Poland - Krakow

Trip Start May 30, 2013
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23
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Trip End Dec 10, 2014


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Where I stayed
One World Hostel - Krakow

Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 1: July 14, 2013

Since we shared one bed last night, as you can imagine, we didnīt have the best night of all. We woke up at about 9.00, had breakfast and then started walking to the city center – the Main Square (Rynek Główny).

We met in front of the St. Mary's Church from where we started together with a big group of people another free walking tour. The guide was quite good and he knew a lot of facts, plus he wasn't so boring. First he showed us the St.Mary's Church and pointed out that every hour there was a trumpet playing from the four sides of the tower (after a few days spent in the city of Krakow we could say that it was true).The reason for this is to commemorate a person that started playing the trumpet during the Mongolian attack in the 14th century so as to warn the city and thus saved the city but at the same time he got shot and died.

After that we went to the Town Hall Tower that used to be the entire building a long time ago but nowadays the tower is the only remaining. In the middle of the main square there is situated the Cloth Hall which includes a market (ground level), a museum/gallery (1st level) as well as the undergrounds with rests of the supposed vampires that we couldn't unfortunately visit because it was all booked in advance. Another attraction is the Head of Copernicus, a really big empty bronze head that lies in the middle of the square.

Then we got out of the main square and headed to the St. Florian’s Gate, one of the oldest entrance to the city and one of the main defensive buildings of the city. While walking there we passed the Czartoryski Museum that is right next to the gate. Since we were participating in the tour we didn’t enter. A few steps from the gate there is located another defensive building of the city: the Barbican. This kind of defensive tower was used not only in Krakow but also in other cities (for example Bratislava) and it works like the first door – when it falls, it traps inside the attacking troops so the archers can keep them easily from the towers.

After a few stories about some wars we started walking to the Jagiellonian University that is one of the oldest in Poland and home of some big figures like Copernicus or the Pope John Paul II. We believe itīs important to make a special note about John Paul II. because it is obvious that he was and still is a really loved person at international level. Nevertheless, in Poland in his hometown he was admired even more, especially because he was one of the main figures helping to free Poland from the Communist Government.

Later we went to the final stop of our tour - the Wawel Castle which was for most of the Polish history the center of the Polish Kings. Since the middle of the 11th century until 1611 it was the center of power when Sigismund III moved the capital to Warsaw, not many people in Poland likes Warsaw though. Even though the capital moved to Warsaw, all the Royal coronations and the funerals must been held in the Wawel Cathedral so the Wavel Hill still had a lot of importance for the nation. Under the Castle there is a cave which is related to one of the most famous Polish legends. The cave is supposed to be the place where a big dragon lived many years ago. We could see that the city had a lot of dragon symbols and souvenirs cause of this.

After finishing the tour we were a little big hungry so we decided to have a really nice lunch in the main square. We sat down in one of the hundreds restaurants and got one of the most typical Polish dishes - pierogi. This is a kind of dumplings filled with different things. Besides that Gonzalo ordered a red soup to accompany the dumplings. The lunch cost us PLN 68 (USD 10 per person) so it was a bit expensive for being in Poland, however, taking into account that we were eating close to the main touristic attractions it didn’t seem to be so much.

After lunch we had a little rest and then walked around a little bit because we had some free time while we were waiting for another free walking tour - the Jewish Krakow - that started at 15.00.

We took the tour with a different guy that had a really hippie look but knew a lot about the history of te city of Krakow as well and was actually quite entertaining. First we walked a little bit out of the city walls to the Jewish quarter – Kazimierz and stopped in front of the old Synagogue which was one the first synagogues founded by the Jews in the city of Krakow. We were also reminded that many parts of the famous Spielbergīs movie "Schindlerīs List" were actually directed in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. Unfortunately none of us had seen the movie before we visited the city of Krakow but at least now we are really excited about watching it. We could see that this part of the city is full of Jewish restaurants but our guide pointed out that none of them is actually Jewish and that their owners are just Polish people trying to make some profit (by offering the typical Jewish pork meat…haha).

The Jewish quarter, besides keeping alive many of the Jewish buildings like the old synagogue, cemetery, Tempel Synagogue and Jewish community center, is a part of the city with very busy nightlife since there are many pubs and discos. Well, again this is happening from historical reasons since many years ago it was the place for plenty of musicians, artists and other bohemian people. We didnīt forget to go to the square called "Plac Nowy" where many small fast food stands sell "zapiekanki" which is the typical Polish Fast Food. It’s a baguette bread with cheese and mushrooms as a base and then with extras as preferred. Itīs something like "Completo" in Chile :) Sadly we couldn’t have one because we had to continue our tour but we came back later to have one!

After passing the Jewish Quarter we went to Plac Bohaterow Getta, the one that is full of empty chairs that represent the Nazisī occupation and all the Jewish people that died there. This was one of the Ghettos of the Nazis. Then we went to our final destination: Schindler’s Factory. After arriving we could see that it didnīt have that much in common with a factory. In fact it didn’t look at all like one, and our tour guide explained to us that actually all the factory was turned down and the only thing that we could see was the administrative building of the original factory.

After finishing the tour we had one more task to do…we had to decide how to go to Auschwitz. This was a tough decision because we there were at least 2 options. The first one was to book a tour and the second one was to go on our own (without a guide tour and using public means of transportation). While analyzing both alternatives the good thing about the first option was that it was easy and comfortable (3 hours with a professional guide tour) and it wasnīt so expensive (PLN 80 per student). On the other hand it was a really short visit because it lasted only 3 hours. The second option was a little bit more difficult because it involved waking up really early to get the first bus to Oswiecim (the city of Auschwitz) at 7.00. Then we would have to walk over there in order to arrive at about 9.30, then book the tour because Auschwitz is divided into two parts - Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. The museum of Auschwitz I can be entered only with a guided tour (between 10.00 and 15.00). Then we would have to walk to Auschwitz II – Birkenau (approx. 45 minutes) and visit the most massive graveyard in the world without obtaining any additional information. Finally we would have to go back to the bus station. Considering all pros and cons of both options we decided for the first one. It also helped us the fact that the weather forecast for the next day looked quite bad again so we thought it could rain, making it really hard to move between different places.


Day 2: July 15, 2013

With regard to the importance of the concentration and extermination camp founded near the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) by the Nazis during WW II, we believe, itīs better to devote to this topic a little bit more time. Therefore we decided to describe our 1-day trip to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in a separate article.

We arrived from Auschwitz at about 14.30 and went straight to have something to eat. Since we were a little bit tired we didn’t want to search too much so we just ate in the shopping mall close to the train station. From there we went to look for the best option to go to Bratislava with respect to the fact that we have already bought our tickets from Bratislava to Prague. When we were asking about prices at the train station we got a big surprise, the tickets were extremely expensive! It was around EUR 90 to go from Krakow to Bratislava by train! So if you have been planning to do the same thing, try to avoid taking the train. Since we didn’t want to pay so much we went to the bus station but the tickets were quite expensive as well. They were around EUR 35. Since we didn’t have so many options we decided to take a night bus (at least we could save some money on accommodation) but we had to go to Vienna first and then change. In any case we didn’t mind that much.

After having set the tickets for the next day (21.15) me and Tez we separated for a while. I went to the hostel to have a rest and she went to walk around the city for a bit. We were going to meet at 19.00 in the main square in order to take our last free walking tour in Krakow - the “Macabre tour”.

This macabre tour included a lot of legends as well as a few tales about some of the “serial killers” that used to live in Krakow. Besides our tour guide mentioned how the law worked during the medieval time: “If you steal something for the first time, you get your ear cut off.” and “If you steal something for the second time, you get your head cut off.” It was quite nice even though our tour guide informed that he was still working on some of the stories.
 
After the tour we were a little bit tired but we were quite hungry as well so we decided to go to the Jewish quarter to have one of the typical “zapiekanki”. It was very tasty so we enjoyed it a lot. Considering that place was full of bars we decided to have one beer to relax a little bit more. 
 

Day 3. July 16, 2013

That day we had tickets for 21.15 and we had pretty much seen everything so we didn’t have much to see so we just took it easy and walked around the city taking pictures that we could have taken during the tour but we didnīt take any due to the lack of time. Since we literally fell in love with “zapiekanki” we decided to have some more for lunch which meant to walk again towards the Jewish quarter (so YES, they are good)

Then we went to the Wavel Castle to take our “flags pictures”. Itīs actually quite hard to take this kind of pictures because first of all, you have to look for a person that looks like he/she has enough patience and can take a good picture, besides this we have to look for a perfect spot and check if the sun has a good position because it will ruin the picture (since itīs not recommended to take pics against sun) Well, we did it anyways and had the flags pictures with the Wavel Castle behind our backs.

In the second part for the day we were just chilling and walking around the city until 16.30. At 20.00 we went to our hostel, picked up our things and headed to the bus station to leave Poland and welcome Bratislava!

Krakow is a really beautiful city. You could really see that it was once the capital of the country because of the castle, the constructions and all the people visiting the city. Prices are good and there are plenty of things to do, plus young people were really nice, too. 
 
 

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