Finding a flight for about $200 round trip, I decided hostels would be the best way to go. For about $15 a night and with lock boxes underneath the bed, I paid $45 for accommodation over the weekend. My choice was Let’s Rock Hostel, which was about 2 blocks away from the square and since Krakow itself was easily walkable it was the prime location to be in.
I mean how can you beat such a good deal, right in the center of the city, cheap, able to meet people from around the world, and my hostel was into the nightlife so had bar crawls set up for almost every night I was there.
It’s almost Christmas!!! They were putting up the Christmas markets as I walked by the square. I couldn’t wait to get back over once they were done.
As most of Eastern Europe, it gets very chilly as in the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Although the air was crisp and I brought gloves and a hat to get by with. I managed to stay relatively warm while I was out walking around the town.
On the same road as my hostel and the street above was a place called Bar Grodzki. Recommended by Rick Steves he’s right in saying you need to get over here for a filling and cheap meal. Seriously, so good!
This my friends is the potato pancake with goulash. Seriously, it was #20 on the menu when I was there and it is worth every bite. No extra sides needed, this will be extremely filling.
Potato pancakes! The 2 things I had my sights set on in Krakow were the potato pancakes and pirogies. Growing up in Pittsburgh, we’re all part Polish even though I’m mostly German but I wanted to see if the pirogies in authentic Poland had anything on my mom’s home cooking.
Wawel Castle in Krakow is just down the road form the main square. I did not take a tour of the castle however, there is quite a legend surrounding the castle concerning a Dragon’s Den which you’ll have to go over and tour to find out more!
Massolit books was the perfect place to stop in and browse the shelves and sit at one of the eccentric tables in the back. I picked a classic, Anna Karenia and sat in the corner. Sometimes one of my most favorite things to do is act like a local in a town I just got to that very day!
I was standing in the center of all the hall, snapping a few photos when I heard, “CASSEY?!” Who in good God knows me in Krakow Poland? I turn around and there’s one of my co-workers Rocky with his whole family and a couple other friends. What are the odds? haha. We laughed so hard and I snapped a picture of them.
Rocky, his wife, 2 daughters, and another couple they were traveling with. We discussed our plans and I told him I might head out to a jazz club later that evening if they wanted to join. He said he might and we parted ways.
I headed back to my hostel to have a few drinks and see what everyone was up to there but then I did decide to head to the jazz club to listen to some of the music. I’d heard some great things about the jazz scene in Krakow. Located in underground caverns, it’s the best place for acoustics. Rocky decided to join me and so I sipped on some gin and hung out in the jazz scene until my eyes started drooping.
Harris Piano Jazz bar is located right in the main square and the perfect place to hear some good jazz.
Shortly afterwards, I headed back to the hostel and went right to sleep.
The next morning I woke early and walked to the bus station to catch a bus to tour Auschwitz.
When I got back later that evening, a friend Clare who had found time to meet me in Poland the day before met me at the hostel and we went out for some really really good dinner at a locals restaurant.
WEILICZKA SALT MINES
The next morning we went to an award winning bagel shop for breakfast called bagel mamma, the salmon cream cheese bagels are to die for, we grabbed a taxi to the salt mines.
If we are going way down into the mines, the perfect place during a zombie apocalypse might I add, then we had to get into the mood, which is why I was immediately reminded of the misty mountain song sung by the dwarves in The Hobbit.
Back in the day, to test for harmful gas and to blow it up before everyone started walking through the area, men would hold torches at the end of long sticks and walk through the tunnels hoping to burn up all the gas and make it safe for everyone passing through.
After the tour of the salt mine we got a ride back into the city but this time to the Jewish quarter to check out Schindler’s Museum.
World War II began the day the German’s invaded Poland and the Jewish quarter here in Krakow was put on lockdown, the entire area surrounded and deemed the ghetto, polish people and germans yelled and disrespected the jews as they were being led to the ghetto to be locked in the houses here together.
A full wall of the types of enamelware that more than 1,200 jewish people would produce at Schindler’s factory. Anyone who was able to get a job here knew that they would be safe from other horrors during the war. The question was, would they be able to wait it out?
It’s a very sobering movie to watch. I was upset for quite some time after my trip to Krakow and watching the movie. Interestingly enough, they are still trying to charge and trail Germans from WWII for the after-effects of the holocaust. Having to live with all that they had done through the years should be enough of a crime, but at 88 years, they do deserve what’s coming.
After WWII the Jewish community had been rocked and Jerusalem became the new home for anyone who wished to move there. When Oskar Schindler died, his remains were taken to Israel where generations from the Jewish families whom he saved during the war still visit his grave today and leave rocks and flowers as peace offerings.
In many ways Oskar saved all of them, but in the end, I think they truly saved him.
KRAKOW CHRISTMAS MARKETS
That night, after dinner, we got to one of my favorite parts of the trip, the Christmas markets!
I admit that I’m glad I didn’t buy any books at the book store a few nights prior, I ended up having pretty much another carryon full of Christmas decorations to take back to Naples (luckily they ended up letting me on the flight without paying although I wasn’t so sure they would!)
Decorations made of metals. Some of the stuff around here was so neat.
At the end of the night we headed back to the hostel. I had to wake up very early to get back to the airport the following morning. Clare was headed North for a few weeks in a ski town.
It was an amazing trip that I ended up really enjoying!
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.