“The World is my Imagination”: Gdańsk, Poland

Gdańsk, Poland

I absolutely can not believe it has been TWO years since we visited Poland’s northern city of Gdańsk. Two. Years. How is time so slow yet going by so quickly? A post for another day.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts of my struggle to publish anything travel related last year and now in 2021; thank you for bearing with my absence as I’m continuing to work through those thoughts / feelings.

View of the city from the other side of the Motława River. Gdańsk includes the largest medieval port crane in Europe.

In 2019 we traveled to Warsaw and Gdańsk with our friends–Heather and Chris–and spent a little over a week wandering around Poland. The country was commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII and both cities included a number of memorials decorated in flowers, candles, and the Kotwica anchor, a symbol of the Polish Resistance and Warsaw Uprising.

Created as a symbol for the Polish struggle for independence, the PW of the anchor means “Pomścimy Wawer(“We shall avenge Wawer”) in reference to the Wawer massacre of 1939, one of the first massacres of Polish civilians by the Germans occupying the country.

Luckily for us, we also happened to visit Gdańsk during the St. Dominic’s Fair, one of the largest and oldest events in Europe; the fair was started in 1260! The 1000+ stalls of vendors and food, art, clothing, and other treasures line the city’s streets for over two weeks at the end of July.

Remember this is pre-Covid times!

We took the train up from Warsaw (highly recommend–get that 1st class ticket only around 30 euro) to spend a few days in the lovely Baltic city of Gdańsk. There’s a lot to see, plus the sweetest streets and coffee shops.

I’ll be discussing a couple of tough topics related to WWII in this post so please read–and feel free to skip–anything that you might not be able to handle mentally or emotionally at the moment ❤

Where are we?

Located in northern Poland on the Baltic coast, Gdańsk is the country’s main seaport and sits on the Gdańsk Bay, connecting to the Motława River, a branch of the Vistula. The city is named for another branch of the Motława, the Gdania, and was first recorded as a settlement in 997. A city (and country) with a history of complex borders and complicated history, my hope here is to provide a little context as to the how the area of Gdańsk became the unique city it is today.

I loved this quote from Timothy O’Grady:

“The first important event took place on September 1, 1939, when the battleship Schleswig-Holstein maneuvered into the Vistula River and began shelling the Polish garrison at Westerplatte, just northwest of the city. These were the earliest shots of World War II. After a monthlong blitz, Poland was subjugated and the war was well underway. The second happened at Gdańsk’s Lenin shipyards on August 31, 1980, when the Polish Communist government recognized the free trade union Solidarity, the first independent labor union in a country belonging to the Soviet bloc. Lech Wałęsa signed with a giant pen wrapped in an image of fellow Pole Pope John Paul II. It was the beginning of the end. After a bloodless decade-long revolution, Wałęsa became president of a free Poland. Two events, catastrophic and hopeful, the twin axes between which the country expanded and contracted at the behest of its voracious neighbors, like the bellows of an accordion.

These and other epochal episodes in Gdańsk happened mainly because of where it is, at the point where the Vistula enters the Baltic Sea. Ringed by Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia, it was the gateway to the grain fields, forests, and cities at the heart of the European continent. The city took a cut of everything moving in and out, and became immensely rich. It was, in the region, the pivot point for the Hanseatic League, the merchant confederation that linked all of northern Europe from the 13th century until the mid-1800s. In its heyday, the city hosted more trade than even London. Magnificent town houses went up in the Dutch Renaissance style, festooned with reliefs and murals. Gdańsk built superlatives in several categories: largest medieval crane and mill, largest amber altar, most accurate clock, largest brick church (it could fit more than 20,000 parishioners). Frederick the Great said that whoever controlled Gdańsk would be ‘more master of Poland than any king reigning there.’ Napoleon called it ‘the key to everything.’

O’Grady, Timothy. 2021. “In the In the Seaside City of Gdańsk, Poland, Change Is the Only Constant.” Conde Nast Traveler.
Gdańsk is a member of the Trójmiasto (Tricity), a group of cities in northern Poland. While independent from each other and with their own unique history, Gydnia, Gdańsk, and Sopot are along the Baltic Sea coast and are connected easily by public transport with only 20 km (12.4 miles) between the three cities.
Poland’s first ruler, Duke Mieszko I, achieved control of the Bay of Gdańsk in the 980s and 997 is commonly accepted as the year the city was officially founded (although a number of Slavic tribes lived here prior to their unification by Mierszko I following his conversion to Christianity in 960). While humans lived in nearby Sopot for thousands of years–including constructing a fort around the 7th and 11th centuries–the first written mention of the settlement wasn’t recorded until the 1200s. Just a friendly reminder that people existed here before the written record!
In 1308, Gdańsk fell under the rule of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, a Central European medieval crusader state originally established in Prussia, until 1454. After becoming part of Poland again, the city was known as a cultural center and as a hub for trade, with a large population of Polish, Jewish, German, and Dutch inhabitants.
In 1734, Tsar Peter the Great captured the area, completely destroying nearby Gdynia and almost all of Sopot. Austria, Russia, and Prussia partitioned Poland in 1772, and Gdańsk was declared part of Prussia. The city was renamed Danzig and began to decline due to the now-limited access to trade. The second partition of Poland took place in 1793, then a third in 1795; Poland was completely wiped from the map and Polish independence ended for over a century. After yet another partition and the influence of Napoleon–including greater transportation between the three cities and elsewhere–Danzig and the area was absorbed into the German Empire in 1871.
Following the defeat of the German army after WWI, Poland regained independence, leaving Danzig at the middle of a struggle for control between the two countries. Now with a population 98% German (but Germany was unable to provide for them after the war) and fear of the-now Bolshevik Russians influencing Poland, the newly-created League of Nations declared the area as the the Free City of Danzig on November 15th, 1920. Zoppot (present-day Sopot) was absorbed into The Free City of Danzig but Gdynia was placed into the Polish Corridor through the Treaty of Versailles. A thin, narrow strip of land, this corridor provided the country of Poland access to Baltic Sea.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party gained control of the government of the Free City of Danzig (although considered semi-autonomous, a majority of the senate had Nazi allegiance). Tensions escalated between the Germans and Poland; on September 1st, 1939, WWII began when Nazi Germany attacked the Polish military post at Westerplatte and Polish Post Office in Danzig. In June 1941, Hitler rescinded the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, invaded eastern Poland, and used the country as its primary space for genocide and murder. Polish and Jewish people were declared “subhuman” by the Nazis and those who were not able to flee were victims of discrimination, abuse, and extermination. Over six million Poles, including three million of Jewish descent, were killed. The Red Army took control of Danzig on March 30th, 1945, although most of the city was now in ruins.
The Soviets, “Sovietized” Poland from 1945-on. Most cities in Poland were renamed their original Polish names, including Gdańsk, and during the 1950s and 1960s the enormous task of rebuilding the city took place. In the 1980s, after an 18 day sit-in, the first free trade union in the Soviet Bloc was created to meet the 21 demands of shipyard strikers, led by Lech Wałęsa at the Gdańsk shipyards. Known as the strike that “set Poland on fire”, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and this union (membership peaked at 1/3 of the working-age population by 1981) is one of the central influences that lead to Polish independence in 1991. The Solidarność (solidarity) movement in Poland helped Wałęsa become the first democratically-elected, post-communist President.
Poland joined the EU in 2004.

Now one of the top tourist destinations in Poland, Gdańsk is also known for its its unique position as a port city, although the current resurgence of xenophobia and anti-democratic actions threaten the once-admired diversity.

“’I walk in this wonderful place and think that through any laws of probability it has no right to exist,’ [scholar Jerzy] Limon told me. ‘Gdańsk is a kind of miniature of a united Europe. The city has always attracted different nationalities, different religions. Yet it’s also been a mutinous city. Changes started here. We had a bloodless revolution that set an example. This has alienated some people, but it draws in many more.’”

O’Grady, Timothy. 2021. “In the In the Seaside City of Gdańsk, Poland, Change Is the Only Constant.” Conde Nast Traveler.


Brama Mariacka (St. Mary’s Gate):

One of the prettiest views of Mariacka in Old Town is through St. Mary’s Gate.
First mentioned in 1484 and built later in the 15th century, the gate was nearly destroyed in 1945.
During 1959-1960 the Gate was painstakingly rebuilt by  K. Macura and is now home to the Archeological Museum.

Wielka Zbrojownia (Great Armoury):

Built between 1600 and 1609, Wielka Zbrojownia (the Great Armoury) is a gorgeous building located on the city walls and one of my favorite places in Gdańsk. During WWII, the building was badly damaged and was completely rebuilt following the war.

Main Town Hall:

Built in the late 1300s, the Main Town Hall served as the seat for the city authorities and saw a number of visits by Polish kings.
Nearly destroyed during WWII, the Main Town Hall was rebuilt after the war and is now home to the Gdańsk History Museum.
Located on the Royal Route, it is the second highest building in the city (after St. Mary’s Basilica).

 Dwór Artusa (Artus Court):

Built from 1348-1350, the building is located in the main square and was known as the meeting place for merchants, as well as a symbol of social life. Dwór Artusa is derived from the legend of King Arthur’s representation of gallantry.

Mariacka Street:

Located between St. Mary’s Gate and St. Mary’s Basilica, Ulica Mariacka (Mariacka Street) is one of the prettiest streets in Poland. As with many sites in the city, it was completely rebuilt after WWII based on photographs of the area prior to the war. You can see the entrance of the street from St. Mary’s Gate here and then St. Mary’s Basilica below.

Kanal Raduni (Radunia Canal):

Originally developed in 1338, the canal was built by the Teutonic Knights from 1348-1356. The channel was used primarily to provide drinking water to the inhabitants of the city and today is a scenic backdrop for a wandering stroll through Gdańsk.

Bazylika Mariacka (Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin):

One of the largest brick churches in the world, Bazylika Mariacka can hold up to 25,000 people and was completed in 1502. During the period of martial law meant to squash Solidarność in the 1980s, many members of the movement took refuge here.

Museum of the Polish Post:

One of the defining characteristics of the Free City of Danzig was the creation of its own postal network, including the Post Office established in 1920 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. Originally a German military hospital with several buildings, the “Gdańsk 1” building was the primary Polish post office in the area.
In 1939, as tensions grew between Germany and Poland, the official and volunteer members of the Polish Post Office in Danzig were told to prepare for potential violence; on September 1st, 1939, the staff defended the building from a surprise SS attack. This siege took place at the same time as at the Battle of Westerplatte and the start of WWII. All but four Polish defenders were executed.
Roughly sixty workers fought the German SS for over 15 hours until the building was attacked with flame-throwers. A month after the siege, the Polish workers that survived the attack were executed by the Nazis as illegal combatants.
The execution of the 57 workers was documented by the Nazis and these photographs were used to create the powerful memorial located in the garden of the still-functioning post office.
We first read about the defense of the Polish Post Office at Westerplatte so stumbling on this outdoor memorial was a truly powerful experience.
The Monument to the Defenders of the Polish Post Office was commissioned in 1979 and was designed by sculptor Wincenty Kućma of Kraków.

One site I wanted to visit but unfortunately ran out of time to see is the controversial Museum of the Second World War. You can read more about the decisions on how to present Poland’s position in history here.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Pierogi Making Class:

While in Gdańsk for Chris’s birthday, we booked a pierogi making class with the incredible Judyta of Samo Dobro. We shopped for ingredients with Judyta at the local food market of Hala Targowa before making pierogi and chłodnik (cold beet soup) in her mother’s kitchen, then eating our creations in her library/dining room.
Our version of chłodnik was vegan (coconut milk instead of cream) and was absolutely delicious. Her mom is a retired Polish literature teacher so we were lucky to hear her stories about class and Polish writers we should know.

Pierogarnia Stary Młyn:

One of Chris’s favorite chain of perogi restaurants across Poland is Pierogarnia Stary Młyn, a menu that includes deep fried dumplings, bigos, and potato pancakes.

Street Food:

One of the best aspects of being in the city for the St. Dominic’s Fair is the great food! We visited the Zaika truck while out and about and it was such a lovely lunch.

Paulo Gelateria:

This ice cream from Paulo Gelateria was out.of.control. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Pyra Bar:

A restaurant focused on the best ingredient in the world–potatoes!

Klaster Pub:

Unfortunately now permanently closed, Klaster Pub was a cute, chill spot for drinks and listening to Beyoncé. With the classic “parents’ den from the 1970s vibes”, great playlist, and affordable drinks, how can you go wrong?

Z Innej Parafii:

Translated to “From Another Parish” this cocktail spot had an adorable indoor space plus a gorgeous view of the city.

Cafe Lamus:

Again with the 70s aesthetic! A great place for local beer and a fun spot to hang out, Cafe Lamus is located just across from the local food market where we shopped for our cooking class ingredients.
(Photo via Tripadvisor)

Cafe Szafa:

Gdańsk is truly one of my favorite pub cities. Cafe Szafa is so fun–just my aesthetic obvs–and even has a secret Narnia room you have to find when you visit. With a description of “murky and a little bit shabby” how can you not stop by? There’s also a great kebab stand next door for your walk-home-snack, perfect for this spot as the opening hours are 3pm-PAIN.
Photo Credit here.

Coffee Shops:

Drukarnia Cafe:

Love this intentional coffee shop on Mariacka ❤

Cafe Józef K.:

With its gorgeous view of the Armoury and fun interior, Café Józef K. (named after the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s The Trial) was one of my favorite coffee spots in the city.

❤ Ashlyn

Mariacka Street
❤ ❤
swiat jest moim wyobrażeniem (the world is my imagination)
My absolute favorite spot in the city.


Reading: Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth (Jason Stanford, Bryan Burrough, Chis Tomlinson)
Watching: Reservation Dogs (Hulu)
Listening: Scene on Radio Season 5: The Repair (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University & PRX)

Kraków, Poland: The Podgórze District

[You can read my Kraków Guide here.]

One of the most historically significant districts in not just Kraków, but in all of Poland, Podgórze was at the center of the Jewish genocide by the Nazis during WWII.

View from the Church of St. Joseph (Kościół św. Józefa)

A short walk from Kazimierz over the Bernatek Footbridge, Podgórze is known for its “natural beauty, tragic history, and unusual attractions”. While the first settlement was founded over ten thousand years ago, this area was destroyed by the Swedish in the 1600s, then designated a free city in 1784 by the Austrians, before being incorporated officially into Kraków in 1915. Podgórze was known for its quarry and construction operations before being completely changed by the Nazi occupation during WWII.

Bernatek Footbridge

At the time of the German invasion, 60,000-80,000 Polish Jews lived in Kraków, mostly in the Kazimierz District. In 1939, the Nazis required all Jews to report for forced labor, then wear mandatory armbands. Hans Frank stated that Kraków should be the “racially cleanest” city in General Government and as a result, the deportation of Jews began in 1940.

Map of the Podgórze Jewish Ghetto in Kraków.

Of the 68,000 Polish Jews living in Kraków before the invasion, only 15,000 were allowed to remain as workers. They, and their families, were resettled in the Podgórze district of Kraków (known as the Kraków Ghetto) in 1941:

“Previously inhabited by a little over 3,000, the Krakow Ghetto was spread over a few dozen streets in and around Zgody Square (since renamed Bohaterow Getta Square), containing some 320 tenement buildings. A 2-3 metre high wall was raised along the perimeter of the Krakow Ghetto, crowned by a line of arcs reminiscent of Jewish tombstones, tragically prophetic – portions of which remain today…

Windows facing onto the outside world were bricked up and the gates were strictly policed. Krakow Ghetto became desperately overcrowded: each new resident was allocated a mere 2m2 of living space. Life in the Krakow Ghetto was a constant struggle: food was scarce and hunger became the gravest affliction; sanitation was sorely inadequate and the German command grew increasingly brutal and inhumane.”

There were many instances of resistance within the Ghetto walls including the Akiva Youth Movement, Jewish Fighting Organization, and the Polish underground (Armia Krajowa). In 1942, the Nazis began deporting Jews from the Kraków Ghetto. Many were sent to the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp (also located in Podgórze), Bełżec death camp, and Auschwitz. Those unfit for work (2,000 people) were shot in the streets of Kraków.

Less than 5,000 of the once large Jewish population (one quarter of the entire inhabitants of Kraków before the Nazi occupation) survived the war.

I definitely recommend a trip into Podgórze. The district includes a number of historical sites including the last remaining remnants of the Ghetto Wall, as well as memorials built to commemorate the horrific events that took place here.

A friendly reminder that while I am naming these places as “sites”, I hope to give the utmost respect to the people that were tortured and killed here. These places carry a great deal of weight and those that visit should treat them as such.

You can read more about my stance on that here.

The Sites:

Church of St. Joseph (Kościół św. Józefa):

Church of St. Joseph (Kościół św. Józefa)  was built in the early 1900s.

Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterów Getta):

Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterów Getta) includes 33 memorial chairs to commemorate the atrocities that occurred in this once bustling center. The original entrance of the Kraków Ghetto is at the entrance to the Square.

Fragment of Ghetto Wall:

The last remaining portion of the Kraków Ghetto wall. This twelve meter long fragment of the original ghetto barrier displays a plaque placed there in 1983 which says: “Here they lived, suffered, and died at the hands of the German torturers. From here they began their final journey to the death camps.”

Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory: Museum of Wartime Kraków:

Oskar Schindler was a German businessman and Nazi who saved 1,200 Jews during WWII. Schindler owned a number of factories in occupied-Poland and employed Jews in Podgórze originally because their labor was cheaper than Poles, but then he continued to employ and protect his Jewish workers throughout the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto.
“Schindler’s Jews” as they became known, included men, women, and children of all ages. Schindler was able to protect them from deportation through his connections within the Nazi party, the vital role his factories played in the war effort, and by constantly making exemptions for the skills of his workers.
Towards the end of the war, Schindler’s bribes and black-market dealings became more and more suspicious, but he was able to protect his workers from deportation. Even when they were accidentally sent to the Gross-Rosen and Auschwitz concentration camps, he was able to manage their safe return to the factory. While Schindler isn’t the only German who helped protect Jews during WWII, he is arguably one of the most famous, due in large part to the 1993 movie Schindler’s List.
Schindler’s Podgórze factory was converted to one of the most amazing and interactive museums I’ve visited in Europe. I highly recommend making a trip if you can. I took a ton of pictures, but didn’t want to post them all here; I think it takes away from the overall experience and sheer “whoa!” factor of the museum.

Krakus Mound:

Krakus Mound is the oldest structure and highest point in all of Kraków. Once used as a site for pagan rituals, now visitors come to see beautiful panoramic views of the city.
Legend holds that the mound was constructed to honor King Krak, the mythical founder of Kraków. People from all backgrounds filled their sleeves with sediment and traveled to the site to build an artificial mountain to honor their king. Although studies have shown this story to be false–it was most likely constructed in the 7th-10th centuries by a Slavonic colony–the legend is still great to know when you visit the space.
The day we visited was HOT but well worth the hour walk.
View to the abandoned Liban Quarry.

Liban Quarry (Kamieniolom Liban):

A forgotten place in a city of historic sites, Liban Quarry is currently abandoned, although this was once a place of significance for Kraków. Established by two Jewish families in 1873, the quarry was successful prior to German occupation. During WWII, the Nazis used the quarry as a forced labor camp for Polish prisoners. Krakus Mound is in the background here.
Photo via In Your Pocket.
The site was also used by Steven Spielberg to film Schindler’s List in 1993.
Photo via Untapped Cities.
I wanted to use the above photos of the inside of the quarry so you can see the current state of the site. While there are a few tours available (and an open entrance), this was even too much of a heights + safety issue for this usual trespasser. All of my photos were taken from the very narrow path between Krakus Mound and Płaszów.
And by narrow path, I mean TINY. There was only space enough for one person to travel down the hill.
The quarry can be entered at the end of this path. As the site was used for filming, many of the props for Schindler’s List were left behind, making for a confusing site of artifacts and filmmaking objects. For example, there is a small (and currently inaccessible) memorial to the 21 inmates murdered here during the liquidation of the camp. However, the discomforting walkway of Jewish headstones is a left-over from the film set. The real prisoners of this camp would have walked across the headstones of their ancestors to and from the quarry to Płaszów.

Płaszów Concentration Camp:

“Today almost nothing remains of the sprawling 80-hectare concentration camp in Płaszów – a district of Podgórze. In comparison to other Nazi prison camps, Płaszów was extremely well dismantled and has been the subject of very little historical excavation or on-site documentation until only recently (in summer 2017 archaeological works were undertaken in several parts of the camp). Those private homes which were commandeered by the Nazis and incorporated into KL Płaszów were returned to their owners after the war and today sit on the fringes of the former camp as inauspiciously as any other homes in the area. Large apartment blocks have been built on top of other parts of the former camp. As a result it is very difficult to grasp the scope of the camp or imagine what it looked like during the war, though an outdoor exhibit of 19 archival photographs with brief historical information now offer visitors some clues about the camp’s layout. Installed in November 2017, these sparse photo plaques are the first exhibits on the territory of the camp, which is overseen by the Kraków Museum. [Plans for a permanent exhibit on the camp’s history are in development.]”

In Your Pocket. 2020. “KL Płaszów Concentration Camp in Kraków”. Available here.
A short walk from Krakus Mound is the site of the former Konzentrationslager Plaszow bei Krakau, the Nazi concentration camp of Płaszów, built on two (destroyed) Jewish cemeteries. Largely unchanged from German occupation, the site looks more like a park (and is used as one_ than a place where thousands of people were murdered. Unlike Schindler’s Factory or Auschwitz, there are no tours, no multimedia displays, or instructions on how to visit this space: “the Nazi German concentration camp in Płaszów, today a wild, uneven expanse of dirt, grass, weeds and stone, which until recently gave little indication of its own existence, let alone the story of its wartime history.”
A comprehensive guide to visiting the site can be found here.
Photo via In Your Pocket.
There are two entrances to the camp: the first is from the west and on the path from Krakus Mound (photo here). The second entrance is through a number of apartment buildings to the main entrance of the camp (photo below).
While we took the more adventurous route through Liban Quarry–and I would recommend if you have time to visit all three sites–it was jarring to literally stumble out of a path and onto “the most horrific place in Kraków” without as much as a sign or marker of a place of unimaginable terror and where thousands are buried in unmarked graves.

This is very different from my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I’m incredibly grateful for the In Your Pocket guide to the Camp because otherwise we would have been (even more) lost.
We stumbled upon this sign marking the second entrance (the main spot) to the site. In 1945, seeing that the war was lost, the Płaszów camp was liquidated; in an attempt to cover their crimes, prisoners were forced on a death march to Auschwitz. Those who survived the march were killed in the gas chambers. Płaszów was dismantled, mass graves exhumed, bodies were burnt, and ashes scattered across the site in an attempt to hide the crimes that took place here from the incoming Soviet Army, who entered the city on January 19th. The site today is exactly how the Soviets would have seen the former camp when they captured Kraków from the Germans.
The Grey House originally belonged to the Jewish community but during the war was used by the Nazis–specifically, the office of Camp Commandant Amon Goeth and where he randomly shot prisoners as depicted in Schinder’s List–to house the camp’s officers. One of the only buildings still standing in the camp, it was known as a place of horror and torture for inmates.
One of the oddest aspects of the memorial for me is the close proximity of residential buildings to the site. Today, the space is used as a park by locals; I saw a number of people walking their dogs along the paths.
The monument to Sarah Schenirer was built in 2005. Schenirer (1883-1935) founded the first religious school for girls in Kraków, a model that was repeated across Poland; over 250 schools were opened in the country during her lifetime. Schenirer’s original headstone was destroyed when the camp was built and activists rebuilt this headstone in the supposed spot of resting place. You can see the rubble of the former pre-burial hall in the background.
The Roll Call Area (Apellplatz) was a platform for roll-calls and selections for prisoners of the camp. Here, medical examinations took place to determine how “fit” for work the inmates were for the intense labor used for Płaszów. This site was built on two mass graves of the bodies of mostly women, children, and the elderly from the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto in March 1943; the Nazis dug these two large pits the night before the ghetto was closed and its inmates were transported here, the Belzec extermination camp, or Auschwitz-Birkenau. Camp prisoners later that summer were also executed and buried in these mass graves. Over 3000 people are estimated to be buried at this site.
The site of the New Jewish Cemetery, established in 1932 after Podgórze became part of the city of Kraków. These remains were discovered fairly recently as landscaping of the memorial restarted after decades of neglect. Unfortunately, because the headstones were used to pave the roads of Płaszów, it is unknown who is buried here.
This is close to Apellplatz.
Near the main entrance of the camp (note the apartment buildings on the left) is the rubble of the Old Cemetery of the Podgórze Jewish Community’s pre-burial hall. This absolutely gorgeous hall was built between 1920-1932 and was a source of pride for the local Jewish population here. At the beginning of German occupation, the once holy site was used as a stable for livestock.
When the Nazis decided to expand the camp, they demolished the hall to construct train tracks; the demolition was a source of amusement for the SS, who made a public spectacle of the destruction of this once holy building that stood over 25 meters (82 feet) high.

I have a lot of mixed feelings on the Płaszów Concentration Camp memorial. Especially after visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and seeing the amount of care that has gone into the restoration of the camp and memorializing what took place there, walking through Płaszów was a jarring experience. The location of the former camp to the main centers of Kraków, along with the commemoration of a number of significant Jewish sites in Podgórze, you would think there would be a higher level of effort to care and remembrance here. A severe lack of archival research–archaeological efforts were started in 2017–is disappointing to see in a place that clearly has not received the same amount of funding or recognition as other areas of the city, especially following the outpour of public interest after the release of Schindler’s List. While the In Your Pocket site does a tremendous job, the fact that no official map of the area–or of its outdoor exhibits–currently exists is a tragedy to a place of unfathomable horror. Again, to stumble onto a mass burial site with no real marker or designation is inexcusable. I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a level of outrage if parts of one of the more well-known camps were sold to build residential apartments. How we respect and learn from the past matters. There is a push for a more permanent memorial on the camp grounds and I hope that materializes in the future.

“…bear in mind that though the area looks like little more than a neglected public park, this is actually a sacred place of remembrance. In addition to whatever remains exist from the two Jewish cemeteries once located on this site, it is speculated that the remains of 8,000-10,000 Płaszów prisoners are still located within the area of the camp. As a few signs near the edges of the camp clearly state: “Please respect the grievous history of this site.”

In Your Pocket. 2020. “KL Płaszów Concentration Camp in Kraków”. Available here.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Miejscówka Craft Beer:

We had so much fun spending the afternoon here after visiting the Krakus Mound and the Plaszow Camp. Known for their sandwiches and great craft beer selection, Miejscówka also had a nice outdoor space right on the water.
While the pub unfortunately closed in October of 2020, they still sell their amazing sandwiches in the city.

Watching: Westworld Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: The Floodlines Podcast (The Atlantic)

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Coffee Shops, Snacks, and Restaurants

THE 2019-in-review post you’ve been waiting to read is HERE.

Last year I had some of the best food of my life and couldn’t just limit this list to strictly brunch as I did in 2018. If we’re being honest, I couldn’t choose between a couple of my favorites, so I made an obnoxiously long list so I could include allthethings. Classic Spilis.

I’ll review my favorite coffee shops, brunch stops, the clutch snacks of 2019, favorite dinners, and best desserts. Because it’s me, I also included two lists of my favorite cuisines too: Indian restaurants and nachos. Because let’s be honest, is it REALLY an Ashlynbestoffoodlist without them?

The answer, dear reader, is no.

Here we go!

Favorite Coffee Spots:

I’m an extremely boring coffee drinker (cowboy coffee–Americano, black). While I’m no-frills on my coffee, I love spending time in unique shops when traveling to a new place. Here are a couple of my favorite spots from 2019.

Brașov, Romania:

Habitat Concept Room 
Brașov, Romania
We stopped at Habitat for the morning before our trip to Bran Castle.

Gdańsk, Poland.:

Café Józef K.
Gdańsk, Poland
Absolutely loved this shop! I visited during one of our last mornings in Gdańsk and enjoyed this view. The interior is super unique.
Drukarnia Cafe
Gdańsk, Poland
Drukarnia takes their coffee seriously. It’s hard not to be super impressed with their attention to beans and brews.

Paris, France:

Soul Kitchen
Paris, France
The incline up to Soul Kitchen is completely worth the hike for a coffee or breakfast at this little shop in Montmarte.
Restaurant La Recyclerie
Paris, France
A former train station, this cafe offers coffee, lunch, and dinner in an enormous, reclaimed space. Their menu changes daily (based on availability in their urban farm) and they also host workshops on repairs and community activism.
Coffee here is only one euro! They also serve unique cocktails later in the day.
Americano with a view.

Kraków, Poland:

Massolit Books & Cafe
Kraków, Poland
I spent a few hours in this cozy cafe sipping cold brew and perusing their used books. Their coffee is great and they offer hundreds of English titles at affordable prices.

Tromsø, Norway:

Tromsø, Norway
This. Cinnamon. Roll. Though. I wandered into Smørtorget and immediately decided I had to try one of their freshly baked goods. This roll was perfect for coffee-dipping. The space is gorgeous and cozy, especially during the Norwegian winter.

Örebro, Sweden:

Örebro, Sweden
I had to go with my first authentic Fika in Sweden! This vegan treat was a perfect way to start my first day in Örebro.

Best Brunch of 2019:

Budapest, Hungary:

Murok Cafe
Budapest, Hungary
I know, I know, this isn’t a food photo, but Murok is so adorable that I had to include this picture over the bagels and hummus we shared on a chilly November morning. We stopped by Murok so I could shop at the Conscious Design Market, which featured a number of local designers selling sustainable products. To top it off, Murok also allows dogs, so I happily nibbled on a bagel while looking at artisan goods AND pet puppies. The ultimate win, win, win.
Budapest, Hungary
A solo trip to Budapest meant extra time wandering the city and visiting a couple of places on my (ever-growing) list. I’d been hoping to visit Szimply for a while–they offer a continuously changing menu with a ton of veg options–and happily had an amazing (and super affordable) meal. This avocado toast was out.of.control and I literally gasped when they brought it out to me. Those colors! That egg!

Stuttgart, Germany:

Stuttgart, Germany
This adorable brunch started off one of my best days of 2019. Kleinigkeit is small and their staff is super friendly; we had our poached eggs with a beautiful view. I can’t recommend this spot enough!

London, England:

Caravan Exmouth Market
London, England
Our last breakfast in London was one of the best brunches of the year. Caravan has a huge veg and dietary-restrictions-friendly menu, along with an extensive coffee selection. I ordered the jalapeno cornbread (!!) with chipotle mayo and avo. I’m still dreaming about this absolutely perfect brunch dish.

Warsaw, Poland:

Shabby Chic Coffee & Wine
Warsaw, Poland
What’s better than brunch? TWO in one day! We visited Warsaw this spring with two of favorite people–Heather and Chris–and had wayyyy too much fun eating pierogi and wandering the city. One morning, Heather and I left early to grab coffee at Shabby Chic and ended up ordering this amazing open-faced sandwich to share. Homemade bread+blue cheese+pears+walnuts+honey is THE combination.
Restauracja Zapiecek
Warsaw, Poland
Full from our secret sandwich, Heather and I brought the coffee back to our apartment, ready to head back out for brunch with the guys. We stopped at Zapiecek for pierogi (acceptable at any time of the day) and ate our dumplings outside in the sun.

Paris, France:

Treize au Jardin
Paris, France
To say I planned our trip to Paris around the World Cup match and brunch at Treize au Jardin is not an exaggeration. Southern bunch?! ALL DAY?!
After ten years in the south, I MISS brunch. And I mean the brunch food that sticks to you all day. I ordered the tomato pie, one of my favorite dishes of all time, and it was delicious. I would rank it third overall best tomato pie of my life–a huge accomplishment–only after my wonderful friend Heather’s version and Babs Ambrose’s pie. It was OUT OF CONTROL GOOD.
Biscuits and pimento cheese–does life get any better than this?

Favorite Snacks:

Somewhere Outside Chernobyl, Ukraine:

Spicy Mustard & Cheese Sandwich
Somewhere Outside Chernobyl, Ukraine
As I’ve mentioned before, I am 100% a brown-bag lunch person. Thankfully we all packed sandwiches on our day trip from Kyiv to Chernobyl, and damn those snacks were clutch. This mustard was unexpectedly spicy but really good (I also LOVE horseradish and to say it was horseradish-forward is an understatement).
If you’re planning on visiting the site of a Soviet nuclear meltdown, pack sandwiches. I can’t stress that enough.

Glasgow, Scotland:

Truffle Fries & Macaroni and Cheese
Glasgow, Scotland
Is there a better combination than mac & cheese and french fries? This pre-dinner snack was perfect after a looooong day exploring the city. This literary-themed speakeasy also had amazing cocktails–all you need in the world.

Bran Castle, Romania:

Turkish Coffee & Cheese Roll
Bran Castle
Bran, Romania
Another amazing combination of drink+snacks was the Turkish coffee we ordered before entering Bran Castle and my cheese bread I engulfed after the tour. I LOVE Turkish coffee and the guy making these was hilarious and kind. He even allowed me to ask him multiple questions about the process and snap a few pictures of his work.
This freshly baked cheesy bread was amazing and the perfect end to our Bran Castle visit.

Tromsø, Norway:

Vegan Hot Dog
Raketten Bar & Pølse
Tromsø, Norway
Known as the home of the best hot dogs in the world (according to guests) and the tiniest bar in the universe (according to aliens), Raketten is a small, one-person hot dog making operation in the center of Tromsø. I ordered the vegan version, complete with spicy homemade mustard, fried onions, and a freshly baked ciabatta bun. Whoever thought to put a hot dog in ciabatta?! The kicker here is that I don’t even really like hot dogs and yet this was so good, it was one of my favorite snacks of the year.

Budapest, Hungary:

Vörösmarty Square Market
Budapest, Hungary
One of the absolute must-have snacks in Hungary (or honestly in Europe) is known by a number of names, depending on the region. Tócsni is basically the potato pancake version of lángos, a deep fried dough (similar to an American elephant ear) covered in garlic, sour cream, cheese, and peppers. I prefer Tócsni, especially from the Budapest Christmas Market. Totally worth the food hangover.

Favorite Indian Food Spots:

Indian is one of our favorite cuisines. I’m still trying to work on my skills at home, but there is nothing like authentic meals when we travel. Thankfully, I found a couple of great locations last year:

Fairfield, California:

Amar Indian Cuisine
Fairfield, California
My brother-in-law, niece, and I took a trip to Amar so I could stock up on Indian spices before returning to Hungary. We stopped in the store, grabbed a couple of things (including a huge container of ghee–score!) and at check-out the owner recommended having lunch at their restaurant next door.
I’m so glad we did! This was Caroline’s first Indian meal and girl can put down the naan like her aunt. The restaurant was great and had soooo many options available for lunch.

Gdańsk, Poland:

Zaika Truck
Gdańsk, Poland
We grabbed lunch at Zaika while we were walking St. Dominic’s Fair. We ordered the curry and loved it.

London, England:

Indian Kati Rolls
Camden Market, London, England
My apologies for the blurry photo but I only snapped one picture before eating this amazing wrap. We stopped at Camden Market on Saturday afternoon and the entire place was absolutely packed with people. Thankfully I was able to find the Indian Kati stand and this wrap was incredible. Masala paneer in a naan wrap is all you need in the world.

Kraków, Poland:

Bhajan Cafe
Kraków, Poland
My lunch at Bhajan was the perfect way to end an amazing day in Kraków. I traveled to the city solo and spent the morning wandering the parks and visiting a couple of bookshops. The entire menu is veg friendly and the staff were kind enough to not judge me eating a meal meant for two people entirely on my own. Sooo good.

Budapest, Hungary:

Rajkot Palace
Budapest, Hungary
I actually had my favorite Indian meal on New Years Eve. Rajkot Palace was amazing; this Palak paneer was on point and Chris’s chicken vindaloo had him sweating from the spiciness.

Best Dinners:

Glasgow, Scotland:

Hillhead Bookclub
Glasgow, Scotland
There is something to be said for just honestly good sandwiches. We spent our last night in Glasgow enjoying Hillhead Bookclub’s unique menu and options. This veg reuben included seitan pastrami on dark rye bread.

Cluj-Napoca Romania:

Casa Dacilor Brancusi
Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Our last night in Romania we ate an amazing traditional meal at Casa Dacilor Brancusi. Of course everything I ordered was potato-based (always, ha) and this dinner was the perfect end to a fun road-trip through Romania.
This is the Salată Orientală.
I also ordered Cartofi franțuzești, which is a French style Romanian dish of potatoes, eggs, and cheese. My amazing friend Monica (whose hometown is Cluj!) always made this dish for me in Hungary and it was so special to order this with her in Romania.
The star of the show were these Papanaşi, Romanian doughnuts. I still dream about them.

Kraków, Poland:

Marchewka z Groszkiem
Kraków, Poland
I absolutely love this restaurant. I ordered my favorite pierogi–Ruskie–with a side of the blue cheese sauce (out of this world).
As well as strawberry and mascarpone dumplings for dessert. The owners were kind enough to let us order a couple dozen to take home with us.

Tromsø, Norway:

Bardus Bar
Tromsø, Norway
We absolutely loved this tiny restaurant in Tromsø. I ordered the mushroom and barley risotto and it was soooo good.
Plus you can’t help but love a dinner with a view of the city’s library! ❤ ❤

Kyiv, Ukraine:

Kyiv, Ukraine
I can’t say enough about O’Panas. Their menu is incredible–full of traditional Ukrainian food and wine–and the atmosphere is fun and comfortable. A place I can order a deruny, mushroom soup, and varenyky?! Easily my favorite dinner of 2019.
View from our table.

Best Dessert:

Suisun City, California:

It’s It Ice Cream
Suisun City, California
One of the best parts of visiting my sister in northern California is sharing an It’s It ice cream sandwich with the coolest girl in the world, my niece Caroline. Our favorite is strawberry and according to Caroline, ice cream sandwiches are appropriate for any time of the day. Best way to live life.

Pannonhalma, Hungary:

Pannonhalma, Hungary
After a long walk around the Pannonhalma grounds (in perfect weather, such a beautiful day) we stopped for a late lunch at nearby Viator. This dessert was amazing.

Szigliget, Hungary:

Villa Kabala
Szigliget, Hungary
An absolutely terrible picture, I know, but one of my favorite desserts of last year was enjoyed overlooking Lake Balaon on a date with a good friend. We ordered four (!) courses and left happy. This restaurant is an absolute gem.

Mezőlak, Hungary:

Garden & Ice Cream Shop
Mezőlak, Hungary
Only open during the summer months, this adorable shop in Mezőlak offers the best ice cream around. We spent a couple of perfect afternoons enjoying ice cream and wandering the small village.

Mindszentkálla, Hungary:

Kő fagyi?
Mindszentkálla, Hungary
Located near Balaton in the sleepy village of Mindszentkálla, Kő Fagyi? is a quaint ice cream shop with absolutely amazing flavors. The owners were previously a dress designer and software developer who sold gave up their careers in Budapest to make ice cream. I was encouraged to try a scoop of mango–which is usually my least favorite flavor–and within seconds I knew this cone would be the best I’d have all year.

Favorite Nachos:

Nachos are my all-time favorite food. While finding a decent order in Europe is tricky (so much disappointment) I managed to find a couple of awesome options this year.

Örebro, Sweden:

Mocca Deli
Örebro, Sweden
An unexpected treat in Sweden, these nachos were topped with all the best veggies.

London, England:

Maria Sabina @ Southbank Centre Winter Market
Jubilee Gardens, London, England
I know nachos don’t scream “winter food” but I couldn’t pass up the chance to order my favorite food at the winter market in London. This guac was amazing.

Tromsø, Norway:

Tromsø, Norway
Here’s the thing: Oumph! brand meat substitutes are the absolute best. High in protein, low in carbs and fat, the Swedish brand is my favorite. It’s always such a treat to find a restaurant that carries Oumph! and this was the first time I’ve had them as nachos (all the hearts for eyes emjois).
So amazing, I ordered them twice.

Vacaville, California:

Freebird’s World Burrito
Vacaville, California
Sorry Europe, but nachos in America are just so good. I ordered Freebird’s when I visited my sister in California last spring. My only complaint is that these nachos used Beyond Meat, (which is great!), but that they were more expensive than the steak option. Boo.
Still awesome, even at the premium price.

Sign in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Cheers to good food in 2020! 🥂🥂

2019 Year in Review: AllThe[Travel]Things

2019 was a busy travel year for me! I was lucky enough to visit amazing new places and return to a couple of my favorite cities. As potentially my last full year abroad, I wanted to make the most of my time in Europe and I definitely accomplished that goal this year.

I tried to be as present in the moment as I could; mindfulness has always been a struggle for me–I’m always on to the next thing–but I am getting better at taking time to enjoy just being here.

My super fun murder mystery birthday party! LOOK AT THAT CARROT CAKE CHEESECAKE.

In Classic Ashlyn style, I wanted my travel post to include all my favorites: new and old places, landscapes wandered, and the best libraries I visited in 2019. I also had AMAZING experiences including traveling in Warsaw during the 75th anniversary of the Uprising, petting reindeer above the Arctic Circle, and attending a World Cup match in Paris.

Here’s a (mostly photo) overview of AllTheThings2019: travel, libraries, sports, experiences, and of course, dogs.


Bran Castle, Romania:

Brașov, Romania:

Chernobyl, Ukraine:

Cluj-Napoca, Romania:

Esztergom, Hungary:

Gdańsk, Poland:

Glasgow, Scotland:

Kyiv, Ukraine:

Mindszentkálla, Hungary:

Örebro, Sweden:

Pannonhalma, Hungary:

Paris, France:

Peleș Castle, Romania:

Pripyat, Ukraine:

Stockholm, Sweden:

Stuttgart, Germany:

Tromsø, Norway:

Versailles, France:

Warsaw, Poland:


Bratislava, Slovakia:

Hungarian Countryside:

Somló Mountain during poppy season.

Kraków, Poland:

London, England:


Cluj-Napoca, Romania:

Hoia-Baciu Forest

Fertorákos, Hungary:

Fertőrákosi Steinbruch (Quarry)

Gdańsk, Poland:


Kraków, Poland:

Ojcow National Park

Örebro, Sweden:

Oset and Rynningeviken Nature Preserve

Stockholm, Sweden:

Rosendals Trädgård

Stuttgart, Germany:


Tromsø, Norway:

Lake Prestvannet

Vallejo, California:

Blue Rock Springs Park

Warsaw, Poland:

Palace on the Isle (Pałac Łazienkowski) in Royal Baths Park


London, England:

The British Library ❤ ❤

Örebro, Sweden:

Pannonhalma, Hungary:

Archabbey Library

Stuttgart, Germany:

Tromsø, Norway:

Warsaw, Poland:

Warsaw University Library ❤ ❤
One of my favorite places in the world. Books + Rooftop garden!


Budapest, Hungary:

Budapest Beer Week
New Years!
Buda Castle Wine Festival

Gdańsk, Poland:

St. Dominic’s Fair (held every year for the last 756 years!)
Pierogi-making class

Tromsø, Norway:

Meeting new friends at a Sami reindeer camp ❤ ❤
Hiking frozen lakes above the Arctic Circle

Versailles, France:

Wandering through the Queen’s Hamlet

Warsaw, Poland:

In Warsaw for the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.


Győr, Hungary:

First ever Junior World Championships!
Team Russia
Team Hungary
Team USA

Paris, France:


Stuttgart, Germany:

Stuttgart World Cup!
Aliya Mustafina, Russia
Simone Biles, USA

Warsaw, Poland:


AllThe[Dog]Things ♥:

Porkchop in Budapest
Arya Tonks judging your life choices


I’m so thankful for everything I had the opportunity to see and do last year.

Egészségedre to making 2020 all you hope it to be!

Listening Moon: The Original Soundtrack (Clint Mansell)