Chanoy Honeymoon: Krakow and Warsaw, Poland, April 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

There’s a friendly rivalry between Krakow and Warsaw in Poland that reminds me of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. Krakow holds a grudge against Warsaw for taking the title of ‘capital city’ away from them, and proudly claims that they have a longer history and local culture. For their part, Warsaw generally pretends that Krakow doesn’t exist and claims to be the epicentre of everything truly Polish.

Both cities have their attractions but just as I’ll always be a Melbourne girl rather than a Sydney girl, I have to say that Krakow rather than Warsaw holds more appeal for me. Built on a slightly smaller scale, Krakow feels more real and authentic, rather than artificial and manufactured. To be fair, Warsaw can’t help being a bit artificial – their ‘old town’ might look old, but it was actually only built in the past 50 years as the city was almost completely devastated by World War Two. As a result, what looks old is actually quite new, and what’s new are entirely cold and alienating monolithic Communist-era buildings.

By far the highlight of our time in the two cities were the free walking tours we did with the Free Walking Tour Foundation. While there are many cities that offer free walking tours, Poland does it particularly well. In each city, they not only offer the standard sights and history tour, but also a handful of themed specialist tours.

We did the Food Walking Tour in Krakow, as well as the Street Art Tour. In Warsaw, we did the Warsaw at War tour and the Alternative Warsaw tour. These specialist tours give you a fantastic insight into not just the ‘old town’ touristy parts of a city, but also into local culture, food, lifestyles. It’s an experience that I can highly recommend – guides are well-informed, knowledgeable and very engaging in the way that they talk about their city as well. You can tell when someone is passionate about their work, and these guides definitely were!

I also recommend doing a daytrip to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Auschwitz when in Krakow. It’s not a fun or exciting trip. It’s incredibly bleak and sad. But it’s important. There was a quote by George Santyana that was painted on a wall in one of the buildings in Auschwitz, and I think it applies in this case: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

While most of us will spend some time in school learning about World War Two, it’s hard to truly understand the true human impact of the atrocities committed in camps like Auschwitz. It’s not until you start to see the photos and hear some of the personal stories of people who were sent to the camps that you really begin to see what it meant to a whole generation of people. Lives were changed irreparably. Families lost loved ones. Whole families were lost. A whole community of people were lost.

Couple a visit to Auschwitz with some of the free walking tours focused on the Jewish history of Poland for a greater understanding of the devastation wrecked by the Holocaust. Be prepared to cry.

The food in Poland can a bit hit-and-miss, more so in Warsaw than Krakow I think. Our meal at Na Bednarskiej Pierogi in Warsaw was highly disappointing and it was really just the pastries we bought from Croque Madame that were particularly enjoyable. Our meals in Krakow were much better, with a good meal at Polakowski and a fantastic food walking tour around the city as well.

To finish this entry, I’d like to reiterate what I said about our meal at FamilijnyIf you feel lucky in being able to travel, then spread your good fortune where you can. Visit a canteen that welcomes homeless people if you go to Poland and order more than you need. Your leftovers won’t go to waste.

Review: Na Bednarskiej Pierogi, Warsaw Poland

As much as we relied on suggestions from locals about restaurants to try while we were travelling around Europe, this method wasn’t always entirely foolproof. People have different tastes, and what’s good for one person, isn’t good for another.

Na Bednarskiej Pierogi in Warsaw was the perfect example of this. It had been recommended by one of the guides we’d met as a place that serves good pierogi, but honestly it was a bit disappointing.


Our visit started off promisingly enough – as we walked into the restaurant, a group of local office workers were walking out. That’s always a good sign of a cheap and reliable local restaurant! However, things got a little more disorganised from there.

There was only one person in the restaurant when there would normally have been at least two or three. This meant that the one waitress would take two or three orders at a time, go to the kitchen to prepare the meals, serve them, and then go back to the counter to take more orders. While she was very friendly, the whole process was remarkably inefficient and a bit frustrating.

Meat Plate of pierogi, 23 Polish Zloty
Meat Plate of pierogi, 23 Polish Zloty

K ordered the Meat Plate, made up of a variety of different pierogi off their menu. My pick of the bunch was probably the red-skinned spicy Diavolo pierogi, made of pork, beef, paprika, onion, marjoram, and plenty of pepper and salt! While it wasn’t as spicy as I would have wanted it to be, it was still a lot spicier than standard Polish cuisine. Like the pierogi we had at Polakowski in Krakow however, I thought the pastry was much too thick which made the whole dish a bit too stodgy.

Daily Meal soup (18 Polish Zloty)
Daily Meal soup (18 Polish Zloty)

I had originally wanted to order some pancakes, Volhynian, with bacon and potatoes. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of stock so with a bit of panic as I was forced to make a second choice immediately, I opted for the Daily Meal of soup, dish of the day, raw salad and compote drink.

The soup was a mix of pork and vegetables with a bit of cream in the mix. Unfortunately however, it seemed to be the case that the restaurant had chosen to use more offcuts than the nicer parts of vegetables – so the ends of carrots, and the thick parts of celery. It was as though they had taken all the offcuts that would normally be used for making a nice rich stock, and just added cream to the mix to turn it into a soup.

Daily Meal Dish of the Day
Daily Meal Dish of the Day

The Dish of the Day was just as disappointing. While seated in the restaurant, I heard the distinct hum of a microwave, and a cheery ‘ding’. Less than a minute later, this clump of reheated microwaved faux-paella was placed in front of me along with three slices of cucumber as the ‘raw salad’ of the day. Suffice to say that I ate some truly terrible Weight Watchers meals two years ago when I went through my extreme weight-loss period and I would rate this paella in that category.

Locals may like it, but I honestly can’t rate or recommend Na Bednarskiej Pierogi. The daily meal special is extremely disappointing and the pierogi can be a bit hit and miss with their thick pastry. Go elsewhere for a good meal in Warsaw!

Na Bednarskiej Pierogi is located at 28/30 Bednarska ul in Warsaw, Poland.

Review: Familijny, Warsaw Poland

This is a review with a bit of a difference. I’m not really interested in reviewing the food that you can get at Familijny in Warsaw as it takes a back seat to what really matters at this canteen.


Familijny is a canteen that welcomes all customers, no matter their nationality, race, age, financial status, housing situation. There’s even an English menu behind the counter for those who don’t speak Polish. Once you order, you will find yourself seated next to middle-class families, poor students, homeless people – all tucking into a plate of Familijny’s cheap and simple homecooked Polish meals.


But not everyone is as fortunate. A single ‘meal’ at Familijny consisting of meat, potatoes or buckwheat and salad will set you back between 11 and 13 Polish zloty, or $4 in Aussie dollars. Nothing really for fortunate people like us. But for many of the Polish homeless community, it’s more than they can afford.


As K and I sat in the canteen eating our meals, I noticed an older weather-beaten Polish couple sitting a few tables away, nursing two cups of coffee between them ($1 AUD). They had chosen a table near the clearing station, where diners deposit their dirty dishes to be taken back into the kitchen for cleaning.


As dishes were placed there by diners, the couple got up and scraped together scraps from different plates into a full meal for themselves – half a dozen scraps of mashed potatoes, buckwheat and salad into a semblance of a meal. I felt incredibly guilty because by the time I’d noticed what they were doing, I’d already polished off my own meal.

I toyed with the idea of going to the counter and paying for two meals for the two of them. It would cost me nothing really, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure how it would be received. The couple were being very discreet about what they were doing and the staff at the restaurant were being discreet about waiting for a decent amount of time before clearing the dishes. All signs pointed to this being an accepted phenomenon, and I was afraid that buying meals for them outright would be a faux pas that would cause them shame or embarrassment.


If I was to return to Familijny for a meal, I think I would do things differently. Rather than ordering one meal per person, I think I would make the conscious effort to over-order so that there would be a significant amount of leftovers for anyone who wanted to help themselves. If discretion is how things are done here, then that’s what I would do to help those who need it.

If you feel lucky in being able to travel, then spread your good fortune where you can. Visit a canteen that welcomes homeless people if you go to Poland and order more than you need. Your leftovers won’t go to waste.

Familijny is located at Nowy Swiat 39 in Warsaw, Poland.