Poland was on my ‘list’ of places to visit so when my parents suggested a family trip to Krakow I was over the moon! I hadn’t been on holiday with them for years, so I took advantage of not having to worry about checking flight times, looking after my passport, or even getting on the right plane because my parents took care of everything! It was quite nice pretending I was a kid again!
A Little Bit of Luxury
The plane journey took about 4 hours and was relatively uneventful apart from some rowdy, albeit good-natured, behaviour from a stag party. Incidentally we saw them again on the way home and they looked ruined… must have been a good weekend! Anyway, once we’d landed and made our way through to arrivals, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautifully modern the airport was.
But there was another surprise waiting for us… our own personal driver for the whole trip! Pavol was waiting for us, fully suited and booted, holding a card with our name on it. He graciously led us out of the airport to a sleek black Mercedes minibus with cream leather seats, blacked-out windows and a top-notch sound system. Travelling in style m’lady? Yes please.
Our hotel (Hotel Wentzl) was right in the main square of Krakow. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it was absolutely stunning. Crystal chandeliers, ornate ceiling-to-floor curtains, plush carpets, and exquisite wallpaper were just some of the things that made this hotel truly decadent.
Seeing the Sights
We checked in, then went straight out to see the sights- although grabbing a few beers first is a prerequisite, of course. The main market square is centered around St. Mary’s Basilica (a 14th Century gothic church) and the Cloth Hall, which at its peak in the 15th Century used to be a major post of international trade. The upper floor now houses a museum and the ground floor is tightly packed with little shops and stalls, many selling amber jewellery and leather flying hats (yes, flying hats!)
As the evening approached, the square buzzed with energy as families, couples, and groups of friends descended on the bars and restaurants. Music blared out of the little establishments and fairy lights adorned many a window. What a pretty square!
We spent our evening mooching about, having dinner, and partaking in a cocktail or two before heading back to the hotel, exhausted after our first day.
Breakfast the next morning was possibly one of the best I’ve ever eaten. On entering the dining room an amazing selection of fresh breads, cheeses, tomatoes, yoghurts, and fruits adorned a beautifully decorated table. Amongst the food were vases of fresh lilies and huge glass jars filled with colourful macaroons.
A cooked breakfast was also available on request, although I will point out that they weren’t familiar with the concept of scrambled eggs on toast. Despite several attempts to explain (and demonstrate) to the waitress, she still waited until we had finished eating our eggs before she brought out the toast! But I’ll let them off as the scrambled eggs were insanely good.
Auschwitz and Birkenau
On our second day we went on tours of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Our driver, Pavol, took us in and managed to get us tickets without us having to join the huge queues. A bit of planning is advised as the entrance was chaotic.
The tours are something you have to see and feel for yourself so I shan’t go into any specific details; I think that the experience is probably slightly different for each individual and would recommend that everyone go at least once in their lifetime. I was expecting it to be a moving experience, but nothing can prepare you for how it actually feels once you’re there.
Wine, Olives and Pasta!
On our second (and third) night we had dinner in a little Italian restaurant where we indulged in olives, mozzarella, beef tomatoes, leafy salad and bruschetta, followed by various beautiful pasta dishes… all washed down with a delicious red wine.
And to finish off another exhausting day, we went on a horse and carriage ride around the square! After-note: this was before I was into horses and I was terrified of our beautiful horse!
The Final Day
Our last day came too quickly, and after another belt-busting breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the Jewish Quarter where we visited some museums and synagogues. Whilst really interesting and worth a visit, we found this part of Krakow to be rather rundown in comparison to the other places we’d been, which was a shame. However, we finished our time in this cultural ghetto on a high with a delicious lunch of salt-beef sandwiches and beer!
In the afternoon we headed over to Wawel Castle, a historic residence museum a short walk from Krakow main square. The weather had been a bit hit-and-miss since we’d arrived in Poland, but luckily the sun shone bright as we strolled around the picturesque grounds.
There’s plenty to do in Krakow and unfortunately we ran out of time before we were able to see everything we wanted to. But I guess that just means we’ll have to go back! There were plenty of nice hostels and bars that won’t break the bank if you want to do Krakow on a budget; however it was nice to be spoilt with a bit of luxury!