Krakow Cheap And Expensive
When I travel I have one aim – to eat the best in the best places.
However, money is often a problem so I always have a plan. On my last break in Poland I took the decision to eat wherever cheaply as possible and then blow all I've saved in the best restaurants and clubs on the last night.
My flight took me to Krakow, known as the cultural capital of Poland, and between the meals there was plenty to keep me busy on the cheap, for example the royal castle, numerous galleries and museums and a fair few pubs.
My cheap mission got off to a good start over my week in Krakow as the city's massive student population means there are plenty of cheap pubs and restaurants. Quick research told me the place to start was a Bar Mleczny – or milk bar – where dinner costs less than a couple of quid.
Almost around every corner in Krakow you can find these cheap restaurants. You may have to share a table – but that's a good way to meet people, fellow visitors, students and Krakowians alike – although you have to keep an eye and nose open for the occasional unwashed diner.
The city's main square is the centre for action with what seems like hundreds of pubs, clubs and restaurants surrounding the Rynek Glowny.
Just round the corner from Empik – the impossible to miss bookshop that fills up on Sundays being the only attraction that seems to be open – is a small milk bar that probably hasn't changed in the last twenty or so years.
I sat down waiting for service – but soon figured out I had to head to the counter. Bravely – with a hand from my guide book - I choose pierogi ruskie and golambki – which apparently means pigeon.
What we ended up with were dumplings stuffed with cheese served with onion and a stuffed cabbage leave filled with rice and meat. Enough to keep us going.
Other such milk bars can be found around the main square and in the old Jewish district of Kazimierz. The choice and standard of food doesn't vary much but those with bigger queues tend to have better food. U Babci Maliny (Grandma Raspberry's), Bar Grodzki and U Bogdanków all served basic bar mleczny fare as did Rozowy Slon (Pink Elephant), which for some reason is decorated with murals of cartoon characters.
The key is to cheap culinary success is to try to pronounce what you want, get a blank look from the waitress, try again and point, say Dzieki (thanks) – pronounced jen-ki - and wait for what you order to be called, or rather shrieked out, and finally collect it. If you can't remember what you've ordered, wait until the waitress gives you a dirty look.
If you are after a plain burger, the best place to head is Rooster. The Americana is overplayed but the burgers are great. Although slightly breaking my mission of food on the cheap, we had the bonus of waitresses wearing tight red hot pants and low-cut lycra tops. Surprisingly almost as many women as men seem to go there during the day.
So to the last night. The choice of top restaurants in Krakow was weaned down to Wentzl and Wierzynek.
In the end we opted for Wentzl, which supposedly dates back to 1792, Wierzynek being a few hundred years old seemed a bit old fashioned. The waiter decided that he should speak French to us, but that did not hugely matter and the menu had English to help us along.
What they offer, along with the brilliant views over the main square, is a great selection of Polish classics. The quality and luxury was like an awakening for the taste buds after the milk bars and well worth the trade off. The duck and venison are both well worth checking out and the bill was less than an ordinary meal back in Blighty.
Which left enough cash to take out to Krakow's pubs and clubs. All this and I forget to mention the beer and pubs. There are loads of pubs, either around the main square or tucked in side streets not far off. There's so much choice there is something to cover all tastes and budgets and almost all bar staff speak English so if after a few too many the names of the drinks are unpronounceable it doesn't matter.