Krakow

Trip Start May 15, 2006
1
61
71
Trip End Sep 29, 2006


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Poland  ,
Thursday, September 7, 2006

Every backpacker on earth is looking for the "new" Prague. The town that Prague was 10 years ago. Full of culture, wonderful people, and gorgeous architecture while also remaining cheap to foreigners and a bit out of the way for the everyday traveler. Well Krakow has been deemed as the up and coming Prague and, after visiting both cities back to back, I have to agree. Krakow is a great town with a huge(the biggest in Europe) town square, a castle, nice museums, cheap accommodations, and just far enough out of the way to avoid the major tourist trail.

Ryan and I arrived in Poland and found our hostel with relative ease. It is nice to be traveling around in Europe right now because it is past the normal tourist times. We had our choice of the best hostels in the city without having to book ahead a week in advance as is usual during the summer months. We decided on a nice hostel known for its cleanliness, free breakfasts, helpful staffs, and great hangout room. We found it all to be spot on. We had taken a night train from Prague and so we arrived at the hostel at 6am but the staff didn't mind us checking in early and catching some much needed shut eye. We woke up to a usual hostel breakfast of warm milk, cereal, bad tea, and toast before heading out to explore the town. Although Krakow is a big city, it has a small town center that is easily navigated on foot and we spent the first of the morning hours just seeing what the town had to offer. We really wanted to take a tour and luckily, we ran into a bike tour guide right as his tour was about to start. We spent the majority of the day checking out the Wawel Castle, the Jewish district, the Jewish Ghetto, Schindlers factory, the old town square, and then finished everything off with a good meal at a small Polish restaurant. I am really starting to like these bike tours.

After the bike tour, we went back and relaxed at the hostel before heading back into town for a bite to eat. We stopped at a Georgian restaurant(Georgia is near the middle east....I think?) and had a good cheap meal of chicken covered in Georgian cheese and Georgian spices, whatever that means. We decided to call it an early night with a movie at the hostel knowing that the next day we were going to be busy.

We woke the next morning and headed to a sobering tour of Aushwitz. We took a tour that originated in Krakow and took you by bus to Aushwitz and Birkenau, gave you a 3.5 hour tour, and then brought you back. The experience overall was what you would expect from a concentration camp. Lots of horror stories and depressing tales that are morbidly interesting and mind boggling at the same time. It is just a really tough place to walk through and "enjoy" but I am definitely glad I went. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and interesting but the rest of our group was full of jackass people. I was blown away by how unrespectful the people in our group were. It says specifically NO cell phones, Pictures inside buildings, video cameras, and all other sorts of don'ts that people just refuse to follow. This one guy kept trying to video tape our guide speaking after being told time after time to put his video camera away. Another dude kept his cell phone on and it would ring while the guide is giving his talk or when we are walking through the gas chambers. If there is an inappropriate time to talk on a cell phone, I think a CONCENTRATION CAMP is it. Even our guide was venting to us by the end of the tour asking why some people have such little respect.

With that said, the tour ended up being a very good choice. I wish we would have had more time to explore the camp(3.5 hours just isn't enough because the camp is HUGE) but having the guide to direct us made those 3.5 hours much more informative than the same amount of time on my own. The most powerful part of the tour for me came when we climbed the main watch tower and could see the whole camp spread over the acres and acres of property in Birkenau. It was just amazing to see how huge a killing operation this really was. I remember Bergen Belsen and it was horrific but seeing the size of this operation and knowing that they killed some 1.4 million people at this place alone....it is just tough to put into words.

After the tour, we took the bus ride back and watched a movie of the liberation of Aushwitz with the narration from the Russian reporter who took the footage. That was interesting but after having hours upon hours of this stuff back at the concentration camp, I really couldn't handle much more on the bus ride home and spent most of the time averting my eyes from the screen.

We got back to Krakow exhausted from the early morning and the tour and took a quick nap before going out for a cheap dinner and then an expensive drink in the town square. By expensive, I mean about 2.50 for a beer but the location in the middle of the old town square in Krakow made it worth the extra splurge. It was Ryan's last night in Europe with me so we decided to go back and have a couple of beers and talk about our trip. It was fun to discus everything we had seen and compare what we thought were the best places and retell the funny stories that make any trip memorable.

We didn't stay out too late that night seeing as Ryan had a flight back to England to catch the next morning. This morning, we woke up and fiddled around for a little while before I escorted Ryan to the train station to say goodbye. He is headed back to England for a day before flying back home tomorrow which leaves me on my own for the next couple of weeks. I didn't know how to feel about traveling alone at first but I figure that hey, tons of other people can do it so why can't I?

Today was my first day on my own and I spent it walking around town some more and then on a tour of Wawel Castle. The tour itself was one of the worst I have had so far. The lady didn't speak English very well and she went into SOOOO much detail about all the paintings, tapestries, and furniture that by the end of the trip I was about to call it a day and just walk away. Not to say it wasn't interesting or that I wasn't happy I took it but really, who needs to know about all 100 tapestries in the castle(and who cares for that matter). I am glad I didn't leave early though because afterwards, a couple of guys on the tour caught up with me and offered to buy me a beer. Hmmm.....a free beer you say, alright, I guess. We all agreed that after 3 hours of tapestries and Polish Kings, we deserved it. We sat down and talked about my trip and their trips throughout their life(they were probably 50 or so) and they paid for my beer. It was really cool to meet some people and give myself some confidence that traveling will be easier than I expected. We parted ways and now I am sitting here at the computer working up my travelpod before grabbing a bite to eat and taking a night train to Vienna. Adios to Eastern Europe and hello to the Hapsburgs.
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html:

Table of Contents