Poland, Krakow 8th - 10th June 2019
It has been 2 months since my last trip to Iceland, and I couldn't wait to get out of London to experience the summer in other countries. Together with 4 of my friends from Singapore (that were here for electives), we headed to Krakow for a short 3 day weekend trip. Well known for their lively streets and uplifting atmosphere, I was looking forward to what was in stall for us.
With our flight scheduled at 8.40 AM, I bid an early goodbye to my roommate Ellson, and my friends (Bryan and Jonathan) who were staying over at my place for the night, before heading off to join the rest at Farringdon station. It was a chilly journey to London Luton Airport, and we eventually boarded on our 2 hour flight to Krakow. Upon landing in Krakow Airport, we were greeted by the blazing heat.
It has been quite some time since I experienced temperatures warmer than 30 degrees Celsius, so the heat definitely proved to be a form of acclimatization to the heat that I will be exposed to when I get back to Singapore. Upon clearing customs, we made our way to the bus stop to take a bus (bus 252) to our accomodations at Starowislna 6, Old Town Krakow.
After settling down in our accomodation, we headed for lunch at Pod Wawelem Monomania (but not before having an ice cream or 2).
Cake Ice Cream!
With prices comparable to that in SG, we had a feast consisting of a variety of different meats, as well as this Lithuanian soup that was completely pink. Despite its colour, it tasted exactly like sour cream and onion, but it's strong taste left it being a bit too much for us to handle.
After lunch, we headed for a walk around the old streets of Krakow, visiting the Krakow Barbican, main market square, town hall tower and many other attractions. Along the way, there were a variety of gelato shops that I couldn't resist (just like Rome), and I ended up having a total of 8 different gelatos throughout the trip.
With lunch being so late and filling, we decided not to have dinner, and we proceeded back to our apartment to settle for the night in preparation for an early morning the next day.
With the bus leaving for Auschwitz at 7.10 AM, we had to wake up as early as 5 AM to wash up and have breakfast. It was a rush to catch the bus and we managed to catch it in the nick of time. What ensued was a 2 hour ride to auswitchz which mainly consisted of us falling asleep on the bus ride. When we arrived at Auschwitz, we immediately made our way to the queue for the free entry to the Auschwitz museum. The Auschwitz museum consisted of the evidences of the atrocities committed by the SS during the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. The elaborate exhibitions displayed in the buildings that once were a platform for such atrocities were depressing yet enlightening.
After going through the museums in Auschwitz 1, we took the shuttle bus to Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau Camp), which was labelled a death camp where many more Jews were put to death. The Birkenau camp (which held over 90,000 prisoners in 1944), also known as "Auschwitz II" This was the largest part of the Auschwitz complex. The Nazis began building it in 1941 on the site of the village of Brzezinka, three kilometers from Oswiecim. The Polish civilian population was evicted and their houses confiscated and demolished. The greater part of the apparatus of mass extermination was built in Birkenau and the majority of the victims were murdered here. With its sections separated by barbed-wire fences, Auschwitz II had the largest prisoner population of any of the three main camps. In January 1942, the first chamber using lethal Zyklon B gas was built on the camp. This building was judged inadequate for killing on the scale the Nazis wanted, and four further chambers were built. These were used for systematic genocide right up until November 1944, two months before the camp was liberated.
Having seen what there was to see in Auschwitz, we made our way to Oswecim station for the train to Krakow. Along the way, we stopped by at Macdonald's for lunch. With prices comparable/cheaper than that of Singapore, it felt unrealistically cheap considering how expensive London is.
After returning to Krakow, we walked along the old streets once more, having more gelato and settling for dinner at a mini food street. With burgers twice the size of those at Macdonald's, and fries that tasted much better, we still haven't gotten sick of fast food (yet).
Dinner/Streets of Krakow
Having had a long day, we headed back to our apartment for the night.
Having less on our schedule, we woke up relatively later on the 3rd day. After having a hearty breakfast consisting of the 2015 Digital Electronics paper, we made our way to the Wawel Castle, which had free entry to most exhibitions on Monday. It was really pretty and the architecture was stunning. Situated on the bank of the Vistula river and surrounded by its waters and marshes, the hill had provided a safe haven for people since the Paleolithic Period. Rebuilt and renovated many times due to fires, thefts and wars, it encompasses many different architectural styles.
Having toured the Wawel Castle, we headed to Kuchnia U Dorothy for lunch, which served cheap and authentic polish cuisine. Most of us ate the fried potato pancakes, while I treated myself to some Krakow roast pork and grilled mushrooms. Relative to the prices in London, the food in Poland had so much value for money.
Having filled our tummies, we headed back to our apartment to check out, before making our way to the wielickza salt mine. After a hot and stuffy 30 minute trip on the bus, we finally arrived at our destination. Before we could enter the salt mine, the 54 floors of descend was completely unexpected, as we slowly made our way down to the salt mine. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most valuable monuments of material and spiritual culture in Poland. Each year it is visited by more than 1.5 million tourists from all over the world. Today, the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine combines many centuries of tradition and modernity, the history of several hundred years and an underground metropolis with extensive infrastructure. With edible walls (and floors), it felt like entering Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, except that the whole place was salty and not sweet. The cool 14-16 degrees within the mines also served as a respite from the 30 degrees of heat that was awaiting us on the outside.
Dwarves working in the salt mines
After spending about 3 hours in the salt mines, we headed back to Krakow for dinner, where I had one of the spiciest burgers I have ever had in my life. It was way spicier than the McSpicy, and I wasn't able to finish it before my lips started swelling.
Super Spicy McSpicy
With our flight due in 3 hours, we spent whatever Zloties we had left at a nearby convenience store before leaving for the Airport.
Being my first proper trip to eastern europe (the previous was a brief stopover at Gdansk), the culture and the atmosphere definitely felt different from that of the Scandinavian and Western Europe countries I have visited. This trip leaves me looking forward to my Czechia trip 3 days later.
1) Not everyone speaks english, but simple sign language will get you through. Most polish restaurants have their menus outside of the store so you don't need to feel paiseh to enter and ask.
2) If you want to order something, take a picture of the menu (if the menu is not easily accessible), and then point to the items in the picture. Makes it easier for them to understand what you want to order.
3) Poland is relatively cheaper, 10 Pounds a day should get you through for food.
4) Don't miss any trains or buses, their arrival frequency is really low.
5) Beer is cheap, like 1-2 Pounds per pint cheap.
Expenditure (per person):
All Transport: £115
Salt Mine: £15
Accomodations for 2 nights: £23