Krakow Day One (3/1)
The flight from Rome to Krakow was definitely not the best flight we have experienced. Flying Ryanair we were all squashed on to a small plane and the majority of people were unable to place their carry-on luggage in the overhead compartments as there was simply no space. We were one of these people having to place our carry-on luggage on the floor in front of our seats, taking up all our leg room – luckily the flight was only 1 hour 40mins.
In the air the flight was quite bumpy which didn’t help the already uncomfortable situation. Then when we finally landed everyone clapped, which is quite possibly the strangest experience we have had on a plane. Was this the pilots first flight?
Luckily once in the Krakow Airport we were in and out with minimal fuss, collecting our bags and in a taxi within minutes. Before jumping in a cab though we needed to get some cash out. As I hadn’t checked the difference in currency yet and the relevance of the currency to goods and services I had to guess how much we needed over the next 2 days. The options on the ATM were 800, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 and 2,500 zolty. Playing it safe I decided to withdraw 1,500 zolty (middle amount- should be safe) which worked out to be about $500 AUD. If you can spend over $500 in Krakow over 2 days… you must be able to eat and drink a lot!
Hotel Best Western Krakow Old Town
Our Taxi driver spoke perfect English which was a relief, as we had thought there might be a language barrier in Poland. Given our hotel was close to the old town centre the taxi driver knew exactly where we were heading. How is it that Krakow has taxi’s that are new Mercedes and Perth has BA Falcons? Nice to be in a roomy Mercedes after a cramped flight on a model aeroplane.
When we arrived at our hotel it was only 930am and we thought there would be no chance of checking in at this time though we were both hoping for a miracle. We really needed to be able to shower and sleep! Luckily, without asking, the hotel gave us an early checkin and we were up in the room by 935am!
We were pleasantly surprised with our room, it was very modern looking, big bed, awesome shower and heaters to keep us nice and warm. After dropping the bags off our hunger won out. Once finished at breakfast it was then time to catch up on sleep, given we had been up since 330am.
Our plan of the attack for the rest of the day was to simply check out the old town centre of Krakow, as tomorrow we would be spending most of the day on the Auschwitz Tour. First on the list was a late lunch, however where to go in a city we essentially know nothing about? Hello Google/Tripadviser/Twitter.
We wanted to go somewhere which wasn’t too fancy, walking distance from hotel, big meal and reasonable price. First thing I did was searched #krakow on Twitter and there was recently a user who posted a photo of their meal from a restaurant called Milkbar. After seeing the tweet I jumped on Google maps to see where it was from our hotel and Tripadvisor to read some reviews. It ticked all the boxes close, easy and reasonably priced.
On foot it took us about 10mins to walk there stopping on the way to take photos in the park. When we arrived it was a nice small cafe style restaurant, I ordered the special of the week which included a big bowl of soup, grilled fish, chips, coleslaw, beetroot and carrot salad, with a glass of coke for 18 zolty (which works out to be $6 AUD). Jess ordered the big bowl of soup and the massive greek salad which is one of the specialties costing a whole $5 AUD. See photos below in the Krakow Gallery to see just how awesome the food was!
Now that we are nice and full it is time to explore Krakow Town Square. Our first impression once we hit the town centre was surprised. We had no idea Krakow was so awesome! The square was buzzing with people checking out all the market stalls, a massive Christmas tree (which made Jess happy), several horse and carriages (which made Jess happy) and countless restaurants/cafes/pubs surrounding the square.
After checking out all the stalls and having a couple of hot chocolates at Coffee Heaven we then decided that it was time to try some Polish Vodka and the first bar we visited was the Polisk Bar. Have to love a place that when you sit down the first 2 menus they hand you is the beer menu and a Vodka menu. After several minutes trying to decide what we wanted as there was too much choice, I decided on a pint of the local beer Tyskie and a shot of a local Vodka (no idea what the name was), Jess had a Vodka lemon/lime cocktail. The Vodka was much better than the normal stuff you drink in Perth and can see why people rave about Polish Vodka, but even more surprising was their local beer Tyskie which is one of the best beers I have had all throughout Europe.
While we could have easily kept drinking and worked our way through a few more different drinks it was time to call it a night ad we had a big day ahead tomorrow.
Krakow Day Two (4/1)
I think it is safe to say that we have seen a lot of Europe’s iconic places, however Jess and I were probably most excited and nervous for our 6.5 hour tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau.
With our summary of the this tour we won’t go into too much detail as we don’t want to misrepresent information or say anything that might be offensive.
This is an experience like no other and opened our eyes into the horrific acts that occurred specifically during WWII at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The tour guide was engaging and clearly had an emotional connection to the place, he said his main motivation to doing it was to ensure we don’t forget the past and that just because something may not affect you directly, these places remind us that you can and should do something before it’s too late.
While at Auschwitz/Birkenau we saw what had happen, how and also why. We stood in the rooms where thousands were kept prisoner, in the room where thousands lost their lives and we walked the track that hundreds of thousands took their last steps. It was such a sobering experience, but still even though we were there it was still hard to comprehend that such barbaric and inhumane acts had happened. Not to mention that it occurred just over 70 years ago (essentially one generation).
One thing we hadn’t considered was the theft of individuals personal belongings on arrival at these camps and the financial gain for the Natzi, it was shocking to see that some people who had packed essentials with the hope of being transported to a better life and resettling in Poland. This was obviously not the case.
The weather on the day also contributed to the surreal experience, with snow storms and below 0 degree temperatures it made you understand the hardship and living conditions these people suffered through.
It will be an experience that we will never forget and encourage anyone who is travelling to Europe to add this to your to do list. 2015 is also a significant year for Auschwitz as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will occur on the 27/1/15 with the main commemoration of the anniversary to be held in front of the Death Gate of KL Auschwitz II–Birkenau.
Snowfall in Krakow
All throughout Europe so far we had missed actual snowfall. In Zermatt we went up the slopes to play in the snow however we missed snowfall in Zermatt by just one day, with snow falling the day after we left.
While it was snowing in the town centre we walked around taking photos and just having fun being in snowfall for the first time on our trip, what a difference a day makes with some of the photos we took.
It wasn’t long though until the snowfall turned to near blizzard, so it was time to move into a pub to keep warm and have a few last drinks on a final night in Krakow. Also I didn’t know snowfall tried to get into your eyes and mouth!
After a great first night we headed back to Polisk Bar, this time having dinner aswell as drinks. It was pretty funny to order a bottle of prosecco that cost 110 zolty ($30 AUD) and when they delivered it they asked us what the special occassion was, I replied that Jess was just thirsty.
Krakow Final Thoughts
Initially we had only put Krakow into our Eurotrip as we wanted to visit Auschwitz, however Krakow is so much more than that and we wish we had more time to explore and to just relax with their good food and drinks. As with most stops on our trip we would love to come back again!
Next stop Berlin!