Wow, Krakow! (hey, that rhymes!)
We really loved Krakow. The city itself is really beautiful and Jake’s family on his mother’s side also came from not too far away from this part of Poland, so I’m sure it was fun for Jake to connect with a part of his roots here.
Our Airbnb was amazing! After Paris, we really lucked out with the next few Airbnbs. This one had two floors, and…wait for it…
AN ICE MAKER!
Ice is such a luxury when traveling, and since it was over 90 degrees most days we were here, ice was much much appreciated. The neighborhood we stayed in was a bit out of the town center, but we were right on the tram line to get into town easily.
Krakow has a beautiful historic center, with amazing buildings, and lots of character everywhere. We enjoyed long walks, cocktails on the square, exploring a dragon’s lair, ate some surprisingly good BBQ, and crashed a Scottish stag party. We also took some time to explore a bit outside of the city.
DAY TRIPS FROM KRAKOW
Wieliczka Salt Mine
We were told by several people not to miss this. Sometimes we listen to people and this time, I’m glad we did.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a short train ride from Krakow. You can take a tour bus there from the city as well, but the train is cheap and fast, so why bother?
We do wish we arrived a bit earlier than we did. We had to wait a good hour and a half (was it 2 hours?) just to purchase our tickets. Tickets are for specific times as you have to take an official guided tour to explore the mines. (And thank goodness, that place is an underground, giant maze!)
They offer tours in several languages, so when we finally had our tickets in hand, we had to wait another 40 minutes for the English tour to start.
Which was fine. Waiting in much of Europe tends to look like this:
Once we met up with our group of about 30, (which was too many for a tour group here IMHO), we started the descent.
370 steps straight down.
And that’s just the first part. After our visit was over we descended over 800 steps in all.
Mines are deep.
The mines stay pretty cool in temperature, which was a welcome relief from the hot days we had been experiencing above ground. (An ice maker can only help so much) Unfortunately, because our tour was so large, and I have a habit of lagging behind to take photos, we missed a bunch of what the tour guide was saying, and mostly just used him as a way not to get lost.
We did see some pretty remarkable sculptures, all made out of salt, as well as cathedrals with intricate details carved into the walls, again, all of salt.
Jake licked it to be sure… yup it’s salt.
The system of tunnels that were created is really a sight to see. Oh, and there are several gift shops as well as a restaurant down there too.
You do a lot of walking, so being able to grab a bite before the long journey back up top was much appreciated. Although, the food was pretty terrible. Think high school cafeteria, and they are out of the only good-looking meal option. I’m not sure what we were expecting being that we were in a MINE…
It was still a lot of walking after our meal just to get to the exit, but thank goodness we didn’t have to climb 800 stairs back to the top!
We knew Auschwitz would be hard. And it was.
We prepared for a very somber day and that’s just what we were greeted with. We did hire a tour company for this trip. It was just much easier than to take public transportation out there as well as transportation between the two camps that are part of the visit.
I’m really glad we did the tour. Auschwitz is both mentally and physically overwhelming. There is a lot of area to cover and if you visited every building you would be there for days. Our tour guide did an incredible job at explaining the history and keeping the group moving along.
I don’t really know what else there is to say about Auschwitz. It’s so heartbreaking that humans can treat each other that way. It still astounds me that we even have it in our capacity to see one another as something inhuman. Less than. An abomination.
It’s even more heartbreaking to see some of these trends continue today. It’s something I will never, ever understand.
Have you been to Auschwitz before? What was your experience like?