Day 1: Krakow city
Left Prague at 21.25 and arrived in Krakow 4.50 the next day.
We arrived quite early to Krakow, which much to my later acknowledgement, is extremely beautiful when it is not full of tourist. Upon coming in the high season, it is expected. However, seeing the streets and main square empty in the morning then seeing it packed with people made me appreciate the early morning.
We dropped our bags off at the hostel and wandered around. Krakow is full of churches. With a history that centers around Judaism, I wasn’t thinking there would be so much Catholic or Christian places of worship.
They were all very beautiful and all free to enter except the one in the main square. We also walked around the Krakow castle and went inside its Cathedral. It used to be the seat of the Polish monarchy and had many royalty buried there. Also, in the main square is the “Cloth Hall,” which used to hold cloth traders, but now its a big souvenir marketplace.
Our hostel was near the Jewish quarter and we explored a little bit in the afternoon and had dinner there.
First real authentic Pierogi! We were so tired and it was really good that we went the next night. K’s ancestry reigns from this part of Europe and she still has strong Polish traditions at home. She was a cool inside perspective on the food and other traditional things. The beer we had was Polish and she said her family treats it as a special drink in the States.
Day 2: Auschwitz
On our second day we went to Auschwitz.
Day 3: Salt mines
We woke up semi early to catch the 8.12 train to Wieliczka. This small town, about 30 minute ride from Krakow, is known for its salt mine. The train was 3.50 zloty each, one way. The train smelled and looked brand new and there was even WiFi.
We got a bit lost to get to the salt mine from the station, but there is a map, signs, and the town is quite small that it’s easy enough to find.
The tour is more expensive for a non-Polish language guide. The mines are very extensive and one can get lost so it’s best to go with a guide. There are several routes.
The two most popular are tourist route and miner route. We picked tourist as it’s the most basic and we later discovered that miner route is more like you are a miner with the whole outfit and crawling through small tunnels (similar to our Kutna Hora silver mine experience). The tourist route is well paved and spacious.
At the end of the tour there is a play area for kids, shops, and a restaurant. At this point you can choose to go to the surface of you can take a 45 minute museum tour, which is more tunnels, hut with artifacts from the mine such as tools and excavation artifacts.
After returning back to Krakow and the hostel, we took a rest a bit. I had heard from my friends who have been to Krakow that the nightlife was great. So we mustered up some strength and got dinner then ventured into the nightlife scene.
Because we went out right after dinner, it was still too early for nightlife. We went into one bar that had a cool atmosphere, Bohemian and colorful decorations, and had a drink then went to another bar we read about online, which also had an interesting atmosphere, old apartment with old furniture and use of candles.
We didn’t last long. After several early days and emotional days, we were exhausted. I was falling asleep at the table and we went home determined to try again the next day.
Day 4: Schindler’s museum and The Eagle Pharmacy (Apteka pod Orlem)
We didn’t have to get up early this day and we “slept in” and took are time. We crossed the river to the old Jewish Ghetto from the war and stopped at The Eagle Pharmacy. K wanted to stop here as it was similar to her last name, she has Polish ancestors, but it was also a really cool stop. It was very informative on the life in the Ghetto.
There is a combined ticket for Schindler, Pharmacy, and one other item for cheaper than paying for Schindler and Pharmacy separately, but we didn’t know this- just a heads up!
Most information is on the camps and not the lives in the Ghetto or right before movement to the Ghetto. Many of these inhabitants ended up in Auschwitz and there were Jews who ratted to the Germans on other Jews. One survivor said something like for their hard work, they received great reward- death at the camps.
We then headed a block or two to the Schindler’s museum in his old factory. It is well designed and very informative as well. It traces the history of the war from the rise of Hitler to the end. It focuses a lot on Poland and Krakow of course.
Each section/room had a theme meaning that if the information was talking about the Ghetto the decorations and the style of the room was like a Ghetto. If it was talking about Schindler (which was just one room) it was shaped as his office.
He was quite interesting. We was in favor of the Nazis and benefited from the Holocaust financially, but helped the Jews working in his care.
It took us three hours to get through the museum. We had to wait in line for tickets, but I think we came when everyone else did. There was also a screen that said how many tickets were available. I’m not sure if it ever gets completely full, but when we were there, there was over 400 tickets available still.
This night we went out again and were much more successful being around when dancing started to happen. The music was varied. There were the classics like “Thriller,” but also some Middle East/Indian music which was quite cool. Then some Polish music came on. K, coming from Polish ancestors was very ecstatic and fit right in with the jumping crowd.
I realized that their traditional dance has seeped into modern dance clubs. It was interesting and from someone who has no ancestry or no experience with Polish culture, it was an experience.
Day 5: Krakow city
On our last day in Krakow, we explored the remaining streets that we hadn’t seen prior. I really liked Krakow. It is really pretty and lots of history. I would definitely recommend 3-4 days there to see it completely.
We took the 15:45 back to Prague. We arrived at 23:10 so it was quite a long trip, but pleasant. We rode Polski and they had WIFI in Poland, which was nice.
We spent some time in several cafes- Krakow is so diverse in its offerings. There is something for everyone- history of all sorts: World War II and back in the 1500’s as example. There is outdoor activities or activities concerning the environment such as the salt mines or walking along the river. There is a diverse food scene meaning bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, etc. I really enjoyed Krakow and hope you will too!
My friend and I ate so many delicious foods! Check out this blog for a comprehensive list of Polish foods you have to try before leaving Poland!
For more pictures