Monday, 12 September 2016

Kraków City Break


I recently went on a four day city break to Kraków, Poland - one of the most beautiful European cities I've had the pleasure of visiting. It was a none stop weekend to the point where I racked up a total of 46km of walking! I thought it would be nice to write something about the trip and give some tips. Despite the wealth of TripAdvisor information I still really enjoy picking up a guide book to give me some ideas of things to do, places to go and what to eat (VERY IMPORTANT).

What struck me most about Kraków was how much you can get for so little despite its' growing tourism. We arrived on the Friday evening and headed straight for the main square. There is a plethora of restaurants and bars with something to suit anyone sitting right on the square, most of which are veggie friendly! Sitting outside of a restaurant called Chopin whilst horse and carts passed us by carrying enthusiastic tourists I had my first taste of Polish culture - literally. I'd read about the dumplings before going - they arrived looking fairly bland, I guess I assumed they would be in a sauce, I was wrong they tasted great without, nicely washed down with some wine. A meal for two, a bottle of  wine, gorgeous scenery and a good relax for under £20 - thank you Kraków.

I've got a bit of history of getting lost so I sorted out offline maps which successfully got me from the airport to my hotel but I was more wary of using them to find all of the highlights in my guidebook on a pretty hot day. The main square is littered with people selling tours which I would ordinarily respond "no thank you" to but this day we took someone up on the offer. Off we hopped on a golf buggy tour, despite being a bumpy, cling onto the seat ride I'd definitely recommend it as a fast way to see around the city. The tour pointed out beautiful and historic sites which I probably would have missed if I had been walking myself, you also had the option to get off and have a look around sites. We jumped off at the Gothic Corpus Christi Church in Kazimierz, a neighbourhood where, pre-war Jewish and Christian cultures coexisted, it's clear now that this continues to experience rebirth. Whilst in Kazimierz we picked up a zapiekanka, which is a part pizza, part toastie situation I believe the standard is mushroom, onion and cheese with ketchup but the assortment of street food stands ensure you can top it with whatever you fancy - best £1.50 lunch going!

Gothic Corpus Christi Church


At the airport on my way home I heard some women talking about how visiting Auschwitz and The Wieliczka Salt Mine in one day wouldn't be a good idea. I beg to differ, when time is limited such as visiting for along weekend I would recommend doing both in one day purely as a means of using your time better. We booked through who I would recommend, they pick up outside your hotel in a comfortable, air-conditioned mini bus. The morning and early afternoon are spent on a guided tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau which I will write about at a later date when I've had the time to process things. I suggest if you are going you should book onto a guided tour, I feel it's the only way to begin to understand what has happened. We then went off to see the salt mine which was way more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, I mean a mine with over 40 chapels and the most impressive of them being completely carved out of salt, chandelier included. I also licked a salt wall that I'm guessing thousands of other tourists have licked too. For the record I don't think I'll ever un-taste that salt. The modern day mine also boasts a health spa to help those with respiratory problems, I don't think it could get much cooler to the point where I feel like you need to see the billions of photos I took...

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Speaking of never being able to un-taste something, I guess the trip wouldn't have been complete without a spot of vodka tasting. I'd recommend a trip to Wódka Cafe-Bar, I'm not going to lie it looks like a bit of a cupboard featuring two tables but the flavours were great. Go for the tray of six to try, ours featured chill-chocolate and earl grey! I don't think I can quite prepare you for how strong they were, my throat was not ready for it.

What I found most striking about Kraków was the way life has moved on. It's difficult to explain what I mean, there is evidence everywhere of the absolute atrocities committed by the Nazis in world war two but minutes away from these is modern life, life that has moved on despite complete destruction. I guess I just found it difficult to comprehend how a nation goes about rebuilding after everything that happened there but somehow they did. About a five minute walk outside of the hustle and bustle of the market square in Kazimierz exists The New Jewish Cemetery, which was all but destroyed in world war two, although it's had restoration work many of the graves barely stand and it truly pained my heart to look at the sorrowful state. I guess it stands as a reminder to us all, a way to make sure no one forgets - the city does that so well.
New Jewish Cemetery 
New Jewish Cemetery World War Two Memorial

Kraków is a beautiful city with something to suit you whatever the break you fancy. If it's to explore the history, to have a time out from life back home or to run about in a non-stop frenzy to see everything I'm sure you will love it just as I did.


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