fuuuuuck. But the atmosphere was totally nice, and the food was truly excellent, Nelzer had a perfect asparagus and enoki risotto, and my "Polish-style steak tartare" was full of top-notch components. And the whole thing was a totally reasonable €60, one course of really professional cooking for four people, plus one wine and three coffees.

The evening's meal went unphotographed due to phone death, a place called Qrudo that was kind of sadly soulless inside and featured live music of the "acoustic jazz-pop with female vocals" type, so not really a score in that regard. But the wine was good, the pierogi were maybe the best of the trip, and Aaltje ordered a really really delicious creme brulee with rosemary, Angostura bitters and a teeny-tiny pitcher of Jagermeister to pour over top. Then we returned to the Klezmer Hois, where there were constantly string players warming up, tuning, learning songs...I'm glad we didn't sit down to watch the music, but the place was just full of it and that seemed an appropriate atmosphere for old Jewish Krakow.

kraków night 1.