Please be gentle - I've never attempted a trip report before adn I have to warn you that it is quite long...
Krakow, Poland 18-25 July 2011
We decided to visit Krakow after a Polish friend recommended it to us. So our initial research to find a suitable rental apartment and flights ensued. We have set criteria in what we want when looking for an apartment (good location, a look and feel that we like, enough space for everyone (2 adults and 2 children) to be able to chillout, a terrace, balcony or a garden to be able to use for breakfasts in the morning and to relax with a glass of wine in the evening). We found our perfect apartment here http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/p87002. The owner was excellent and really helpful with all the arrangements. The apartment had also been used in a travel project: grantourismotravels.com/2011/… which I found really useful and helpful when planning our trip.
Day 1 - Monday
We had an early flight from Edinburgh airport to Krakow by EasyJet. We’d pre-booked an airport transfer to the apartment through www.krakowshuttle.com for 70PLN (about £16) the day before. We arrived at the apartment about 3.0pm and were met by Maria who showed us around and explained how everything worked. We quickly unpacked and then made our way out to the Galeria shopping centre up by the train station (via the Planty) to buy some basic food provisions for breakfasts and snacks (we went to the Carrefour supermarket, then discovered a Palo supermarket close to the apartment on our way back).
After returning to the apartment and putting the shopping away, we went out to Pod Wawalem (just beside the Castle) and about 5 minutes from the apartment. This place was recommended to us by a friend. The portions were HUGE and yet the price was TINY. The total meal for the four of us came to about 100PLN (~£22)!
Afterwards we had a wander around the castle grounds, watched a lovely sunset before heading back to the apartment. The kids went to bed and we worked out how to use the expresso machine and set –up the wifi on the notebook. Then we sat out on the balcony with our wine, listening to the sound of the horse drawn carriages on the cobblestones from the castle direction. Reading the comments left in the holiday book by previous renters, hubby mentioned the Polish Aviation Museum would be good to see.
Day 2 - Tuesday
We woke up to a beautiful day and had our breakfast out in the balcony. We left the apartment about 9.00am to start getting our bearings proper. So firstly we went towards Wawel Castle and then headed up Grodzka Street. It was very quiet at this time in the morning and only starting to “wake-up”. We then popped into the Church of St. Peters and Paul – very, very beautiful. Classical music concerts are played here on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings at 8.00pm, so we thought it would be quite nice to go to one (so maybe this evening?). Note: this church also started the coin treasure hunt with the kids as they took it in turns to get the souvenir coins (6-8 PLN each) whenever they spied a machine at any of the places we visited – they now have a very nice collection of these as a reminder of their week in Krakow too .
We continued on and went into the Franciscan church, again an absolutely stunning building and the stained glass window by Wyspianski (Let It Be) was utterly stunning! From here we wandered around the old Quarter Area and Market Square. Some absolutely beautiful amber jewellery was being sold in the stalls at the Cloth Hall. Alex and Sam had to have a pretzel at this point or they were going to die of hunger! A quick look around the amazing St Mary’s church and the surrounding area before lunch.
Then off we went to find Babcia Maliny near the top of Slawkowska Street, which I’d seen recommended on the Tripavisor forums
(http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g274772-i961-Krakow_Southern_Poland.html ). A lovely Polish chap in the queue recommended the Zurek soup as the best Zurek soup in all of Krakow (and we discovered later that this was absolutely true)! The soup was delicious, even though we didn’t know what it tasted of. It was a white soup, with herbs, potatoes and a sausage in it. We got one soup, four spoons and then our main courses. The bill total was 89PLN (less than £20) and we were all completely stuffed. After lunch we started making our way back to the apartment as everyone was full up, getting a bit tired and needed a little rest.
In the evening, we decided to have a look around the Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter) area and get something to eat there. However, the weather wasn’t looking quite as bright and some dark clouds seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. But off we went anyway, first stopping to have a look in St. Bernadines Church, which was also beautiful. I’d marked a number of food places that I’d seen recommended on Trip Adviser on a little paper map whilst sipping my wine on the balcony the evening before, so we decided to try and eat in a place called Endzior which was supposed to be round about Plac Nowy. Well that was disaster number two but before we discovered that, disaster number one struck! Absolutely atrocious and torrential rain suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We were already a bit lost at this stage and were taking temporary refuge under the covering of some building whilst trying to get the kids waterproofs fished out of the backpack and onto them, find where we were on the sodden map and locate where Endzior was in relation to where we were on the phone map. Hubby and I didn’t have any waterproofs in the bag, just a small umbrella between us. We could not find the place at all, even though the phone map was telling us it was right beside us, and because the rain was showing no sign of let up, we decided to just start heading back to the apartment because we were looking like drowned rats by this stage (the concert was also out at this stage). Then we came across called Kuchni U Doroty and went in there. Food was great and by the time we came out, the rain was much lighter, so back home to the apartment. Note: we did find Endzior at a later date and it turned out to be a food stall in the middle of Nowy Plac – right where we had been sheltering from the rain at one point, but we didn’t see it as we were looking for a restaurant not a food stall! Though the sandwiches did look very good and there was a queue of people getting them. We had a good laugh about that, but it wasn't very amusing at the time...
Back in the apartment, we got changed into dry warm clothes, got out the wine, juice and nice cakes and played cards. Dad’s still going on about visiting the Aviation museum…
Day 3 - Wednesday
Off to see the Salt Mines today (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/32 & http://www.kopalnia.pl/home.php?id_language=2 ).
Unfortunately the first 304 bus was mobbed by a school party by the time we got our tickets and we had to wait for the next bus. Weather again was looking a bit “iffy”, but at least we were fully prepared for it this time! It was about midday by the time we started our tour (probably because we’d got there later than we’d expected and the ticket queue was longer by this time due to visitor numbers). Salt mines and the carvings were very impressive. We had lunch in the mine restaurant, so we can now say that we’ve eaten in the deepest “publically accessible” underground restaurant now ;-). However, I didn’t really enjoy the lift back up to the top! Hopped on the bus back to Krakow and got back to the apartment around 4.00pm.
In the evening we ate in another small self service type of restaurant called Polskie Smakie on Sw. Tomasza. Afterwards, the kids had lots of fun playing about the dancing fountains at Plac Szczepariska (as mentioned by Grndma’s Tripadvisor report – thank you!). Then it was time for some ice-creams and to pick up a few more groceries on our way home. Dad’s starting to wear us all down about going to the Aviation museum…
Day 4 - Thursday
Off to the Aviation museum (http://mlp.h2.pl/indexen.php). Took tram number 4 from Lubicz to Wieczysta, then it’s a short walk from there. What a fantastic place! We all had a ball here, so we did have to admit defeat and applaud dad on this choice. Some of the photos we took here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7hJVn3Kmyc
Then we hopped on the No 10 tram back to the centre for lunch in a restaurant near Renek Glowny. After lunch we took a horse carriage ride (100PLN for ½ hr) which our daughter just loved. Then we did some gift shopping before heading back to the apartment. It was about 6.30pm when we got “home” and we were all stuffed and tired, so we decided to just have a light evening snack in the apartment rather than go out for more food. Also we want to conserve our energy as we’re going to Auschwitz tomorrow and we have mixed feelings about this for various reasons…
Day 5 - Friday
We’d booked the Auschwitz/Birkenau tour via the same tour company that we used for the airport transfer and we were picked up from the apartment at 9.30. We had thought about doing this trip by public transport, but in the end decided that it would be easier and worthwhile to just use a tour company instead (cost 368PLN = ~£80 for 4). We we’re glad that we did this as the weather was absolutely awful and it was so much more convenient having a nice minibus to pick us up, take us there and back.
We knew that the tour is not advisable/recommended for kids under 14, (ours are 8 & 12), but we felt that it was important for us to go there. We’d spent quite a bit of time explaining about the place beforehand to them both and what they were likely to see and hear and also about how we expected them to behave during this visit. Thankfully, our kids behaved absolutely brilliantly and we were very proud of them for that – in fact they were actually more respectful than a few of the adults in our tour group (two young men in their mid-late twenties wearing Disneyland ponchos and getting “smiley” pictures taken!!).
So the weather was atrocious (wet and wild), but it somehow seemed “right” and “appropriate” given where we were going and what had happened there. Our tour guide was excellent. Probably similar to most people, I found the trip to be a very personal experience and hard to explain my thoughts and feelings about :-(. To walk in the footsteps where so many people were killed was both chilling and heartbreaking and I won’t ever forget the experience. I’m also very glad that I went.
These are our photos from this visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmZD0y4TwmE
We got dropped off back at the apartment about 4.00pm.
In the evening we decided that we wanted to go to the Jewish Quarter for a wander and for something to eat. We ended up having an excellent meal in Polakowski on Miodiwa. Then it was back to the apartment for cakes, wine, juice and cards to round off the “heavy” day.
Day 6 - Saturday
Off to the Schindler Factory Museum today (http://www.krakow-info.com/schindler.htm) . Slight deviation because dad made us take the right tram number, but it was for the opposite direction that we wanted (and I did tell him – but would he listen!) So off the tram and back on tram 7 to PI. Bohaterow Getta. Then a short walk to the museum. The museum was excellent, very well designed and put together. Again, some very harrowing stories :-(, especially the ones told and written by children. These will also remain in my memory for a long, long time. However, I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t very much about Oscar Schindler himself in the museum…
After the museum we went to see the “empty chairs” :-( in the square and tried to go to the Pharmacy museum, but it was queued out the door with tour bus tourists, so headed back to the centre for some lunch (Polakowski on plac Dominikanski).
After lunch we took the 1 or 6 tram (can’t remember which!) from Pl. Wszystkich Swietch to Salwator and then headed up the hill to the Kosciuszko Mound (www.kopieckosciuszki.pl/?x=start&lang=en). It was a beautiful day and I ended getting slightly burnt (oops), but the view from the top of the mound was great. Couldn’t really stay as long as we would have liked to see the various exhibits as we had a table booked in a nice restaurant and wanted to get back to the apartment for a rest and ready for this. Had a beautiful meal (our most expensive in Krakow at well over £100!) at one of the garden tables at la Campana (http://www.lacampana.pl/) on Kanonicza. It was a beautiful evening to dine out.…Then back to the apartment for a few games of cards to round off the day.
Day 7 - Sunday
Today we went to Wawel Castle (http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/) and visited the Armoury and the Dragon’s den..
The weather was a bit overcast and rained on and off. We decided not to bother trying to visit the Royal apartments etc as we thought the kids would be a little bored with that. Picked up a few presents and then headed back to the main square for some people watching and a final look around. We went back to Babcia Maliny for lunch and we all had the zurek soup this time!
In the afternoon, we went back to the apartment to stack packing our bags ready for the airport.
In the evening we went to a Ukrainian restaurant a few doors down from la Campana and had a lovely final meal in Krakow.
Day 8 - Monday
Our airport transfer picked us up from the apartment on schedule and we said good bye to beautiful Krakow. We absolutely loved Krakow and its history and architecture. The people, the food and our apartment all contributed to an absolutely amazing holiday.