A few days in Krakow is a must for anyone travelling through Poland. Abound with history, culture, and charm, we loved our time in this historic city.
After spending a week in the Baltic States, we made our way down to Krakow in Poland’s south. The overnight bus journey took 15 hr from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, which was actually pretty comfortable. Each seat had individual movie screens, movie selections, and charging points. It was like being on a plane and somehow we both managed to get some sleep.
We arrived at the bus station in Kràkow around 1 pm and made our way to our hostel. Coincidentally, we happened to be in Krakow at the same time as Imbi’s bestie Jason, who was holidaying from Australia. So we were super excited to be meeting up with him for a couple of days. After checking into our room, we went out to explore.
The first thing on the agenda was to hunt down some good pierogies (traditional Polish dumplings) for lunch. We then walked to Krakus Mound for a sunset picnic and a few cheeky beers.
The sunset and the view itself weren’t life-changing, but it was a nice way to spend an hour or two. After watching the sun go down, we made our way back to town, before retreating to our hostel.
The following day, we went to Wawel Castle in the morning. The grounds of the castle were free to enter and was totally worth the visit.
The gardens were beautiful and really well maintained with loads of colourful flowers everywhere.
We then crossed the river and found a place to sit and view the castle from afar. We would have stayed all afternoon as the weather was beautiful, but we were banking on another pierogi fix! So we made our way to the same cafe we ate at the day before and indulged in more dumplings!! Our fave was the Russian dumplings (potato filling). Yum!
Before meeting up with Jason, we decided to climb the clock tower in the main square of the old town. We couldn’t understand why we couldn’t see anyone at the very top from outside. The ticket man assured us we could get to the top, but failed to mention that the doors to the balcony were locked! That was why we couldn’t see anyone. Feeling a little cheated with the lack of views, we climbed back down the stairs and met up with Jason.
After a wander around the old town, we found a local place for dinner. Polish cuisine is incredibly meat, cabbage, potatoes heavy! And the portions were enormous, leaving us all feeling stuffed! So a nice evening stroll along the Vistula River aided the digestion!
In the morning, Chris met up with Jason, his friend and mum and went to Auschwitz-Berkenau. The former German Nazi concentration and extermination camps are now museums. So they joined a group tour where they were able to gain a further understanding of the Nazi Holocaust. As I had been to Auschwitz a decade ago, I decided not to revisit. Visiting the museums were difficult and very confronting. Seeing and hearing of the despicable acts that took place, was hard to comprehend, although important to understand.
After visitng Auschwitz-Berkenau, the group picked me up and we all went on a tour of the Wieliczka Saltmines. Okay, so we didn’t love the salt mines. It was remnant of a grade 6 school excursion and not quite what we were expecting. The most interesting part of the tour, was a cathedral which was carved out of salt in the mines walls. That itself was quite impressive. But in hindsight, having done the tour which lasted 2.5 hrs, we wouldn’t do it again.
On our last day in Krakow we went off exploring the Jewish quarter. We mostly wanted see Ghetto Hero’s Square memorial. 33 empty chairs made of iron and bronze, symbolising the Polish Jews killed in the 2nd world war.
We wanted to visit Schindler’s factory museum, originally an enamelware factory owned by Oskar Schindler. He employed many jews during the Nazi occupation, saving them from living in appalling conditions and dying in concentration camps. Now, it’s a history museum. But we didn’t realise that there were limited tickets only available at certain time slots each day. By mid-afternoon, the tickets were completely sold out. If you’re planning on visiting, we recommend checking the entrance times and getting in early! We walked back along the Vistula River and couldn’t resist popping into Wawel Castle for another quick visit.
We had our final dinner together at another local restaurant, with more potatoes, meat and beer, before saying our goodbyes. Our next stop was Zakopane, Poland and our first chance in few weeks to get out of the cities and to get ‘a little off track!’