A Ryanair fanfare signalled a flight without any major disaster, and welcomed us to Kraków on Wednesday. We had crossed the border into Poland a couple of times when we visited Slovakia a couple of years ago, but this was our first proper visit.
After depositing our bags at the hotel, we wandered around the old town to see what it had to offer. You may be aware of my habit of visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the old town was one of the original twelve first designated in 1978. There's plenty of history and – typically for eastern Europe – plenty of churches. The Church of St. Peter the Apostle in particular was full of bling…
For more up-to-date bling and other non-specific gangsta accoutrements, I was delighted to spot this shop…
A traditional meal of goulash and potato cake that evening proved the guide book correct in its assertion that Poles like meat and hearty (i.e. stodgy) food, and aren't too keen on veg. This was fine by me!
On Thursday it was time for UNESCO location number two – the Wielizcka Salt Mines. It's been worked since the thirteenth century and the miners there have decorated the entire place with statues of prominent figures both real and mythical.
The salt is 95% pure, rock solid and forms the entirety of the mine (I was expecting it to be soft and crumbly veins running through other tougher rock). The tour guides even encourage you to lick the walls, but with more than a million visitors passing through each year we declined!
After returning to the city, we took a stroll to Wawel, the hill on which the Royal Castle and Cathedral sit. Climbing the cathedral tower gave a great view over the city, next to Zygmunt's Bell which has rung over 12 million times since being cast nearly 500 years ago, and weighs 1.8 tonnes. Impressive.
Friday was another UNESCO site, but not necessarily subject to the usual excitement since it was Auschwitz Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp. Suffice to say that it's quite a sobering experience to walk the grounds and read the details of the horrors which took place there.
Anyway, that evening we ventured into the Christmas market in the main square of Kraków. It followed the standard recipe for such things – plenty of tasty-looking chocolate and sweets on offer – along with more esoteric produce including 2ft long wooden spoons and christmas tree baubles the size of melons!
Unfortunately the following morning entailed a train journey to the airport and a flight home, but I just had chance to nip out after breakfast and finish the trip with a picture on the only day on which it didn't rain…