Krakow was always one place that I wanted to go so I took the opportunity to visit after our trip to Prague.
It was roasting when we arrived, much warmer than we expected Poland to be in May! The hotel we were stayed in was the Ibis Budget, the room was reminiscent of the size of a matchbox . But at £13 a night it was a bargain! So we dumped our bags and got ready to explore Krakow.The hotel was around a 15 minute walk from the main square, Rynek Glowny. Both of us were in awe at how magnificent this area of the Old Town was with St. Mary’s Church and the Cloth Hall Market. Seriously, it is stunning! Wanting to take in the atmosphere of the city we decided to stop at a café looking onto the square for iced coffee and a little people watching. This was followed by a couple of beers to settle our nerves for the next activity…
Lost Souls Alley! A terrifying, horror escape game where we had to make our way through a house, figuring out how to unlock each door until we reached the end. It is also completely dark inside and we only got one torch between us. While we were waiting for our turn we heard screams coming from inside, once they were out we learnt they were a group of fully grown men on a stag do which not only made as laugh, but also seriously consider why the hell we decided to do this. We won’t go into detail about what happened inside in case you go but it was fantastic and very scary. Kevin will deny it, but he was more scared than me! Our bravery needed rewarded so we spent most of the evening sampling Polish beer. Later on we decided to walk to the Podgorze district to see Ghetto Heroes Square. It’s a square containing 33 chairs serving as a memorial for Jewish people forced into the Ghetto during WWII. The chairs are illuminated at night giving a very eerie and sad feeling which is appropriate for what it signifies.
Our air conditioning was broken in our room leaving us in a catch 22, open the window for some air and deal with the noise of the very busy road our room looked onto (I am theee lightest sleeper in the world) or melt in silence. We choose to switch between the two.
We were up early anyway today as we were going to visit Auschwitz, a German Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.3 million people were murdered between 1940-1945. I am fascinated by history and I am particularly interested in WWII meaning I had wanted to visit here for a long time. We booked this through a company, and travelled by mini bus 66KM to Oswiecim where the camp is located. The guide we were allocated at Auschwitz was fantastic, she was really informative and professional whilst providing us with information from her own families history. We spent around two hours in Auschwitz I, originally a forced labour camp before heading to Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) the extermination camp. It is a very sobering and sad place to visit but I also think it’s also a very important place to visit and everyone should go in their lifetime to ensure these atrocities aren’t repeated. I will be writing a separate article in more detail of our visit here.
We arrived back in Krakow late afternoon and both felt emotionally drained from our experience. So we decided to relax for the rest of the day spending most of our time in a local Jazz bar reflecting on our thoughts before heading for dinner. We decided to eat at Moo Moo Steak & Burger Club where we had excellent steaks for ridiculously cheap prices. Check this out if you are going to Krakow you won’t be disappointed.
Another early start as today we headed to the Salt Mines located in Wieliczka. Dating back to the 13th century, it is one of the oldest salt mines in the world. 327 meters in depth and over 178 miles in length it is massssive, and we had to walk down a lot of steps. The mine is home to many items carved from salt. Including, statues, chandeliers and even an entire chapel… impressive isn’t it? Exiting the mines involved a ride back to the top in a mine shaft which was pretty cool. We did enjoy the overall experience as we hadn’t done anything like this before but if were honest we thought the tour was a bit long and dragged on towards the end.
The weather was pretty dreary when we got back to Krakow, so we decided to grab a coffee at a cafe and we were lucky enough to get a table underneath the canopy outside before the rain started. Our luck then ran out, Kevin knocked my coffee all over my phone and jeans and while we were trying to clean up the rain was becoming so heavy the cafe started to pull back the canopy before it collapsed due to the rain. Inside was packed, we were drenched and I was covered in coffee. We made it into a bar just along the road, it was pretty cool and similar to cellar bars we visited in Prague. A couple of beers and we soon dried off. Later we got changed and headed out to Pod Walwelem, a German restaurant near the castle where we had giant beers, kebabs and enjoyed the live music playing one of my favourite songs Por una Cabeza.
Our final full day in Krakow! After breakfast, we headed to the meeting point for the Jewish Quarter and Schindlers List Walking Tour that we had planned. The guide took us around the Jewish district, Kazimierz and we were shown locations where the movie Schindler’s List was filmed (one of my fav movies and you have to watch it if you haven’t already). We also saw where the Ghetto wall previously stood before the tour finished near by. Unfortunately, the guide we had wasn’t very good, we were left with lots of unanswered questions. But back to just the two of us, we visited Schindler’s Factory, this previously belonged to Nazi member Oskar Schindler. During World War 2 he managed to save 1200 Jews from the Holocaust by employing them in his metal factory. They worked here before moving to a different factory in Brněnec in the Czech Republic. It was really interesting and we got to see Schindler’s office and metal pots and pans produced here from the time.
Late afternoon was spent visiting Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral on Wawel hill. Tongue twisted with Wawel yet? The architecture is stunning and small climb up the hill rewarded us with the great view of the city… including the fire breathing dragon. Yes, a dragon statue that breaths real fire.
We headed for some drinks at the Jazz bar that we now decided was our local. After checking Twitter we discovered that Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield from Prison Break) was in the city and was staying in a hotel literally a 2 minute walk away. Shamelessly, we headed to the hotel to try and catch a glimpse of him but our celebrity stalking didn’t pay off, even after hanging around the hotel bar for a couple hours. I know it’s sad…. but I LOVE HIM. The hotel had a rooftop bar though giving us a great view of the square at sunset so that it made it kinda worth it.
We ended the evening in Moo Moo with a bottle of champers, toasting the great trip we had… and also trying to dull the pain of returning home the next day. Krakow is now one of our favourite cities. And I even get an I told you so moment, having to persuade Kevin to visit here as he initially wasn’t keen…he ended up loving it! haha. Really, it is such a beautiful city, with a fascinating and rich history and we hope to return soon.