The Elephant on the Moon Hostel and Polish cuisine

After my trip to Auschwitz, I leapt into the nearest bar that would serve me beer and food. It’s a necessary extension to the trip and one that should by all rights be included in the ticket price. But before we get there…

I arrived at the Elephant on the Moon Hostel. As I’ve said before, it’s the first time I’ve stayed at a hostel and the experience cannot have been better. Gregory and Kate are both fantastic and very friendly people who have been both informative and helpful in my stay around Krakow. The more I think back, the more I regret not just coming here in the first place, with the hotel and its building site next door, the room next to the lift, being 5km from most things of interest and seemingly nowhere near as knowledgeable staff. Still, not much I can do about that now ๐Ÿ™‚

Upon arriving I was given the run-down of things to do and see in Krakow, a map (ye gods – 3 days without a map until now), a list of upcoming clubs and concerts, and a tour brochure with the helpful advice that they could happily organise a tour to Auschwitz, it left at 9.20 in the morning and all I had to do was hand over some cash. And that’s the last I did about it until 9am the next morning, 20 minutes before I needed to be at Hotel Novotel for the coach.

Gregory even packed up some breakfast for me into a bag since I was in a bit of a rush while Kate phoned for a taxi. By around 1 o’clock on the Auschwitz tour with no break, he had quickly become my favourite person in all of Krakow. Or, to put it another way – I was being well looked after. I’ve mentioned I don’t really have a point of reference for hostels, but the Elephant on the Moon is clean, tidy, with friendly people, perfectly comfortable and a fine breakfast (add some slices of ham and it’s exactly the same as the hotel, to be honest). I’m pleased with my choice, yes. I’m repeating myself and I get the point, I’ll move on.

Following the frankly appalling diet I’ve had over the past few days of hamburgers, steaks, mixed grills, pizza, hot dogs and kebabs – Kate took it upon herself to make sure I spent my last day in Krakow eating decent, proper Polish foods. Well, all I’ve seen people eat so far is all of the above, so it’s not really my fault – is it? Yes. Apparently it is. So, armed with my new map and a marking on it where to find a good cheap student hangout I was on my way. I was on a roll – straight down Al J. Slowackiego, turn right onto Krupnicka, and it’s on the corner of Garncarska. I say these names only to wow and impress you of all of their extra unnecessary letters. The Polish have a love for the latter half of the alphabet that we just can’t ever hope to replicate.

As I bounded into the restaurant with a massive grin on my face, pleased with successes of finding the place as well as the opportunity to eat some real food, everyone stopped eating, and talking to stare up at me. I walked up to the group of 5, yes 5, attractive waitresses and grinned.
“Uuuuuh, anyone speak English?” They all looked at one another, then back at me, eager for someone else to take charge.
“Yes”, replied the one in the middle “only reservations. No tables”.
“Oh right…” my big grin slightly fading. “Well… can I make a reservation then?”
Blank look.
“Or….should I come back?”
“Yes, yes”, responded the waitress. “Come back later”, a little too enthusiastically. “About four”.

I assumed that they closed at four. Or that maybe there was a shift change. Either way, I knew in my heart that I probably wouldn’t be returning at four. It would be a terrible inconvenience to walk twenty minutes out of my way. Whichever way that way might have been.

“Okay”, I replied, by huge grin returning. “Four o’clock”, as I bounded enthusiastically back out the door.

So, I didn’t partake in the recommended cuisine. But, my map had more. Kate had also written the names of the dishes I should be trying as well. This would be easy. All I needed to do was find another restaurant selling “Zurek w chlebie”, and “Pierog ruskie”. how hard could it be, really? Not as easy as you’d think apparently. The first one is a soup, the second – I still have no idea. My suspicion is that it contains cabbage though.

So, long story short – because it’s really long enough already. I didn’t find either. But I came close. Oh yes I did. I found Zurek polski z ziemiakami. Which is the same soup, but with potatoes and without the rather interesting method of putting the soup inside the bread (???). I didn’t understand either. But it sounded fun. It’s a traditional sour polish soup, and really quite nice – with bits of sausage, and in my case, chunks of potato as well (that’s the z ziemiakami part, I’m told).

Not really knowing what else to look for, I also went with Kotlet schabowy, or as we like to say on the English side of the menu … “Polish chop”. It had the word Polish in the name so I naturally assumed that maybe it contained something to do with Poland. It wasn’t as good a choice as the soup and that’s not a testament to the fantastic flavourings flourishing past my taste buds. I also doubt I’ll ever get to use that phrase again, will I?

It could have been better. It basically consisted of mashed up, breaded pork chop with chips and salad. Or as we like to say on the REAL English side of the menu. Tesco’s value meal – 2.49.

I have three days now, to find this magical Pierog Ruskie. But I am leaving Krakow tomorrow morning, and heading to Warsaw for my final stop at another hostel – Nathans Villa Hostel.



  1. Oooer – do you mean Blakepics or the blog? Tis working from this 'ere Internet cafe. No matter, I'll try and set it up to import comments from facebook when I get back anyway – I think I saw a magic plugin that claims to do that.

  2. Nice article!! I was in auschwiz tour too. It was great!

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