Poland would have to be the country in Europe that took me most by surprise.
Beautiful towns with rolling green hills in between, I enjoyed my bus ride from Warsaw to Kraków immensely but what we found in the latter was the real highlight over the capital city.
My friend and I decided to add Kraków to our itinerary since our fellow friend from high school had been working there as a teacher for half a year and was always mentioning how awesome a place it was – so we decided to see for ourselves.
We arrived to a sunny afternoon with locals out and about and as we were staying in the middle of old town, the surrounding buildings were wonderful to just look at, full of history and character.
The street our accommodation was on
Immediately we knew we were going to like it here!
Our friend soon doubled as our tour guide and took us to some of her favourites around town.
One of the best places was an underground restaurant where I got this entire meal for the equivalent of 4 AUD (2.5 EUR) – including the beer.
It qualified as a ‘half portion,’ I would hate to see the size of the regular sized one!
Since Poland still has their own currency the zloty, if you’re traveling from overseas chances are your money will go reallllly far here.
The other dining experience I enjoyed most was trying some zapiekanki, which is kind of like a pizza of sorts served on a baguette style bread.
It’s delicious. There was an outdoor area in the Jewish quarter where there are permanent kind of stalls set up that locals go to get these.
I have no idea what these ice creams are called but I saw them everywhere.
They’re delicious and are a nice snack to help cool off during the hot weather.
You also do have to try some pierogis (Polish style dumplings with different kinds of fillings) while you’re in the country however I did this in Warsaw so I’ll include some more details on that during that post which will follow shortly.
The nightlife here is also a lot of fun, aided by the bonus that everything is so cheap – think 1 AUD shots.
4am view of Old Town
We went out with my friend’s Polish mates but not before us Australians made them try some Vegemite which they unsurprisingly hated!
Trams are an easy way to get around the town but we probably walked more.
I thought some of the overgrown tracks always made for a lovely sight though!
Street art near our apartment
If you cross the river from Old Town you’ll make your way to the Jewish District or Kazimierz which is definitely worth a visit.
I’d probably recommend a walking tour through here to learn more information about this area’s dark history.
In brief, this was a ghetto during Nazi rule and included the location in which Jewish people were made to board trains which lead to concentration camps.
Over 15,000 people were forced to live in in the space previously occupied by around 3,000.
In addition to this more than 50,000 people were displaced at the beginning of the occupation, to give some idea about the scale of the injustice which went on here.
There is a monument today of empty steel chairs, each one represents 1,000 victims.
On this subject, a popular day trip from Kraków is Auschwitz concentration camp.
I didn’t feel it necessary to take pictures here really since its horrible past deters you from the need to capture anything.
Just walking around here and listening to the guide tell stories is enough to make you visualise the atrocities committed on this site.
A tour here is obviously a somber experience but a worthwhile one because when you see victims shoes left in piles or the quarters in which they were made to live you truly understand firsthand how this was one of history’s most vile examples of mankind’s inexplicable hatred against their fellow human beings.
I also booked another day tour from a local operator in town which was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO heritage site.
Built in the 13th century this site continued to produce salt until 2007, making it one of the oldest of its kind in the world.
The mine runs 327 metres underground and is 287 kilometres in length. The air down here is so fresh and clean, but the best part is seeing the statues and carvings which run through out here – they are all made of salt, even the chandeliers!
While not all of the mine is accessible to the public, a guided tour will take you through some of the highlights including a church that miners used while the site was in operation.
Definitely worth a day trip out from Kraków if you have the time!
If you’re in Poland, definitely make sure you add this lovely town to your itinerary.