Today I want to show some appreciation for Przemyśl, in Polish Subcarpathia. Please, please, please don’t underestimate this cute little town – I did and I know I missed out loads.
Przemyśl was on my route, because it had to be – we arrived here by night train from Wrocław, together with my fellow traveller, and we were going to cross into Ukraine from here. We almost went for a superfast change option, which would have only given us an hour and a half in Przemyśl, but when my partner discovered that they had a castle over there, that was it – we gave ourselves four hours in between trains in this Subcarpathian town.
One has to admit that the first glimpses of the place, when you leave the train station through its side exit, leave a lot to be desired. Once you get your shoes all muddy when crossing some minibus stops, towards the bus station, it gets kind of borderland-y. What springs up before your eyes, like toxic little mushrooms, are small travel agent booths and multi-coloured cubbyholes of currency exchange kiosks. The dusty historic houses around show signs of decades-long neglect, though there are also comforting sights like the homey bus station bistro.
Whatever. We fix our backpacks and begin the walk, full of enthusiasm and curiosity about what might be hiding just around the corner. It had not even been a full twenty four hours since we began our journey. The idea of the next six months on the road was still difficult to fathom, and the Balkan trails we had planned for such a distant time in the future were only just beginning to loom on our horizon.
We quickly realised that we had chosen the path less travelled by, so to speak, and so we made our way back to the train station and exited into Przemyśl the proper way – through the main, presentable exit. The city’s landscape changes quickly as soon as one gets on the right track and heads towards the old town. The buildings gradually regain their colours, and the streets – their benches and flower pots.
It was Saturday, an early, sunny June morning, and the town was just beginning to wake up. And so were we, after a long night on the train. As soon as we reached Rynek (the market square), we sat in the sun at the first cafe which we found to be open at such an early hour. The place was called „Pączkowo”, meaning something like „Doughnutville”, and the lovely ladies there were already busy making phenomenal doughnuts by hand. Once recharged, we set out to explore further.
The hilly topography of Przemyśl really adds to its charm. It’s green and enchanting. The vast and pleasant market square, another square with a fountain, the arcades, the steep, atmospheric streets leading all the way to the castle hill, beautiful religious architecture… In short, there are enough corners to explore to justify at least a one-night stay.
Coming back to our walk, the market square was already lively, despite the early hour. Some big regional run was supposed to begin shortly, and participants were already gathering. The organisers were encouraging passers-by to join in on the warm-up routine, which was perfect for us, after eight hours in the night train!
After a few lunges and sit-ups, we went up to the castle and climbed its tower (with amazing panoramic views). It turned out that there were many more trails on the castle hill just waiting to be discovered. It is possible to walk from the Castle Park all the way up to Kopiec Tatarski, another great viewpoint, from which you can not only see the entire town of Przemyśl, but all the way to Ukraine, too.
It also turned out that that same evening, long after our departure for Lviv, there were going to be a few interesting cultural events at the castle, as well as a gig by one Polish rock band I like a lot. I felt so disappointed that I was going to miss it all. You might ask, „so why didn’t you just stay longer, if there was so much to do and see?”. Well, that is a very good question. It wouldn’t even occur to me at the time. I guess that was my first lesson in travelling. Looking back, I can see that I tried to plan the first few days of my journey too much. It taught me to travel more slowly, more flexibly, without any overly strict timescales. I recommend all of you fellow travellers this more chilled approach. Otherwise, I found it hard to really make the most of what a place has to offer and to absorb its vibes when I am in a hurry somewhere. Why hurry? But more on this another time!
I will definitely go back to Przemyśl at some point, and give it more time and attention. It really deserves it. I think I could easily spend half a day just hanging around the green, hilly market place with a book. And, on a warm evening, a walk along the steep, winding streets must be charming. So I would also like to ask you, dear Readers, to give more time and love to Przemyśl than I had, if you are ever planning to make this sweet and hilly town a stop-over. It’s really not worth only spending one or two hours here. It’s best to give Przemyśl a day or two to put its spell on you – I promise you won’t be disappointed!