Having a culinary focus while traveling opens up many options beyond the obvious ones of having more excuses to eat while on a journey and learning about cultures, customs and traditions through eating local while exploring the world.
A big one — perhaps the biggest, looking at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and all the food pics posted, even by those who don’t think of themselves as culinary travelers or foodies — is taking photographs of food.
“Stop, don’t touch!” we demand — of ourselves and our friends — even on a normal visit to a neighborhood restaurant that serves up some version of plated eye candy. We click away as stomachs rumble, the food gets cold, the salads wilt…
For the culinary traveler with a camera, food markets have a special lure. It is possible to go wild and have abundant pleasure without eating. To engage with locals and learn a bit about food traditions and the culture simply while pointing and shooting, no purchases required.
And, of course, the abundant pictures one returns with are a legacy of the trip.
Krakow’s Stary Kleparz Market is a joy and a treat.
I rented a self-catering apartment for a week when I was in Krakow. This meant I could, in fact, purchase from the market and enjoy its bounties. Minimally, I admit, given that the joys of travel are focused on being out and about, experiencing and enjoying. A night time summer al fresco market offered the best of both worlds for this experience.
But the Stary Kleparz was tops for a sensual photo adventure. I went back again and again to wander between the stalls of a place that has been going strong since the 17th-century, according to Poland Culinary Vacations, who tell me on their website that a lot of what I was hearing and not understanding (sigh — my lack of Polish fluency) was sellers shouting about their wares, gossiping and exchanging recipes.
Krakow is the capital of Małopolska, or Lesser Poland, a historical region with rich culinary traditions. Some of what I found in the market were two types of cheese the region is famous for that one might mistake for bread rolls (visually). Oscypek is the most recognized brand of Małopolska. It is a hard sheep milk cheese, spindle in shape, smoky and slightly salty. It is a “protected designation of origin” cheese, now protected, as many other traditions are, by EU law (and recognized by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity).
Also roll-like in appearance — but cylindrical in shape — is the cow’s milk gołka cheese. This is another variety sold in abundance at the market.
More photogenic of course were the berries and the freshly harvested wild mushrooms. And the piles of colorful fresh fruits and veggies — not to forget the fresh flowers in abundance. This is a market mainly frequented by locals and so there is fish in abundance. And cold meat and fresh meet purveyors.
You need to ask where the market it. It’s easy to find but you won’t stumble over it as it’s a couple of streets from Krakow’s gorgeous historic market square.
You head north through the Old Town gates (at Barbican), pass the Grunwaldzki monument and turn first right. Oh, and there’s free WiFi.
See more on the great food markets of Poland at the Poland Culinary Vacations website.
Check out flights online from San Francisco to Warsaw or Krakow. (I flew into Warsaw and caught the train on to Krakow.)
See more on the Visit Małopolska website.
Story and pictures © Wanda Hennig, 2016.