Is Krakow overrated? And why a month in Poland was enough for us to not come back.

Is Krakow overrated? And why a month in Poland was enough for us to not come backIs Krakow overrated? 

Brazil has been at the bottom of the list of all the places Lissette and I have been. But that trip was back in 2007, way before we started travelling full-time in 2014. Since then – except for a bad stay in Lisbon a few years ago – we haven’t really had a negative experience. Certainly none that significantly shaped our outlook on a country and its people.

Until Poland.

For Lissette, Poland is now at the bottom of her list of countries (Sorry Brazil, for me you’re still ranked at the top of my “crappiest experience” category).

 

Related: Our Best and Worst Slow Travel Bases over 5 years of Full-time travel


Our bad experiences in both Brazil and Poland had one thing in common – our experiences with the locals.

I’ll get to that a little further in this post.

But first…

 

Is Krakow overrated?

Krakow is one of Europe’s oldest cities and has a fascinating history. It still has remnants of the incredible fortifications that protected the city (the Barbican being the highlight), it has an impressive (but not spectacular) castle, some beautiful churches, a happening Jewish district, some interesting mounds, a river where you can walk and cycle, and some poignant day trips in the nearby vicinity. I have more detail on my Krakow Guide.

Krakow is nice. And if you’re like most travellers you’ll come here for 3 days to a week and you’ll have enough to keep you busy and will enjoy the old town.

Is Krakow interesting, pretty, and historically significant? Yes. Will you feel “blown away” by the city’s major points of interest? I doubt it.

Besides the “wow” factor, once you’ve done the Big 3 in Krakow (the Old Town, Wawel castle, and Kamimierz) you’ve basically got it all covered. You can eat some sausage, drink vodka, see the Kościuszko Mound and museum. Maybe visit Nowa Huta if you’re really looking for something to do. You can go to the farmer’s market and eat some cheese and Pierogis. You can go to the Stained Glass Museum and do a workshop (which we did and it ended up being a highlight). These are all fun things to do and you’ll learn some history and culture along the way.

Is Krakow overrated? Images.

As I say, Krakow is a nice. Over our month there we had walks along the river, enjoying the greenery while looking at the castle. It reminded me of the Ottawa canal. Which is fine but…

I don’t mean to slam Krakow. It’s not Krakow’s fault that people compare it to some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. And it’s not Krakow’s fault that it is jam-packed with tourists in summer.

But is Krakow overrated? Definitely. We were there a whole month and I could give you some more reasons why I think it’s overrated. But I’ll leave it there.

And if you think we’re the only ones to think this way I was surprised to find that Nomadic Matt has exactly the same opinion of Krakow.

 

 

Why a month in Poland was enough

We don’t need to be in the most beautiful city to appreciate a place. We’ve been in places (like Belgrade, Skopje, and Sarajevo) where, despite bad infrastructure and poverty, we’ve felt a connection to the city and its people.

We met a few really nice people in Krakow. Many were vendors at the Farmer’s market. One lady made us try out all her cheeses. A girl that we met at a biological-produce stand gave us some free dried fruits to take with us when told her we were leaving Krakow. The young man at the fish store was always happy to practice his English with us and would go overboard being helpful and friendly. And then there was the friendly owner at the gym where we signed up to for the month. He would always help us out with our pronunciation of Polish words.

Is Krakow overrated? And why a month in Poland was enough for us to not come back.

 


Sometimes just a few pleasant experiences with people can leave you with a warm feeling about a place. Unfortunately every pleasant experience in Krakow was outnumbered by a larger number of unpleasant experiences.

 

Nowhere over the last 4 years have we encountered people as generally unfriendly as the Poles

Not a day would go by without Lissette getting stared at. In some places she gets looked at because she looks different. People wonder what she is. In Krakow they were hard, unfriendly looks. One day we were walking and an old lady was staring at her, giving her the up-and-down with that look on her face that you get when you’ve just smelled a fart. I noticed and stared right back at her. I just wanted her to know that I didn’t appreciate the dirty looks and that she should mind her own business. She wasn’t going to back down. We ended up in a 10 second staring contest.

We’ve done a lot of travelling through Eastern/Central Europe in countries where populist, right wing governments have been elected. But travelling in places like Hungary and the Czech Republic we’ve never encountered any outward signs of racism. We’ve gotten used to thinking “well, that’s politics. Real people aren’t as racist as their politics”. Poland proved us wrong. It was the first place we outwardly felt racism.

 

We met a few expats while in Krakow. An Australian expat working at the local grocery store (married to a Polish man) asked me what I thought of Poland. “Fine” I said, being polite. “I hate it” she told me before going into a rant about the Poles (“unfriendly, closed, of few words, lacking in humor”).

A Polish-American wrote me on facebook, describing the Poles as “the most miserable people ever”…”racist” before recounting a few shocking examples. “And our family is Polish!”

 

When we think of Krakow, one word comes to mind. Heavy. Everything feels heavy.  There doesn’t seem to be much joy.

Poland is the most religious country in Europe. During our first week we visited a few of the churches. One of the first we visited was the beautiful Dominican Church in the old town. The church was nearly empty. Going through the church, we walked into the back chapel. Back there, standing and sitting in silence were almost a hundred people, most young in the 20’s and 30’s. I couldn’t figure it out. Lissette did though. “They’re waiting their turn to confess”.

I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.

church in Krakow, Poland

 

I have pretty definite feelings about religion which I wrote about here.

Lissette has always been more forgiving about religion. But even Poland soured her. “I’m sure Jesus is closer to my colour than to theirs” she says. “And where in the bible does it say to hate your fellow man?”

In the case of Poland you’d think history would have made them more sympathetic and open. Everyone know what happened during WWII. In the 1960’s – after all that happened during the war – the government launched an anti-semitic campaign that led to a mass exodus of Jews. The present government is trying to rewrite history on all that by the way. You’d think the Poles would have all the anti-semitism out of their system by now. There are very few Jews left living in Poland. But no. We haven’t seen as many anti-semitic signs and symbols as we’ve seen in Krakow.

 

Visiting all the churches in Krakow (as I say, there’s a lot of nice churches), I kept thinking of Pope John Paul II. He’s the only Polish Pope ever. When he was chosen to be Pope he was the first non-Italian Pope in over 400 years. He’s revered in Poland. Everyone loved Pope John Paul, even non religious people.

What was Pope John Paul known for?  He tried to unite the different people and religions of the world. He travelled to 129 countries trying to achieve that goal. He travelled more than any other Pope.

Whenever I saw his image in church the irony struck me. Here was this great man trying to promote harmony among the different races and religions. Today the Catholic Church that he was a part of tacitly supports the the most radical right wing government in Europe.

 

pope in Krakow, Poland

 

I mentioned off the top that I have never met locals as unfriendly to me as when I was in Brazil in 2007. They had no problems with Lissette though. She fit right in.

Poland was the opposite. She was the outsider and felt it. Sometimes it was intentional (as was the case with the old lady), sometimes it was just gawking because maybe they’ve never seen a Latina in their lives. But it was never friendly and certainly never welcoming.

Lissette is the one between the two of us that is the most engaging. She’ll always talk to locals, ask them questions, make jokes. Meeting people is what she enjoys the most from travelling. Poland is the first place I’ve seen her shut down and not bother anymore. And that’s a shame.

Keep in mind that we were in Krakow for a month, living a 15 minute walk outside the center. We weren’t there for a weekend, spending all our time in the friendly confines of the touristy old town.

Summing it up, Poland was the place that we’ve felt the most uncomfortable as a mixed race couple. Enough that we feel no need to come back.

 

——————-


I’m going to have a lot of people really angry at me for this post. You might not like it but that was our experience and I’m just being honest.

The one thing I feel bad about is generalizing. As I mention above, we also met some very nice people in Krakow. When we travel different places it is these people we end up remembering. I’m sure there are many more Polish people who are tolerant to other people and cultures. They don’t deserve to be lumped into my generalized categorization of Poles in this post. To these people I’m sorry that I’ve offended you. Please don’t stop being open to foreigners.

 

* On a side note. After our Krakow experience we were nervous about what people would be like going further East. Our next destination was Ukraine. How would people be there?
We ended up in Lviv where people were amazing. Friendly, open and curious. Some of the friendliest people we’ve met anywhere. On one of our first days an old lady on the street felt the need to talk to Lissette. She had blue, twinkly eyes and a sweet smile and when she talked to Lissette she gave her an affectionate squeeze on the arm.

 

Related: Is Lviv (Ukraine) the most underrated city In Europe?

 

 Like This Article? Pin it!

Is Krakow overrated?
Is Krakow overrated?

95 Comments

  1. Sounds more like you should have done your homework prior to travelling to Poland. Understanding the history and general culture alone is critical – which one would assume you would know this by now if you travel a lot… You’re acting as if Poland hasn’t recently recovered from Soviet control and thousands of years of oppression and wars – nothing that western Europe (or much of the world, specifically western) can even fathom.
    Also, being friendly is not the same as being extroverted and entertaining. It sounds like you may have expected a dance and show for the simple fact you’re a tourist instead of showing respect to the people in Krakow. Learn about the people and culture first before choosing to spend a month in their home.

    1. I like how it’s our fault and that we’re expecting people to “give us a dance and show”. We’ve gotten several comments along that line.

      No, like the 50 or so countries we’ve visited, we just want to explore and learn without glares or dirty looks. Somehow the other 49 countries can pull that off…

  2. Thanks for this post!
    I’d like to add that I love to visit Krakow for a couple of days. I haven’t seen mentioned the Wieliczka Salt Mines and Auschwitz as 2 major drawing points of the area while there are more places that can be visited from this base (e.g. Zakopane). But this is for a short visit which -as you mentioned- could be quite nice.
    On the other hand, living in Poland -even in Krakow- is a whole different story and even a young white male I had a lot of shit since I had long hair, wasn’t religious (or outspoken atheist to fit in the other group) and generally was different it just wasn’t accepted fully, even by young people.
    My experience is from 2010 from the city of Poznan.

  3. Yeah, maybe thats why Poland was rated 3rd most welcoming country in the world by thousands of tourists.
    https://kafkadesk.org/2019/01/09/czech-republic-and-poland-ranked-as-second-and-third-most-welcoming-countries-in-the-world/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/poland/comments/ae6s5i/poland_ranked_as_third_most_welcoming_country_in/

    This blog is literally LMAO.. You were travelling around Poland with ur prejudice about racism and intolerance just to find proofs thats it all truth and Poland is bad. You are probably indoctrinated guy with jewish roots , you hate Poland and you visited Poland just to “confirm” all these prejudices about this country. Noone believes you tho.

    1. You’ve linked a post that’s based on booking.com reviews and a forum thread that’s based on the same post. I’m sure you can do better than that if trying to make a point.

      So I’ve been indoctrinated by Jews? Interesting

  4. Hello.
    Once again, you have written something that hits close to the bone. This is one reason I keep coming back to your blog: you talk about issues that are not usually discussed, if acknowledged at all, in the travel blogs I have come across.
    Hamtramck, a town that is completely surrounded by Detroit, Michigan, where I am from originally, has been a mecca for Polish ex pats for generations. And yes, the racism there is so thick one can cut it with a knife, primarily among the Polish.
    I had acquaintances ( called them friends before realizing how right wing they were in 2016) there, originally from Poland. After a couple of drinks, I found them often preoccupied with talking about “the Jewish people” (and how well they treated them, despite thier Jewish ness) back in Poland. I remember dropping one of them off at his parents house more than once; I had to park a block away and was never introduced ( I have Native and African heritage) to his parents.
    Today, Hamtramck has accumulated a significant Muslim population, from Bangladesh, Yemen and other places. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people of Polish descent mention how troublesome the “others”are, and that they are “taking over”. Someone taking over a place YOU IMMIGRATED to…the irony is unbearable.
    Hamtramck is very racially diverse. I have had mostly positive interactions with Bosnians, Bangladesh, Yemeni, Ukranians, Black and White Americans, as well as others whose ethnicities I cannot identify. It seems the Polish population there is the only group obsessed with pointing out the “inferiority” of people who do not look like them or worship as they do. What you say smacks of a truth most of us do not wish to acknowledge.
    I always worry about how I will be received when traveling because of what I look like. People have asked why I enjoy visiting Canada so much. It is simple. There, I am just a man. In Canada, the further from the states I travel, the more normal I feel. It is a shame that I have to go to another country so as to live like a regular human being for a while. I feel more comfortable in Montreal, Toronto, and London than in any state in the USA, my nation of birth. Sad. You are fortunate to have a Canadian passport. Keep writing.

    1. Thanks very much for the feedback FP.
      Very interesting what you say. I really don’t have too much exposure to Poles except that I had a Polish guy in Montreal who cut my hair every month or so. So it was a bit of a surprise when we arrived in Poland and felt what we felt. Poland was on our travel list for a few years and we have Polish Facebook friends who seem very nice…but you never know how the general feeling of a place is until you actually go there. It disappointed us.
      I’m glad you feel comfortable in Canada. I won’t tell you that every little place is open (there are some small rural towns where you might get looks) but people will never say anything to your face or be rude. That would be very un-Canadian. As far as big cities go, they’re totally multicultural. It’s one of the great things about Canada (not that we’re perfect, but I think it’s a pretty tolerant country generally).

  5. Each person has a different experience, and even if I disagree with you (As I told you before, in Poland I have had only god experiences as spanish person… and I think many polish people genuinely like Spain) I respect that you are honest about your feelings. Things are complicated, because small things as for example the neighbourhood where you stay (and the people who live there) can change dramatically your experience. And the luck is extremely important (for example as I wrote in another comment, in Czech Republic I had really bad luck with many people that I met… and in Poland it was the opossite for me… but I can’t judge because in the end I only met less than 0’001% of the population of these countries!).

    Again I disagree with religion; for example, in Spain the regions where people are religious, are usually friendlier than the more secular (people in the south of Spain are much more open and easy going than in the north). People in the balkans are much more friendly than people in Britain (being the Balkans much more religious and conservative than Britain).

    When you talk about Ukraine, you have to keep in mind that is a country that is more conservative than Poland: regarding LGTB, genders, etc. You can check the data on the internet. Again, countries that you know like Georgia or Armenia are more much more conservative than poland (in the Caucusus, for example, to see local girls with shorts skirts it’s still rare… compare it to how polish girls dress in summer).

    Anyway, to be honest I don’t think that in general the ideology or the religion of a country determines the friendliness of the people (well, with the exception of some extreme cases, for example Saudi Arabia or North Korea… where every aspec in their normal lifes is related with religion or ideology).

    1. Hi Spanish Guy,
      It’s more than about religion, it’s the mix of religion and politics. We lived in Croatia 14 months, where they are very religious, and we never faced dirty looks or comments. And as you say, we were in Sevilla for 2 months and people were very welcoming towards Lissette. So much so that, as I’ve mentioned, we’re looking to make Spain home next year. By the way, Lissette was a bit nervous about our stay in Spain after hearing a few negative things. People were great and we found language and not colour to be the uniting factor.

      So it’s not just about religion or being conservative.

      I agree with you about experiences being subjective. We could go back tomorrow and maybe just have great experiences. But when you are somewhere a month you get a pretty good sample. I disagree with you that you “can’t judge”. We judge everything in our lives, from our experience going to a restaurant, a cafe, or from buying a product. Experiences might not be 100% accurate because every experience is unique (just like going to a restaurant on a day the chef is having a bad day) but it wouldn’t be human nature to have an experience and not form an opinion from it. Besides which, if I didn’t have an opinion what the heck would I write about? 🙂

  6. Hi Frank! It was interesting to read your post. A bit sad that you had such an experience. But at the start I want to say that you should not apologize for offending someone with this post! It’s just an opinion. Opinions vary (just like experiences) and everyone is entitled to have one. Even if others don’t like it or “feel” offended by it. This hyper sensitivity drives me crazy nowadays. Everyone is offended and triggered by every little thing. My experiences in some places (Thailand) were horrible while others loved it.
    I know Poland had a communist past – I’ve traveled through a lot of countries in Eastern Europe and sometimes the stares are annoying. Krakow is nice and pretty but it’s nothing that special.
    Even for me – a local from there, in Krakow, once I went to a restaurant after a hike since I got hungry. Of course, I wasn’t very nicely dressed but the place wasn’t fancy at all. And I heard some dumb people commenting about me and looking at me up and down. Why can’t they just look after their own business. So I understand what you’re saying. On the other hand, I traveled to Poland with my really dark skinned friends from Mauritius/Brazil and they had no problems at all – and they traveled on their own for a couple of days – even to smaller, unknown towns.
    When I traveled to countries like Azerbaijan, India or South East Asia, I got a lot of weird looks to as I stood out. But I couldn’t care less 🙂 You should have visited the mountains down south instead of staying in Krakow for so long – it’s a natural paradise. Or go to other cities – I assume the cities in the West are more liberal and free.

    1. Hi Tom! Nice to hear from you, it’s been a while. And I see you’ve been busy writing on some interesting places on your blog.

      Thank you so much for your comment, it’s very much appreciated coming from a Pole. Lissette especially appreciates it, having felt like the subject of a lot of stares. She laughed at your “Why can’t they just look at their own business”. Exactly. But more importantly, “I couldn’t care less”. That’ll be her new motto going forward 🙂

      The thing is that everyone (bloggers) talks about Krakow and some even compare it to Prague or Budapest. How can you compare Krakow to these two cities? I think these bloggers who go somewhere for 2-3 days are deluded and they actually do a disservice to a place by misrepresenting it. I expected more from Krakow…but that’s not because Krakow is a horrible place (it isn’t) – it’s just not what you expect based on all the hoopla.

      1. Hi Frank, yes, I believe Krakow should be treated as a visit in a town – then the expectations wouldn’t be as high. Krakow has its nice parts but to be honest, for me one day is enough to walk all over the old town. Prague is way more grand and also bigger. I haven’t visited Budapest yet although it’s closer for me to go to Budapest than to Warsaw haha. And I must admit I didn’t visit other cities in Poland properly… My favorite will still be the Tatra mountains because of the amazing nature. Yes, I should keep writing but I work full time at the same time and travel. It’s quite difficult – I have so many more places to write about. Next destination is Egypt – what about you?

        1. Egypt?! That should be interesting. I’m off to visit my mom in Mexico in a couple of weeks and then I have a 5 week solo trip to Morocco. Look forward to that.

          Where in Poland are you from Tomasz?

          I would visit the Tatra mountains but on a solo trip. Hiking not Lissette’s thing. Maybe one day.

  7. I wrote a huge reply, but then I realized that it’s probably not change anything. I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry that you experienced racism but also I am sorry that we didn’t have a chance to talk or to meet. You said you don’t want to generalize and you do it in the next sentence. I think it’s really unfair, and even though I like Krakôw I can’t imagine to be there for one month… It’s not THAT interesting….and I think you missed a lot, its a pity that you did not go to see Mazury, Baltic sea, Tatry mountains and Warsaw! I am sorry that you did not visit JCC in Krakôw, visit us in JCC in Warsaw, talk with some Polish Jew, dig deeper, look broader. Till the next time. Hugs from Warsaw

    1. Hello Aleksandra. Thank you for your comment. I write here about how we travel and why we do it the way we do. How we like a place usually isn’t just about the tourist sights – we were for example in Brno for a month before coming to Krakow ad then in Lviv after Krakow. Both a small cities but we enjoyed them. Previously, when planning, we really expected Poland to be our highlight. Maybe we were unlucky? I don’t know. But thank you for your sentiments.

  8. Sadly, many religions seem to be all about pious superiority accompanied by sweeping judgments, racism and misogyny rather than inclusiveness and charity. Perhaps in Poland, one of the most religious countries in Europe, all that religion is why people are so miserable. (? !)

  9. In my opinion you are a racist for yourself, becouse you think that you are treated baddly becouse of the color of you skinn.
    No, polish people threat themselfes even worse.

  10. I find this entry blog very very shallow, quite disappointing for a proper traveller he really wants to get to know a place and it’s people.

    1. So do you like everyone you meet and get to know Mart? Because places are like people – some you’ll love right away and you’ll know you’ll always love them, some you’ll enjoy for a few days until they wear on you, some you’ll never like no matter how much time you get to know them. And maybe, as in our case, they don’t love you back either.

      No, what’s shallow is when bloggers portray everything in a positive light and can’t be honest in recounting their real experiences. Because nobody loves every place they visit.

  11. Well the old lady is the only example I found reading, so you should understand me being upset, when someone calls Poles rasist and intolerant. You can find bad apple among ANY nations, Canadians probably too, does not mean every people are like that. I’m a traveler too, and I was robbed once in Madrid by a gipsy girl Should I hate gipsy people in general, should I have bas feelings about the city? Should I say I’ll never go to Spain because of what happened? No. Because this could happen to me anywhere, just like you could have a bad luck to meet few unfriendly bad apples in Krakow. Does not mean Poles suck and Krakow is not worth a visit.

    It’s a pity that our Wawel Castle did not impressed you, or Jewish quarter, but in that case you could easily make a Krakow perfect gateway city, and – if you did not enjoeyd it itself – you could enjoy what’s around it. Rent a car or take the train. Who knows, maybe you would meet some nice Poles? Didi you wen to any museum or gallery tehre are n Krakow? Seriously, nothing moved you? Even rainbow stairs? And yes, I agree that Lviv is awesome, but so what?

    Yes, miserable was not what you said, and yet it is in you text as a quote, to prove your point and for me it is hard to read, because I hate when people generalize. It’s like saying that all Americans are stupid, Canadians are polite and French people eat cheese. One could expect more form travel blogger traveling full time for 4 years…

    So basically, based on 4 weeks stay in one place you say that Polish people are reliogous and intolerant? Not to mention anti-semits. Thanks!

    1. 95% of the posts on this blog are positive on the places we’ve visited. Funny enough my first negative post was on my own province of Quebec. I said Quebeckers can be insular, racist and a bunch of hicks: https://bbqboy.net/road-trip-to-tadoussac-the-saguenay-fjord-and-parc-des-hautes-gorges-de-la-riviere-malbaie/ I said it because it was true. It doesn’t mean they all are, I know many that are not. But I also know a great many that are, especially as you go into rural Eastern Quebec.

      In this case I never said Poles were racist, but I did say they were generally unfriendly and that we felt racism. That’s what we felt. It’s not the same as saying Americans are stupid and Canadians are polite.

      Again, I’m sorry I offended you. But this is a personal blog and I write about our personal experiences.

    2. Hi Ewa, I spent 3 years in Poland. Is that enough to form an opinion?

      I visited all major polish cities except Poznan (well, technically I’ve been there but I have seen it only through the train window).

      During my time in Poland I met a lot of Polish people and whether you like it or not, I corroborate author’s opinion. I have often felt unwelcome or looked at negatively especially when Ithey heard me speaking with accent.

  12. Typicall antyreligious, leftwing traveller. Of course Poland is religious country with right wing goverment so they are bad and every leftwing traveller just must write something bad of Poland. Because it is so evil to belive in God and ever worst to be Catholic, and when you have also rightwing goverment it’s means that all country and people are fucked up or in you text it’s something like crime – typicall left wing way of thinking. I am Polish and I live around one year in Prague, all my expat friends who lived in Kraków before and live right now in Prague told me that Polish people are much more friendly and open than Czech, and if in Poland they could earn as much as in Prague, for sure they will move back to Kraków. Racism in Poland because someone looked on you in way you don’t like? Are you crazy or what? How do you know that this women was Polish? Did you ask her, did you spoke with her? You cannot find any proof that Polish people are racists so you wrote some bullshit about “bad look in the eyes”, for me it’s looks like that you read too much antypolish press and before you came here you already got your bad opinion about Poland and this one month you spent to find proof, you couldn’t find any so you wrote some bullshit about racist because someone look on you or your girlfriend in bad way. Isn’t is? All comments people here tried to prove you’re wrong, but you don’t want to listen them, you’ve got your own opinion. If you know history you will know that there is no jews in Poland because 3 mln Polish Jews were killed by Germans durind II WW. In 1968 Soviet Communist in Moscow sent order to Polish goverment to exalie rest of Polish Jews, Poland wasn’t independent state at this time but satellite of USSR, Polish people had to do whatever Moscov said. Something for you ” operation Most”, “Irena Sendlerowa”, “Żegota”. Before II WW the biggest community of Jews in Europe and the second biggest after USA lived in Poland, I know that leftwing people are not good in logic, but how doest it possible that in country of people who you called ” antisemites” lived the biggest olpopulation of Jews in Europe? Cause Polish people are not antysemits, and they refuser colaboration with Germans who killed milions of Jews during II WW? How do you think? Poland was the only country occupied by Germans which refused collaborated with them, only in Poland for hide Jew you received death penalty, because almost no one colaborater with Germans but almost everone hide or helped to hide Jews. For example in France French police helped Germans to catch Jews and sent them to death camps. You don’t need to belive you can check all this facts in internet or in books. Start from “Żegota” and Irena Sendlerowa. Did you know that half of people honored by Izrael Jad VaShen institute for helped save Jews are Polish?

    1. I think I’ve addressed most of the above in other comments so I won’t repeat myself here.
      So I already had a bad opinion of Poland and wanted to spend a month here to find proof? Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
      I didn’t bring up collaboration. But since you did maybe you should do some reading.
      https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/02/poland-holocaust-death-camps/552455/
      http://time.com/5128341/poland-holocaust-law/
      Your version of history is exactly what the government would have you believe.

  13. Well, you guys have spent a month in Krakow and all you saw was the Old Town, Wawel castle, and Kazimierz, Nowa Huta and tried sausage and vodka? Well, sorry my friend don’t blame Krakow for your bad expieriences – blame yourslef! There is so much more to do – expecially when you are longer than just for a weekend. Research before the trip or while you were there and you’re good. What about Wieliczka? One day trip to Zalipie? Lanckorona? Przegorzały Castle? – I can really keep going …

    Of course I don’t want to tell you how to feel, but rasizm is VERY strong word and staring old lady is all you base this statement at?

    Most miserable people ever? Really? Have you met ALL the people? That is sad when someone gives this general statements.. It’s irresponsible, and as a travel blogger you should think more about the consequences of your words.

    Also what is your problem with us being religious? It’s not like we are the only one in Europe/world?! By the way number of churches vs. people with faith = 2 different things, you should think about it.

    1. Sorry I offended you Ewa but it’s a blog, which means its our personal experiences. As I say, we’ve travelled full-time for 4 years and in all that time Krakow is the place where we’ve felt the most unwelcome. Of course it’s not one old lady as I’ve mentioned above.

      All the places you mention are either on the outskirts of Krakow or towns outside Krakow. We walked ALL over Krakow. Sorry we weren’t impressed. We found Lviv much more impressive (and the people there very friendly).

      “miserable” wasn’t what I said if you re-read above. And as I did say, we also met some very nice people along the way.

      I didn’t compare the number of churches with the people of faith. Tons of European countries have lots of churches and are no longer religious. What I did say was that Poland was the most religious country in Europe which is documented here. I also have no problem with religious people when they’re tolerant, the problem I have with religion is when they aren’t.

  14. Being Polish and originally from Krakow, I have mixed feelings about your experience. I guess Budapest is more exciting and so are lots of other places in Europe. Still, I studied in the old town and believe me I had something to do every day and was never bored. The list of tourist attractions is made to cater to a typical 2-7-day traveller. Had you made some friends, they would have taken you to many more atmospheric places.
    The people and racism. Indeed, there is some negative sentiment about skin colour these days. My guess is Lisette must have been taken for a Muslim and people were surprised to see her without a hijab 9e something. This is bad enough but here in Poland many cannot understand why Germans want to invite to Europe and impose on us, too, an uncontrollable influx of millions of people who hate our way of life, create ghettos and stage terrorist attacks, whose victims include Polish people in the West. Hence, possibly, the looks. I can only speculate it must have coincided with the recent immigrant crisis and Poland-bashing in the EU. The “antisemitic symbols” were what Wisla fans spray against the supporters of Cracovia, who have a nickname “Jews”. The rivalry is fierce and violent, for many reasons. OK, it means that Wisla fans do not like Jews if they use the symbol as an offensive label. But Cracovia hooligans call themselves Jude Gang, so if you have been beaten by these thugs, you will spray the star of David on the gallows.
    I was also captivated by your political (and religious) comments that show you blame Poland for “rewriting” history. I thought it sounded like American and German propaganda these days. Here in Poland we have had enough of being blamed for what was not our fault during WWII by people who thus want to.force us to pay hundreds of billions of dollars worth of compensation for what we are not guilty of or what, as a country, we have settled already in internationally accepted ways.
    With so many negative preconceptions about things that typify so many Poles (e.g. religiousness, lack of.political correctness) perhaps the locals felt you just did not like them?
    I have just completed my sixth month in China and have encountered a lot of rude behaviour in Shanghai. I’d never try to generalize about that place in a negative sense,though, just because some people stared at me, did not want to give me a leaflet or pushed their way ahead of me on the subway.
    Still, I can fully understand you do not want to go back. I do not want to excuse people who behaved badly. We have never been a very polite nation, sadly. Still, normally, and in Krakow in particular, people are welcoming of foreigners.

    1. Thanks Leslaw.
      I actually agree with you on Merkel and the mistake of opening Europe’s doors to migrants, most young men with no documentation. Having said that, I’m a big believer in multiculturalism. Being “taken for a Muslim” is exactly the point. That’s unfortunately how Lissette felt. Reminds me of recent news stories from the US where some Sikhs were murdered for being mistaken as Muslim (“funny thing on head, dark skinned, must be Muslim”). It’s ignorance.
      The rewriting of history is very recent and there was no mention of compensation. It just seems to be about current-day politics. And that’s why I’ve included it.
      I’d never want to compare with rudeness in China. In that respect I don’t think the Poles can compete 🙂

      1. Indeed Frank, there is a lot of ignorance about multiculturalism (and Islam in particular) in Poland, but this is because the only Muslims we used to have until recently were the Tartars. There are so few of them and they have blended in so much that we tend not to notice them. Most of the knowledge we have comes from the West and our people hardly mix with the liberal, educated Muslims as most Poles tend to do blue-collar jobs and live in poorer areas close to Muslim no-go zones. The rest comes from propaganda: both the PC “religion of peace” mantra and the anti-Muslim hate speech. It would really take the kind of travelling experience you and me have to appreciate multiculturalism in its nice form, which most pe0ple simply cannot have, even if, as is the case in Krakow, more than 75% have higher education.
        Enjoy Lviv, with its largely Polish heritage ;-). Sure, to be clear, Ukrainians deserve their own country, even though the way they allow themselves to be ruled pushes millions out of their country. This is another case in point: there are an estimated 1.5 million of them living and working in Poland and the treatment they are getting is probably better than what is being made out of and done about our 1m immigrants in the UK. Overall, considering the troubled history between us and the Ukrainians, we are indeed doing our best to be inclusive, tolerant and fair.
        Greetings!
        PS. Bill no 447 was passed in the US senate in December, 2017. Our “rewriting of history” is a somewhat recent but also late reaction to outward lies and extortion attempts. It had never got so tough before as we did not want to alienate our “strategic partner”, with its very sensitive stance on some issues. I’d be more cautious using a broad brush to paint quite subtle and complex pictures.

  15. You spend a month in Krakow? It’s no wonder you have a negative opinion about Poland. Get out and see the rest of the country, it’s one of the most beautiful and welcoming countries in the world and they might stare at people but they certainly don’t have guns and kills people. Poland has the lowest terrorist attacks rate in Europe since 2001. Countries like the USA, Germany and England could learn a lot from Poland.

    1. It’s the way we travel Jonny. Before Krakow we stayed a month in Brno, since Krakow a month in Lviv. We enjoyed both Brno and Lviv even if neither fall on many lists. But never took to Krakow.
      True about violence but I can say the same about most of Europe. We’ve spent the last 4 years mostly in Europe (mostly Eastern Europe/Balkans) and never an issue. I kind of chuckle to myself when I get comments from Americans asking how safe it is travelling in places like Croatia, Bosnia, or Macedonia…

  16. Hi!

    So sorry to hear about your experiences. I’m Polish, right after high school I moved to England and then to Warsaw after 6 years. I know that every experience is different, when I lived in London a lot of Poles said they experienced a lot of xenophobia and “you’re stealing our jobs” kind of behaviour in the U.K., where I never had that, not even a single occurrence. Still, I grew up in a little town in western Poland where it was totally different for my foreign friends than it is in Warsaw. I’m surprised that you experienced so much of the “little town” mentality in Krakow. This is not to say all little towns have that problem, but they are certainly more likely to. Perhaps the fact that there are groups of tourists coming to krakow a lot for cheap stag parties and doing a lot of harm has made people hostile towards foreigners, which, especially for a touristic city like that, I think would be a terrible shame. Still, I am ashamed to say racism IS on the rise with the current government turning the blind eye on it, and it hurts me every time I see it. Even though most of my foreigner friends are not experiencing any harmful looks or actions in poland, it would be a lie to deny that there are a lot of Poles who are closed minded and stupid that way. I always wondered why that was, we always seem to be divided in this country, on one side you have incredibly open, friendly, loving people, on the other hostile, racist ignorants. I think it’s an inferiority complex mixed with distrust – if you look at our history, we were betrayed and attacked by our neighboring countries multiple times. Sadly a lot of people seem to forget that it was a different era, and many decades ago. On behalf of the open minded ones of us Poles, I’m sorry. I hope you will at some point in the future make a choice to come back to Poland, maybe a different city, and have a better experience. Please, and I thank you for acknowledging that, don’t judge all of us on the actions of some, and again I’m sorry about your experience xxx

    1. That is a lovely comment Polish Girl. I really appreciate hearing a local’s perspective. Of course I know the history but you’ve put it in a Pole’s perspective and I think it’s very helpful for the outsider.

      We’ve compared Poland to some of the other places we’ve visited in this post. But the truth is that no place is immune to hostile and racist people, including places we come from. Lissette faced some of the same glares in rural Quebec (I was born in rural Quebec. The mentality is not much different than you describe in little town Poland). She also lived 20 years in the USA (she was born in NY) and faced more racism there than she’s faced in all our travels. The racism that’s come out under Trump has always existed, he’s just given it legitimacy.

      Thank you for your comment, I read it to lissette and she was moved. As I said in the post, it’s usually the nice people we end up remembering in the end 🙂

  17. Interesting what you say about Ukraine too. When I lived there, I found Ukrainians to be quite rude and cold. More so women than men, not sure why that would be, maybe they don’t trust or think foreigners are only there to meet women? Sadly I have had more negative experiences with people in Ukraine and it’s one reason why I won’t return. I have just moved to Poland and hope I have a better experience than you!

    1. I find your comment quite surprising Daniel. We’ve found people very warm in the Ukraine. And the women are gorgeous and friendly.
      Oh well, everyone has a different experience!

  18. Everyone’s experience is different. I am an Indian girl living in Poland for about 3 years and I have personally never faced such situations. It’s true that people stare sometimes but it’s just out of curiosity and get a good look to see how people from the rest of the world looks like. That’s not necessarily racism. Most people who stared at your wife has probably never seen a latino women. While one might interpret it as racism or hate, it doesn’t necessarily have to be right.
    I have a couple of thins that I’d like to point out in your article.
    ” Going through the church, we walked into the back chapel. Back there, standing and sitting in silence were almost a hundred people, most young in the 20’s and 30’s. I couldn’t figure it out. Lissette did though. “They’re waiting their turn to confess”. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” – Not sure what is so unusual about this. Poles are catholic and they like to pray and go for confessions regularly. As a foreigner this is probably something new for you and from reading what you wrote you were probably surprised and potentially may have “stared” at what they were doing there. This is the same curiosity some old polish ladies may have when they see your wife.
    That being said, not sure how to interpret this line “Lissette has always been more forgiving about religion”. She’s been more forgiving because it’s something awful and she’s been kind enough to forgive???

    1. You’re right that it doesn’t have to be right. And she’s been stared at in other places. But usually a person will smile when they’ve been caught staring. What she felt was “unfriendly staring”. And again, you could be right. But when you’re on the receiving end you usually get a feeling whether it’s friendly or not.

      About my comment. I touch on my thoughts on religion on the link I included in that paragraph. Summarizing in short: I don’t have tolerance for the intolerance of religion. Lissette was raised a Catholic, she see’s the good sides of religion and is also more “forgiving” of the negatives. That’s what I meant there.

      We lived a year in Croatia which is very Catholic as well. But we never got stared at in a negative way. And about the confessions – I’m talking about the numbers. Never saw as many people waiting to confess at any given time as we did in Krakow. I was just making a point about the level of religiosity.

      Anyway, glad to hear about your positive experiences. A few other people have said the same so that’s good to hear. It won’t change our experiences or personal feelings but it’s good to know that maybe we were maybe in the minority and not the majority.

  19. Was very surprised by this. I am a black woman and I fell in love with Poland when I went there for the first time. Krakow was WOW and Warsaw was even better. So much so I decided to move there and I did for 1.5 years and would move back in a heartbeat if the political wind hadn’t shifted as much as it did. People stared at me yes, but I wouldn’t call that racism per se. Many older people in Eastern Europe especially are not used to seeing non-whites. If you went to many cities in Asia not only will people BLATENLY stare at you for not being Asian, they will also take photos without your permission and you would be all over their Wechat application– but I digress. I never faced racism in Poland, in my entire 1.5 years living in Warsaw. People were very kind to me and I made many, many Polish friends. I left my heart in Poland and as soon as the political winds change again for the better I just may go back.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Samantha. Kemkem (a black blogger who we know well. She commented above) felt like we felt in Warsaw. But she had no issues in Krakow. It’s funny to see how different people have different experiences.
      Blacks in Asia – yes. We haven’t had issues (Lissette pretty fair skinned) but have heard much the same.

  20. I’m Brazilian, and I been living in Warsaw for 7 months and been travelling many times to Poland. And I haven’t felt racism or haven’t had any bad experiences. There are three things that a lot of people mistake to being something racist or xenophobic but its not… 1) Polish people have hard faces and love staring. Its not because you look different or you’re black, they just love staring at anyone. For old people staring is what they do all the time, its like a sport. And they don’t stare because they are afraid or think you will rob them, its just something they do. Staring is not considered unpolite and parents never teach kids not to stare. 2) People providing services are just rude, its a fact. It comes from comunist time that people that are providing a service don’t put any effort in making the service better. On the other side, hardly someone in a shop will be looking at you because they think you’re going to rob them, they will ignore you and maybe only look when you are paying. 3) If your’re speaking english or other foreign languages in public transport people will give you a hard stare or may even scream at you. But the problem is not the language, the problem is that you’re suppose to be very quiet in public transport, so if you talk you should do it in very low voice and only pickup your phone in emergecies, and speak in very low voice. The same goes for any social behavior that is not acceptable (i.e. trying to enter public transport first before people exit, not giving a seat to older people or pregnant women, not respecting lines, not cleaning after yourself, being too loud in open spaces, not following road rules, etc)

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Caio. We didn’t have issues with either bad service or people yelling at us (we try to be considerate in public 🙂 ). But the staring at Lissette was a constant and it wasn’t in a friendly way. And staring is something we know about (my mom is German, staring is something they do as well). I know what you’re saying and intentions can be misconstrued…but it didn’t feel like that in Krakow.
      Again, our experience and our opinions. Glad to hear you’ve had better experiences.

      1. Staring at Lissette couldn’t have been driven by any form of racism. First, there are Polish women with Lissette’s complexion / skin color. Second, on first look people would think she is either Italian or Spanish. No one in Poland has any hard feelings towards either nation – in fact we like them. Poles on average like most nations except Russians and Germans, but that is for obvious reasons.

        1. I think the photos might be misleading Andy – when there’s sun she gets a deep tan and can even pass as a light Indian. She can pass the whole range from Italian/Spanish to Indian.
          Honestly I think she looks quite different from most Polish women. I think Lewslaw above has it right, probably mistaken for a Muslim.

  21. Been to several cities in Poland. My experience proved Krakow to be the friendliest one compared to Warsaw, Lublin, Poznan and Wroclaw. I met an Italian guy who had lived in Krakow for five years and never had any issues being a foreigner and who never learned any ‘Dzien dobry’ or ‘czesc’ or ‘dziekuje’, not a single Polish word but somehow managed to live there. I spent some time in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Too much snobism in Prague, very open and friendly people in Budapest. I enjoyed Hungary for its people. I don’t want to return to Prague. So… we all have our own experiences. I felt comfortable in Krakow, less comfortable in Warsaw, far less in Prague although it was beautiful and nice.

    1. Thanks Greg.
      Totally agree about the Budapest. The people make it one of our favorite cities.
      Prague. We’ve stayed 6 times for a combined 4 months and I know how they come across. The first time we stayed in a working class neighborhood outside the center and thought people were cold and kind of miserable. But it was never because of race or being foreigners. We’ve stayed in more middle class neighborhoods on our most recent visits and people have been great and we’ve seen a totally different side of the Czechs. Actually like them now generally speaking, but you can still get an encounter where someone outright rolls their eyes at you and sighs like they’re doing you a big favor…
      For us Poland was about being different and that’s what I have issue with. Some lesbian bloggers we know mentioned the same thing to us. So maybe it all depends on who you are and your sexual orientation.

      Funny, we met a few Italians in Krakow. I wonder what draws them there?

      1. Hi Frank. Thanks for accepting my subscription to your blog. I used to be all alone while in Krakow and so, I can’t relate to your experience as a couple. As for Prague, I’ve been there twice. I assume it’s not enough to make a clearer picture. That’s just what I felt.
        Italians… The guy I met there had his business in Krakow. I met a Ukrainian business lady in Krakow who had lived there for five years, too, and yet she did not speak Polish though understood it well. In my opinion, the city is very friendly to foreigners compared to other Polish cities, although there are, just like everywhere else, some people who ruin the overall amicable atmosphere.
        I’d love to hear your opinion on Ukraine. I used to live there and can relate to your feelings about it being open-hearted and friendly.
        Cheers!

        1. Thanks Greg.
          We’ve been in Lviv a month and love the place. For us it’s everything Krakow is not. We were nervous coming further east after Krakow. They’ve blown our socks off and we can honestly say it’s one of the friendliest places we’ve encountered. And stunning and unique. Buildings are crumbling, streets all have those cobblestones (really hurts the feet!), you see old Russian built cars everywhere. But it’s the people. Almost Latin in temperment. And the women are stunning.
          We’ve joined a gym and Lissette takes her aerobics classes everyday and has only been received with warmth. We’re always looking for non-Schengen bases and Lviv is a place we’ll be coming back to. Living is easy, inexpensive, people are warm, and it really is pretty. We’re thinking of maybe coming back next summer. I’ll be writing a lot on Lviv in tehe next little while.

          We’ll be in Kiev next week and don’t know what that will be like. I’m told people a bit less friendly. But we’ll be there a month and look forward to that as well.

          Where did you live in the Ukraine Greg? And how long? And what brought you here? Just curious, don’t mean to be snoopy 🙂

          1. I spent three years in Kyiv, the capital, and then five years in Kherson, South of Ukraine. I was a missionary 🙂 I learned some Ukrainian and Russian back then. I found Ukrainians to be open-hearted and friendly everywhere. Of course, you can meet some hostility in any country, and Ukraine is not an exclusion. I had several unpleasant encounters but, overall, my eight-year experience proved to be nice, mostly thanks to local people.

          2. Ah, you’re a Ukrainian expert then! That’s a lot of time spent here. I’m impressed you learned some of the language.

            Thanks for the comments Greg, I’ll be writing about Ukraine in the next little while.

    1. I know you guys are Polish Agness. Sorry to be negative on your homeland, I know you and Cez are open minded and don’t fit the generality I portrayed. I’d be very interested though on your thoughts as Poles. We were there a month so impressions are impressions…

    1. Tanja, if you have a chance go to Lviv instead.
      Love Lviv and the people have been fantastic. Besides, it’s a place most people don’t go because they’ve never heard about it…

  22. I admire your honesty Frank and that you are not scared of being criticised for it. The people we meet along the way make a huge impact on how we perceive a place. I have never been to Poland, so can’t comment. But I remember Rome being full of very rude encouters and being shouted at few times by very impatient Italians. Customers service there was the worst I have ever experienced…yet I loved Rome and will go back there in the future for sure. Poland is not top of my list, but it is a country I would like to explore some time in the future, although will not be in a hurry to get there? My experience of Polish people here in England has been very positive, they are extremely hard working and effective.

    1. I’ve met quite a lot of Polish people in Canada Gilda and as you say they are known to be good moral people and extremely hard workers. I think that is what they are really known for.

      I don’t like criticizing a nation of people. But if someone goes to a restaurant and gets screamed at, they’ll complain on Trip Advisor about it right? If we spend a month somewhere and people are intentionally being nasty I think it’s good to be honest about that as well. In the end I’m writing about our experiences and I’d be doing a disservice both to ourselves and readers I think.

      You’re right service in Rome not great. We didn’t have any bad experience but sure is stressful all the lines you have to get into to get service in Italy. They should bring in a bunch of Germans to organize things 😉

  23. Thank you for frankness, Frank. (Your name obliges you.)
    I have never been in Poland and I guess I will never go there. I thought so even before reading of this post.

      1. Your post answers this question, Frank.
        Who likes places where he/she isn’t welcome? I can’t even imagine people who may not like such a pretty woman as your wife.

    1. You are a great guy Victor. What is a point of not visiting a country which you don’t find interesting? Comment of some guy who spend a month in a city and thinks he knows it all about history and mentality of the Poles. That is a funny thing. How Poles in general could be racist if they don’t have barely experience of colour folks? Is the fact that 99,9% of Poles are white and of polish nationality makes us racists or it is caused by WWII when 1/3 of country’s population was ethnicly diversed. Guess what?? That 1/3 wasn’t killed by ”racist” Poles. Giving a comment about antisemithism based on a Kraków experience is not a good thing when you don’t know the whole story. There is a civil war beetwen 2 Largest football crews involving murders and one of this group is called „Jewish Gang” (Some of Cracovia players where Jewish). So anti Jewish signs are ment for the other fans. Yes it is stupid, but that is the story. If you are keen on polish antisemithism, try to hear other part of the story. Interesting that Jews lived in Poland in large Numbers for hundred of years and if Poles where So damn antisemithic, there would be no holocaust on Polish soil cause all Jews would be gone. Try to think of it.

      1. Wojtek – I didn’t say that I know all about the history and mentality of the Poles. But based on our experience, why would we want to return? Do you think it’s pleasant going somewhere and being greeted by unfriendly stares?
        Forget all the other stuff. That’s what it comes down to.

  24. Interesting about the response based on age. When dealing with whole country, we can only generalize. There are always specific places which are different.

    The under 40’s tends to be the most friendly.

    I found the same in England–a lot. It’s the single most unfriendly country I’ve lived in, worked or visited. Most of it class based as well, with the native middle class being the worst (immigrants are okay generally speaking). There are some areas which are friendly though, but they are few and far between.

    1. Yes, I think you’re right, generally speaking.

      Surprised about England. But I haven’t spent enough time there…we are planning a couple of months next year in the UK though which will include at least a month in England.

  25. Interesting to read the comments from the Spanish guy above. We visited Krakow for a week and couldn’t have had a better experience. We both loved it and didn’t feel any hostility at all, at least that l noticed and even thought..yeah.. I could live here. Just goes to show you how experiences can differ, and we stayed at an AirBnB about 20 minutes walk from the center among the locals. Warsaw though.. No thank you! I felt extremely unwanted there and got the stares and rudeness pretty much at every turn. I wrote about it and l got someone write me too who felt l was being harsh and she never experienced anything but love..blah..blah. I had to explain to her because bless her heart, she was blond and of course had nothing to worry about. It was hard for her to fathom that people could be reacting to my black skin. We travel with such baggage that doesn’t occur to most. I travel without fear and intend to keep on traveling, but as a mixed couple..yeah..there are some snags. I’m sorry you had to encounter such crap, but we gotta keep doing it :-). I have had other black women say they had an amazing time in Warsaw..so you just never know.

    1. Ah, so your Warsaw was our Krakow.

      Well, that’s the thing about experiences right? It’s like our trip in Brazil back in 2007 which I’ll never forget. But ask people and many will tell you they love the Brazilians, that they’re outgoing and friendly…
      Maybe if I went back after 10 years I would have a totally different experience and would come back loving the place. But I doubt it. And why go back to a place where you had nothing but negative experiences?

      For us a month in Krakow (and Poland) was enough. Maybe we got unlucky. But we just don’t feel the need to go back. It just left us with a negative impression.

  26. interesting post Frank. I liked Poland on the whole, but obviously didnt have Lisette’s experience. I had a little romance with a girl there…. so that obviously impacted how I felt about the place. I liked Krakow, but as you said there is not an abundance of things to do and see there – however there is that Salt Mine! Also, it was 2004 and the tourist number in general in Eastern Europe were not what they are today. The language is impossible. the younger people were friendlier in Krakow but outside of there I found it hard to find people to talk to.

    1. Yes, the Salt mine – I left it for the last week and then found out tickets were all sold out. Happened for a few other things as well, wanted to visit the underground for example and the soonest we could do it was 2 days later.
      As you say, just a whole lot more people visiting these days.

      Ah, a foreign romance. Nothing makes you feel better about a place 🙂 Plus you get shown around by a local.

  27. Hi Frank

    Now these wildly different sentiments are really interesting. Perhaps its generational? I too am looking forward to hearing about your time in Ukraine.

    John

    1. Hi John,
      I think younger people for sure more open, plus they speak more English and more willing to communicate with foreigners. I think that’s true everywhere.

      The Ukraine has been great so far. Very impressed. And people have been very friendly.

      Frank

      1. Frank Poland was filled with various people Ukrainians, Armenians, Tatars, Belarusians and Jews until very recently.. some of these people can be much darker than your average dark Pole (or other dark East/South/Central Euro)… older Polish people are really not “racist” in the way you would find many old people in the west. First of all again, their view of race is different.. and unless you are very obviously non-Caucasoid looking (or if you’re obviously distinctly Middle Eastern and dark).. than they probably wouldn’t perceive you as different much less non-Euro.. and this is the case with Lissette.. even if they thought Lissette wasn’t Polish, they wouldn’t think she was non-European… trust me on this. That’s what I mean that the construct of race is broader in parts of Eastern Europe as they don’t have the defined “whiteness” as people in the west and Americas do. Polish people, when racist, are usually so when it comes to culture.. and they can be xenephobic (regardless of race). I’ll be honest.. if Lissette was visibly what would be considered black… than that might be another issue because anti-blackness is global and a lot of older people are influenced by the media, and are more likely to “other” visibly black people (I mean people who are much darker and non-Europeanish in their looks than Lissette), and be scared of them due to the negative stereotypes. But I actually don’t think this is common at all either, my girlfriend is also Brazilian however she is what we call a “Mulata” and outside of stares.. she hasn’t experienced any negative things from old people. The only bad experiences she has had was with a young dude on the train, and it was vague, in fact she had a worse experience in Spain where the racism was blatant.

        Also since you commented about Ukraine, I can tell you if you didn’t experience the same in Ukraine, than I can 100% assure you that it was misunderstanding. Because Ukrainians are the same way as Poles in that respect, but even more removed due to being less developed as a country.

        I’m sorry Lissette was made to feel that way, but I hope you guys understand that it had nothing to do with “appearances” and more to do with a specific culture in Poland. That’s all.

        1. Ok, I can’t keep up with all your writing so I’m trying to answer both of your different comments in one shot.

          As I say, we were in Krakow. I don’t recall seeing dark Poles. As far as Lissette is concerned she can pass for anything: she can pass for Spanish, Italian, Indian. She could easily pass for Brazilian as she has the kinky hair thing going. She passes as mixed in South Africa. She can pass as one of the many gypsys we’ve seen in parts of Eastern Europe. But she can also very easily pass as Muslim. In many ways she’s lucky because whereever we go she’ll fit in more than I do.

          I don’t think I ever said Latinos was a “race”, I’m identifying her as Latina because that’s what she is. So are you saying that because Latino is not a race that you’re not categorizing it as “racism” but as “cultural”? Hmmm, that might be just playing with words…

          You also mention Hungary. I think more than comparing country to country, you have to compare towns to cities. We’ve spent a lot of time in Budapest and people were always exceedingly friendly without a trace of racism. We spent a week in Eger (a small town) and they were fine there too even though she did get a few more looks. But the Hungarians are generally also darker than the Poles. We met a lot of golden skinned Hungarians with kinky hair. I read all the comments you make about darker skinned people in Poland but I didn’t see any of that in Krakow. In Krakow she stood out. She didn’t in Hungary.

          You can argue with our experience as much as you want Marek but it won’t change our experience. Ukrainians were very friendly towards her and towards us, both in Lviv and Kiev. Poles in Krakow were not. You can call it racism or culturalism or whatever you want to call it. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was a negative experience for her.

          Oh…another comment from you. I’ll reply to that later, agree with most of it. But I have to get away from the computer for a little while.

          Thanks for the comments.

  28. I was in Wroclaw… but I also traveled around the country. It’s interesting to read a different point of view. For spanish students, Poland it’s the most popular spot for erasmus (this scholarship that you get in your last year of University)… so many spanish students (mostly boys) go there to study one year… many of them come back with a polish girlfriend. When I was in Poland I was a spanish teacher and I had a lot of work… latin culture in Wroclaw it’s a big thing especially among polish young girls: for example, you can find there many salsa clubs… For this reason, I find your experience really surprising… I could imagine some hostility against muslims… but I would have never imagined something like the things to write. Also I dated some polish girls: they were Catholics but also quite open minded… they had gay friends… and I didnt see a big difference to be honest between them and other girls that I have dated in western countries…

    1. Maybe because you’re younger and met other younger people? Also if you’re going to university chances are you’re meeting other students. University students universally more open minded. And if those girls going to Salsa class you know they’re not praying every night 🙂

      Most of the time we felt the hostility from older people. It was a working class neighborhood, slightly older, not many tourists.

      Thanks for your feedback, nice to hear a different experience.

      1. I was going to mention the age. I found some rude polish people but usually they were much older. I remember being yelled a couple of times in the train station by ladies in their 60’s… I had similar experiences in other eastern European countries… the same with the customer service, some people who grew up during comunism still don’t get the concept of customer service… anyway I’m looking forward to read your experiencies about Ukraine.

        1. Polish people in customer service sectors are definitely very rude.. and they always look miserable. It’s just a part of the culture.. funny enough this is my experience with Polish Brazilians who are less assimilated and Polish north Americans. Polish people (and other East Euros) also rarely smile.. and think its weird when westerners do all the time.

  29. I guess that every experience it’s different. I was living for 6 months in Poland and people were extremely friendly with me. I’m spanish, and polish people were really interested in Spain and spanish culture. I made some latinos friends (colombians and mexicans) and they were really enjoying their time in Poland. Polish girls really find them attractive, when we were going out polish girls were really complimenting their dark skin… to be honest, I only have nice words for polish people… I felt really welcomed there. Five years later all my latinos friends are married with polish girls and live there… and in one week I’m going to the wedding of a spanish friend in Poland. Each person has a different experience so I understand your words… even if for me it’s almost difficult to believe because my experience in Poland was totally different. Five years after I left Poland some of my best friends are polish. For me it was much more complicated to make friends when I was living in Czech Republic. Anyway, it’s interesting to read a different opinion. I think in Spain in general, there is a kind of simpathy towards polish people… in fact, polish immigrants in Spain enjoy a good reputation and they are considered very hardworking.

    1. Hi Spanish Guy,
      Wow! I’m really impressed and also surprised. Where in Poland?
      Whereas we’ve never had issues in the Czech Republic. We spent the previous month in Brno and everything was great. And we’ve spent a combined 6 months in Prague with never an issue .

      I’m happy for you and that’s good to hear. But in our case there’s no denying it. It wasn’t one day or one bad experience…it was a constant.

      Hardworking? Yes, definitely. They are hard working.

      Thank you for the feedback.

      1. Hello,

        You cant take Krakow as an example for the entire country. The Same happens in France, People in Paris are terrible and unfriendly. But if you go to smaller towns things change completely.

        And back up all that Spanish Guy said, as I have a similar experience as him!

        Also I dont like krakow very much! to much tourism!

        1. Thanks Joao,
          I think much has to do with your circle – in the case of Spanish Guy he was a student. So he would have met younger people who are much more open generally. Which is a good thing, it means the mentality changing with the new generations.
          Most of the hostility we felt were by older people in our neighborhood.
          Good to know someone else not crazy about Krakow!

          1. As a Polish inhabitant of Warsaw who is often in Krakow I can just say your description corresponds well with the way Warsaw inhabitants see Krakow.
            Also, unpleasant staring at anything different is a cultural trait unfortunately.

    2. Frank, I’m sorry but I don’t think you saw many Polish people if you think Lissette stands out like a sore thumb, trust me.. I’m a Brazilian of Polish descent living most of my life in Poland.. and this is the second time I seen you make such a odd comment, first time was when you said you stood out as a “white man” in Brazil (LOL).. where white people are on of the largest groups. I think maybe you guys need to stop blaming appearances and understand the culture? Starring is part of Polish culture.. I look like your typical Polish person but when I get on a rural bus all of the old ladies star at me… it’s typical (also you said Germans do.. but this is actually not true these days at least, a lot of Germans have told me that Polish people are weird for starring).. but starring is TYPICAL of all of Eastern Europe.

      1. Thanks Marek,
        We’re very used to travelling in Eastern Europe, have a look around the blog. We’ve spent a combined 7 months in the Czech Republic, spent 2 months in Ukraine…but the 1 month in Poland is where we’ve gotten the most unfriendly looks (Lissette specifically) anywhere. And I’m not sure what you mean – but Lissette does look closer to a Brazilian than she would a typical Pole. And I’m sorry, but it wasn’t the typical stare in Krakow. She knows what she felt.
        You probably landed here after coming from my Brazil post which is why we’re talking about colour again (by the way, I’ve got about 350 posts on this blog and these are the only 2 that I recall where I mentioned skin color as an issue). Just mentioning that in case people think race and skin tones are something we obsess about.
        But in the case of Brazil, when I mentioned being white it was in the context of being identified as “American”. That trip dates back over 10 years when there was quite a lot of tension over the whole new reciprocal Visa thing. There was anti-American sentiment at the time. I know there are lots of white Brazilians (although I don’t remember so many in Rio?) but they don’t all look like tourists…

        So, you’re of Polish descent living in Poland (so you would fit right in colour-wise) but I guess you lived most of your life in Brazil. Does that mean you have an accent? Or did your parents always speak to you in Polish? Do you fit in seamlessly in Poland?

    3. Secondly, I would not think Lissette was foreign. Also you keep referring to Latinos as a race.. when they’re not, lol. See the thing is Slavs, Romanians, Hungarians etc. all range a lot from North to Southern European looking.. and have their own unique “Eastenr European” looks.. and there are many people who have “Asiatic(ish) looks to them that in the US maybe perceived as Mestizo aka what you probably think when you say Latino. So in fact many lighter Mestizos could easily pass as Eastern Europeans because of the overlapping looks. This is what I mean:
      http://www.ansichtskarten-center.de/webshop/shop/ProdukteBilder/14175/AK_12087295_gr_1.jpg
      https://i.wpimg.pl/O/644×362/d.wpimg.pl/1012413023–1303709616/ida-jablonska.jpg
      https://st.kp.yandex.net/images/actor_iphone/iphone360_79632.jpg
      https://static.cinemagia.ro/img/resize/db/actor/02/00/82/ida-nowakowska-886640l-poza.jpg

      You get the picture? And I’m sure of this, as my father has such an appearance (yet he’s 100% Polish in ancestry).. and a lot of Americans think he is “Mexican” (it doesn’t help that we mostly speak Portuguese with each other) and so his “looks” + Portuguese (which many think is Spanish)… gives them that bias. However, my dad has never been seen as foreign in Poland (because many Poles look like him). In fact.. Poland has a lot of diversity of looks.. and in my experience Eastern Europeans are more lax in their views of “whiteness”, because of more diversity among their native populations (imo) and because of the lack of colonial history that westerners have. A lot of people who would not be considered as “white” by some Anglo Americans would not get an eye blink in Eastern Europe. People in Krakow are mostly pale because they’re urbanites and don’t spend much time in the sun (plus Poland is not very hot).. but when you go to rural areas where people might be out most of the day and throw in the various Polish people who look like this and add the sun (since you say she could get quite dark) and add a tan after the summer: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_NbKGZ2NH2Fo/TDTtTihvw9I/AAAAAAAAAB0/t4_tUkoTUGw/s1600/25485_us_Alb_t_eminaC0030_122_519lo.jpg
      https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/ranczo/images/0/00/Piotr_Borowski.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20090306214815
      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/fc/b7/2c/fcb72c5026e816bcae1c8364883afcb1.jpg
      http://r-scale-76.dcs.redcdn.pl/scale/o2/tvn/web-content/m/p8/i/b3b43aeeacb258365cc69cdaf42a68af/1bedd756-985d-47dd-9727-d0b775579ffd.jpg?type=1&srcmode=3&srcx=1%2F2&srcy=0%2F1&srcw=988&srch=557&dstw=988&dsth=557&quality=85
      https://66.media.tumblr.com/643e9026fae445874436f4f92d7ede08/tumblr_moy9g4F5EB1ryxzwvo1_500.jpg
      https://i.wpimg.pl/745×711/e1.pudelek.pl/p1738/b2005141000559a64b83a2b1

      and she would in no way stand out. THe problem with your insinuation is that her features are way too European-like (she’s clearly of predominately European ancestry.. again “Latinos” aren’t a race)… she’d have to have more obvious black or Indigenous features to stand out and be darker. Again, I don’t know where in Poland you were and where in Brazil… but something tells me you’re very not preceptive LOL… and seem to think things are about race when they aren’t. :/

      Secondly, you even said you didn’t experience this in Hungary.. trust me if you were going to experience something, you’d experience it first in Hungary (various reasons for it)… this is again I repeat nothing to do with your appearances, but Polish culture. Also secondly, a weird comment you made is that you think she could pass as I|talian or Spaniard.. if she can pass as either of those nationalities… than she can pass as Polish because the darkest individuals in those countries can be found in Poland (albeit just in fewer numbers obviously). The problem is that again you seem to not realize that.. people in Italy and Spain are in very hot areas and out in the sun more often than people in Poland.. so they’re more likely to be tan all year around. Whereas in places like Krakow where people are becoming more home bodies and where the sun is not so strong and is out for short times of the year, you’re not going to have a lot of people with heavy tans. But many Polish people can get quite dark after a good summer vacation to a hotter area, especially those with the complexions I posted above. So again.. you seem to have a very limited view of Poland and Polish people.

    4. Sorry Frank, last comment. Since I saw you brought up the Neo-Nazis.. interesting video here about the one’s in Hungary:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTXLYOhqIr0
      As you can see btw.. in the comments some of the Americans are laughing at the fact that some of these guys are “swarthy” and “not white looking” (weird comments to me as they look Hungarian and like other central Eastern/South eastern Euros). In the video you’ll also see that they’re partaking in “Central Asian cultural heritage events” @ 16:46 lol… alongside people who are from central Asia and definitely look “non European”. You see I think this is the difference between Neo-Nazis in the US which are obsessed with “purity of blood” and “whiteness”… these “neo-nazis” in places like Hungary and Poland are not the same variety. This is because again, these places never had the same history of colonialism. There obsession is history and culture.. when they talk about “white people” (which is actually not that common to use those kind of racial signifers).. they’re meaning the Christian European collective, in honesty this could be a lot of people who would never be considered white in the US. So it has little to do with “race” and more to do with preceptions of culture, and this is especially true when you reach Eastern Europe that has historical tensions due to the Ottoman history etc. Not to mention that even though these areas were ethnically diverse, that diversity was a factor for a lot of wars.. and for the last couple decades after the rise of states, they’ve become more homogeneous as borders were drawn.

      But I’d like to point out these are small minorities… that is the ones who hold these racist ideologies. In fact even in Brazil there are many (minorities) of neo-Nazis.. especially in the South. I won’t deny that Poles and other East Euros can often be quite ignorant and even anti-Semitic. But racial attacks are not common, its been blown up by the western media. Funny enough… “racial attacks” against Poles and other East Euros have been way more common in England after Brexit.

      The thing is these people are hated by other Poles, especially the ones who actually call themselves neo-nazis and appropriate the symbols. Why? Because the Poles (Polish Catholic Slavs + Polish Jews and Polish Roma) were the number one victims of the Nazis… and these young men who “appropriate” Nazi symbols or ideology are seen as the lowest of scum to the good percentage of Poles. The Nazis considered Poles “racially inferior” and if the Holocaust hadn’t of ended, they would’ve also committed genocide against most of the ethnic Polish Slav population (the ones who would remain would be their slaves or be deported to central Asia.. according to Nazi plans).

      So its quite and insult to the general Polish population, if you can imagine.

      The other issue here is that… the western media is conflating two things… and misinterpreting things they don’t understand. Is nationalism on the rise in Poland (or has it been)? Sure.. but does that = neo-nazism… definitely not. See the problem is that… Poles and other East Euros (and for that matter most of the world outside of the west)… don’t actually have the same negative opinions of ultra-nationalism that Americans and western Europeans might have. So most of these nationalists who were in those crowds were not neo-nazis, and most of these crowds weren’t even ultra nationalists.. but people who were supporting “patriotic causes” and the crowds were viewed homogeneously by the western media, when they’re definitely not. The same goes for a country like Brazil.. we elected an ultra nationalist president, but most of the country actually supports him.. (including non-white, gay, women etc.). Am I saying this is a good thing? No, as it doesn’t fit my own views and I do think a lot of people both in countries like Poland and Brazil are ignorant. But you have to understand that once you leave North America and western Europe.. the world is quite different, the pc culture that is common in the US is definitely not a thing in countries like that. People don’t really have the same sense of what is prejudice and what is not as Americans do. And in countries that are very homogeneous like Poland (despite being one of the most diverse countries in the past)… you can’t really expect them to have the same standards of Americans in terms of multiculturalism.. because its a much different history, culture, and society in general than the US. And again, Poles can be very ignorant due to their isolation for the past couple of decades (the same goes for East Asian countries i.e.) and they’re very influenced by the media, unfortunately Poles can have a cattle-like mentality… I personally believe this is the case with Slavs due to their long history with serfdom unique to Eastern Europe (lasted much different than the west and was more common and much more severe)… so sometimes I can’t blame them for being so influenced by the media when they see alll this sensationalism about Middle Eastern Muslims etc. of course I’m not justifying it.. but you need to understand that just because a country is in “Europe” its not gonna be the same as a country like Sweden or England (and even those countries have shown themselves to not be as tolerant as they seem).

      With this said.. this ignorance is unfortunate and is also spawned by the fact that Poland is still very religious and tied to Catholicism, so a lot of church officials have been putting out the message that “Muslim invasions” will destroy Catholicism (same as “western homosexuality”) in the country. This is very ignorant because Poland unlike countries like Germany or Sweden has a native Muslim population, and a 600 year history of Muslims and Catholics living together in peace (Polish Tatars)… and these Polish Tatars were never “racialized” (despite the fact that they can often look very Asiatic and dark skinned) the distinguishment was more about religion, but it was tolerated. And most Tatars married into the Polish Catholic community or assimilated. In fact Tatars were more liked than Ukrainians historically. Mind you Poland invited the Tatars to settle from Crimea when they were the only Kingdom in Europe promoting religious tolerance in the middle ages, that’s also how Poland became home to the largest Jewish population in the world at one point. So as you can see… the past few decades of wars, communism, and sudden shift towards the west have made Poland a very complex and confused country. But as a Polish Brazilian with an outside view, and a girlfriend who is very clearly non-Polish and more black looking.. I can tell you most Polish people, especially once they interact with non-Polish people, are not naturally prejudice (you don’t see this kind of racial obsession in Eastern Europe as you do in the west).. and in fact once they get to know you well they can be some of the most hospitable people. The problem is that their history has made them not too recipient of foreigners (given the number of times they’ve been colonized or imperialized). And most people will in no way go out of their way to harass you etc.

      I should also add that… a lot of these (minorities) of young men who do try to appropriate “neo-nazi” ideology do it out of insecurity.. because of the history of othering than western europeans have done to easterners… they’re desperate to be liked by “white westerners” so they try to emulate that (do a google search of “ukrainian neo-nazis” and you’ll be shocked of how many i.e. look like they could be mistaken for eurasian people for example) “pan-european” backwards ideology. But again.. these are very small minorities, and in no way how the western media has interpreted it.

      That’s all from me, I hope I didn’t offend you before btw. Sorry if my words were to harsh.

      1. Good comment, very much agree.

        We lived for a year in Split, Croatia. Croatians also have a “nazi problem”. Ironic, because Croatia was a Nazi-puppet state in WWII. Ironic also because if it had been just about “blood” the Croatians would have had the same fate as the Serbs as well as other Slavs. As you say, they’re not “white” (or white enough). But as you also say, it’s about religion – and after Poland they’re the most religious people I’ve met in Europe. We’ve never had issues with the Croatians, I think they treat foreigners better then they treat each other. Here’s an example though. When we moved into our apartment in Split, the old lady next door came and introduced herself. Sweet, she brought us some cookies. During our 5 minute conversation she finally got to asking Lissette her religion. OH, the relief when Lissette said that she was Latina and a Catholic!! At that point the sweet old lady told us everything she detests about Muslims. But we were her best friends after that was out of the way.

        You know what Marek? Despite a few bad incidences (me in Brazil, Lissette in Poland) we’ve never had issues anywhere with race. Lissette will be the first to tell you that the worst racism that she’s ever faced was in her own country – the United States. And I think what we are seeing today with the Trump government and his steadfast support from 40% of the population speaks volumes. What was always there is now in the open. And you’re perfectly right what you’re saying about violent acts in the UK (and the USA).

        I also think it’s all about ignorance. And religion. The two feed off each other. I have big issues with religion as I wrote about here. Its in theory about acceptance blah blah but in practice it results in exactly the opposite. It’s just one more dividing factor that we humans use to divide each other.

        Anyway, thanks for for the stimulating comments Marek.

      2. “in the comments some of the Americans are laughing at the fact that some of these guys are “swarthy” and “not white looking” (weird comments to me as they look Hungarian and like other central Eastern/South eastern Euros). In the video you’ll also see that they’re partaking in “Central Asian cultural heritage events” @ 16:46 lol… alongside people who are from central Asia and definitely look “non European”. You see I think this is the difference between Neo-Nazis in the US which are obsessed with “purity of blood” and “whiteness”… these “neo-nazis” in places like Hungary and Poland are not the same variety.”

        They ARE the same variety of morons. This is the paradox of the “nationalist international” (aka neo-nazis – no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig…. or simply nazis – nothing “neo” about them, as one wise guy said) – English Nazis will say Polish immigrants are scum, how are Polish Nazis to react to this? Defend their compatriots or be loyal to their brothers in ideology? And in particular, I’ve never understood how there can be skinhead movements (back in 90s) and other Nazi trash, with their admiration of Hitler, in the Slavic nations that in the 3rd Reich were next on the list of under-races just after Jews. If their idol had it his way, they’d find themselves in gas chambers before they finish saying Heil H. What a bunch of morons.
        And if you think Polish (in particular) nationalism doesn’t have any connection to nazism, than you don’t know much about Polish history.

        As to the attitudes of Polish people to dark-skinned individuals, let me tell you a story. A friend of mine from Bulgaria was in Warsaw University on Erasmus. He has this specific Caucasus-physiognomy and a bit darker complexion (rather hair and eyes, otherwise he’s quite pale, a bit like Polish Tatars, afaik). Not that exotic at all, I wouldn’t think he’ll somehow stick out…. I’m not even sure I can write here what he was called in a student bar…. A MUSLIM W*H*O*R*E. Not by some retarded village simpletons but by university students in the Polish capital! I’m of Polish descent but have lived in Poland only for 5 years, more that 10 years ago, so I was truly shocked when I heard that.
        I doubt most of these morons are even aware that the country is not 100% Catholic (which is the official propaganda line) and if you brought it to them that there’ve for centuries been Tatars in Poland, who are Muslim, I doubt they’d embrace them as fellow Poles.

        That being said, I know plenty of wonderful funny Polish people here abroad. Relatively high percentage among them (compared to general population) are gays (btw. same with Hungarians). Now, ask yourself why is this…. (and yes – hate of gays and hate of dark-skinned people are part of the same package)

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php