There and back again: Krakow 2013 Part One

So a lot of people thought it strange that I would chose to go on holiday to Krakow so early in the year. Whilst most people are looking to escape to a warmer climate, why go somewhere which is most of the time colder than the UK?

Well over the past few years my interest in world war two has grown massively. Any documentary or film which has anything to do with it and I’m right there.

I think I’m so interested in it because it all seems like an unbelievable work of fiction where unlike recent conflicts, the lines of
good and evil were clearly defined.

There are so many stories of what happened during this bleak time, some well known, some not so much but no matter how graphic a documentary or film may be I felt I needed to go and see where this horrific extermination took place, to truly have an understanding of what these people went through during the war.

Day One:

So an early start and me and Adelle were at Bristol airport for quarter to five. This gave us just enough time for Adelle to drag me around the duty free for a bit before grabbing breakfast. Full English for me, minus the pint.

Boarded the plane at 6 and then it was a down hill from there really. For starters, the three most annoying people on the plane had to be sat behind us.

Middle aged, loud and drunk already, these guys were defiantly not going to Krakow for Auschwitz. But as Adelle pointed out to me, we had to survive a two and a half hour flight with them so we couldn’t really say anything, although when one of them took to making a “bong” noise every two minutes, I would get in the cheeky reply of “mong” every now and again.

So we are nearing the end of the flight when the Captain comes on the speakers and says we can’t land in Krakow due to poor landing conditions so instead we would be landing in Katowice, an hour and a half away from Krakow airport.

Cue the moans. The three divs behind us are practically threatening to jump off the plane not realising that they would be doing us all a big favour. We land and chaos ensues.

Eventually we find a group of people from our plane who think they know where our coach will pick us up. It’s better than nothing and after about 45 minutes out coaches show up to take us not to Krakow itself but to it’s airport instead. We couldn’t moan too much though, sure we should be checked in and out exploring the city by now but we were given a free goodie bag containing a bottle of water, chocolate bar and a sandwich, compliments of Easy Jet. Thank you very much!

Adelle with our bag of goodies compliments of Easy Jet

About two hours later and a train journey from Krakow airport, we finally arrive in Krakow. After taking a quick stroll through their shopping centre just off of the station the time came to find the hotel.

Adelle had taken it upon herself to be the navigator which meant me trying my best not to try and take over. After a few stops to look at the map we find the hotel. First thoughts? Brown. From the outside Hotel Kossack doesn’t look like the four star hotel we booked, the minute we stepped inside though that all changed and I suddenly felt uncomfortable by how posh this place was.

Anyway, four hours later than planned, we dump our bags in the room and head out to have a quick explore and get a few bits and pieces for our room from the local supermarket.

We managed to navigate our way back to the centre easily and first impressions of Krakow were very good. Me and Adelle were surprised at just how nice it was and felt comfortable there too. By the time we left the shopping centre though, darkness starts to fall and Krakow looks different all of a sudden. One wrong turn and suddenly we found ourselves lost. After about an hour of frustratingly trying to find some familiar landmark we decide to just get a taxi back to the hotel and good thing too. I don’t know how we did it but we seemed to have ended up miles away from the hotel.

Now we have a reservation booked at Starka, a nice little restaurant in the Jewish district in about 45 minutes time. In the four years I have been with Adelle I have never seen her get ready in 45 minutes so I was speechless when she did in fact get ready in time, things were already starting to look up.

Due to lack of time we decided to get a taxi to and from Starka so we didn’t miss our reservation. By the time we got there I was so happy to just sit down to be honest. The restaurant was okay, it had a very local feel to it and the Poles sat next to us who would do a shot of vodka between courses as if it was water helped add to that local atmosphere.

The art in Starka

The food was again okay. The cold pickled veg next to hot chicken breast took a while to get used to though and the cheesecake was way too dry. To finish the meal me and Adelle has two shots of blueberry vodka and immediately remembered we hated vodka.

My Meal

Day two:

After a good nights sleep me and Adelle woke ready for a more chilled out day. We went for breakfast at a cafe in the main square and took a look around the market they had. After almost being killed by a wave of pigeons, we made our way to St Marys Church, the meeting place for a free walking tour around the Jewish district.

St Marys Church

This tour was awesome and one of the highlights of the trip. With us were an Australian couple, a guy from Glasgow, a guy from London and a girl from Turkey. It was nice to meet other tourists and chat to them about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. The tour guide was friendly too which always helps and we had a good chat with her on the way to the Jewish quarters about Poland etc. Turns out everything out there pretty much shuts down when there’s lots of snow too!

During the tour, we were taken to the main landmarks, starting at the old Synagogue and ending at Oskar Schindlers factory. Along the way we got to see locations Spielberg used for Schindlers list too which was a plus for me too. At one point, nearing the end of the tour, we were taken to where the main square was in the Jewish ghetto during the War. This was where Jews were sorted into groups, one which would be sent to Plaszow concentration camp to work and the others would be sent to their deaths. They have a memorial there of chairs facing in the direction of the camp as many of the old people brought chairs with them to the square as they knew the sorting would take so long. It felt so surreal to think that I was standing in a spot where such chaos had occurred and where hundreds were sentenced to death yet as Adelle pointed out there was a tram station directly next to it with people going about their daily lives.

The Memorial

At the end of the tour, we decided to go into Schindlers factory which was a big disappointment. I was expecting it to be the actual factory but now it is basically just a museum, which is fine but defiantly not worth the price of admission, especially as most of the stuff had just been covered in the tour.

Outside Schindlers factory

After this we headed back to the hotel and managed to find our way easily compared to the day before. We got ready at a steady pace this time and headed out for food. This time we had a reservation at Trzy Kroki w Szalenstwo which means Three steps into the Madness in English. This was completely different to Starka and much more fine dining so that meant smaller portions but better quality. I had crispy bacon soup for starters, Veal best end medallions for my main and my dessert….

I honestly felt like I was on Masterchef. It tasted as good as it looked. To finish the night off we went to bar Wodka which believe it or not is Vodka in Polish. We had a couple of blackcurrent vodkas this time which went down a bit too easy.

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