There’s quite a few things I love about living in Berlin. The city itself is a rich tapestry of art, culture, and history, but even the most mundane activities have a special kind of charm for me. Everything is still so new and different. I love walking along the cobblestone roads lined and tree lined canals, and now that the dust has finally settled from the move and my studio is set up, it seemed like a great time to take advantage of the summer by taking a little vacation!
A couple weeks ago I took road trip with my husband and mother-in-law to Poland. I packed my most comfy and stylish walking sandals (above), favorite dresses, and of course the camera the document to adventure.
As much as I love the good ol’ American Road Trip, it was a different experience here. In many ways it was a lot like road trips back home; I brought snacks, we made a few roadside pit stops, and there were lots of rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Of course, we were on the Autobahn, a fact that my husband, the race car driver enjoyed immensely. The most notable difference? It only took a couple hours to be in an entirely new world. I had always heard that travelling in Europe was easy, but I didn’t really understand what that meant until now.
First Stop: Poland
The main purpose of this trip was to venture out and visit areas of Poland where my mother-in-law’s family comes from, and I gotta say it was a pretty remarkable. Although she grew up in Germany, and was even here as a child during the Berlin Airlift, she always remembered the stories of a family estate in Poland that had to be abandoned after WWII, and has been telling us intriguing tales about it for quite a few years.
Over the years she’s done some sleuthing and has reacquainted herself with some relatives on that side of the family and thanks to this, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend an afternoon with one of her cousins. A gracious and kind soul, we met her at her home one afternoon. To our surprise and delight, she prepared tea and cake for our visit and then we set out for a little day trip to see sites meaningful to the family. A few places were even built by the family patriarch. On the way, we listened to unbelievably harrowing first-hand accounts of hiding and escaping from Nazis during WWII. Given that my exposure to these stories have been limited to movies and books, it was an unforgettable experience that gave me perspective I’d never had before.
A Good Omen
The search brought us to the cities of Wroclaw, Gliwice, and Grapice. Along the way, we got to see quite a bit of the beautiful Polish countryside complete with castle towers in the distance and we were greeted with an especially meaningful good omen: nesting storks. Not only are they said to be symbols of good luck and fortune, but they’re also featured on the long lost family seal that was rediscovered recently, hidden in plain site.
Their significance the to family first came to light while my MIL was admiring a piece jewelry passed down to her from her mother years ago. It caught the light just right one day and revealed itself in the setting. She’d always been curious about her family’s history, and this discovery seemed to spark said curiosity even more. It eventually played a larger role in her search for her family’s past; this same seal later appeared on that long abandoned family estate I mentioned earlier.
Seeing the storks as we were on our way to Krakow felt like some kind of sign, and at least made me feel like wherever we were going, we were on the right path.
A Few Days in Krakow
That path eventually lead us to our second stop, Krakow. It’s a major cultural hub in Europe, and frankly it’s impossible to see everything in a couple days. We were lucky enough to visit the nearby “Wieliczka” Salt Mines for an afternoon, and took a tour of Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter by electric car. We stayed in an apartment that was just minutes away from the Old Town, and all I can say is that this part of Krakow made me feel like a kid again. Somehow just being there among the old world streets and architecture instantly made me feel like some kind of fairy tale princess. Wildly grand and picturesque is the best way to describe it, complete with carriage drawn horses, the Town Hall Tower, Cloth Hall, and St. Mary’s Basilica.
As much as I loved the beautifully dappled horses with their opulent and colorful harness details, I couldn’t bring myself to take a carriage ride (although I must admit, my five year-old self would have absolutely done this and felt like a princess the whole way). Aside from that, I was particularly drawn to the hustle and bustle of the Renaissance Cloth Hall in the Market Square. It’s one of the oldest trade centers in Europe, a place where merchants have sold their goods for hundreds of years.
It was cool site to see, and has gotten me really excited to start selling at markets again in Berlin.
Off to Dresden
Our last planned stop before heading back was Dresden, and all I can say is that this city left me speechless. Generally speaking, it’s a bit of miracle that it’s standing at all. The entire city was leveled in a matter of days during WWII, and in many ways it still bears the scars of the past. Walking around the city, it’s hard to miss; a number of the buildings and bricks are still blackened with soot. The process of rebuilding started almost immediately after the war was over, and the city has been brought back to its original splendor. I have no doubt that I could wander these streets for hours.
Even though I only had a few hours to explore, I did my best! The day started at the Frauenkirche in the main market square, and from there we made our way to Theaterplatz Square which is home to some of the most incredible architecture I’ve ever seen including a stunning opera house and an breathtaking palace. Everywhere I looked was more spectacular than the last; it made me wonder what I’d discover if I had a few days to explore rather than just a few hours.
Getting back to Berlin was short and sweet – it’s only a couple hours drive from Dresden. The experience opened my eyes a bit as far as how easy it can be to get away and I can’t wait to venture off to other parts of Europe this summer!
Comments or Suggestions?
Do you have any special travelling tips, or recommendations on your favorite European cities to visit? I’d love to hear from you!
Please comment below, or contact me.