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Lunch in Slovakia, Dinner in Krakow September 18, 2011

We left Budapest after breakfast and headed towards Krakow Poland.  On the way, we drove through Slovakia. The Czech Republic and Slovakia used to be Czechoslovakia until it split peacefully in 1993.
_45338269_slovakia_map226 [source]

Halfway through the drive, we stopped in a town called Banska Bystricia for lunch.
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Slovakia is a little off the radar for the hoards of tourists, so it was nice to enjoy a sleepy European town and have it all to ourselves. I really enjoyed this stop in an off-the-beaten-path location. (Rick Steves would be proud).
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The town was so picturesque, colorful and vibrant. And the only other people we saw were locals strolling with their kids on a quiet Saturday morning.
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The old square is zoned for pedestrians and is lined with cute buildings, local businesses and a few restaurants.
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We surveyed our menu options and ended up at a place advertising their crepes. Sold. It sounded perfect!
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Since all we were doing was sitting on a bus all day, we kept it pretty light. I started with a greek salad that came with creamy cheese and some toast. Hit the spot!
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Irving ordered a ham and cheese savory crepe that looked awesome!
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But don’t worry, I got my share of crepes too when I ordered a Nutella and banana dessert one!
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Feel free to drool…. I’ll wait…..

The prices there weren’t hiked up for tourists and it was so reasonable, Irving ordered a Nutella and Banana waffle too!
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I’m not sure where all of our other Contiki mates dined, but I’m pretty sure they missed out, this was amazing.

Wish we could have explored Slovakia more. I bet the whole country is peppered with little towns like this with unexplored sights.
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And check out their tourist information center… lined with chandeliers. So pretty.
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I’ll be back, Slovakia!
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From there, our drive continued towards Poland. It was a long drive, but the view out the bus window was worth it. So pretty!
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By dinnertime, we had arrived into Krakow!
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Tonight, there was an included regional dinner in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, Kazimierz. I think I remember a statistic that said more than 80% of Krakow’s jews had been killed in WWII. It may even actually be higher than that. Before the war, this Jewish Quarter was vibrant and full of life, now it’s a little ghostly and sad, but more on that during our guided tour tomorrow.
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Dinner was at Ariel, a traditional Jewish restaurant that was happy to accommodate our group.
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We started with Onion Soup, served with Cheese and Croutons.
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Irving had the meal that was served (though we can’t remember now if it was chicken or duck).
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And I got the latkes… I thought it meant potato pancakes, but instead was more of a potato loaf). It had a mushroom gravy over the top and was extremely salty. I’m all for eating authentic when I travel, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of salt many of the countries used in their dishes.
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Dessert was a rum raisin custard.
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Dinner was accompanied by a three piece musical group (accordion, clarinet and bass), the music was beautiful and really set the stage for our visit to Poland.
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After dinner, a group of us headed out for some night life. We hit two bars along the way. The drink of choice was a traditional cocktail that mixed apple juice, vodka, cucumber schnapps and cinnamon. Even I caved and had my first drink of the trip, it was worth it. Yum!
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Later, map in hand, I led our little group through the streets of Krakow until we found the old town square. It was stunning at night.
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I love when our first impressions of a city are at night. The crowds are gone, the vendors shut down, and you can bask in the white lights of a town proud of its history.
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Can’t wait to get up and explore more tomorrow!
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