Saturday 9 January 2016

auntiegwens guide to 3 days in Kraków

When I first met mr auntiegwen aka mr Adventures he said the thing he most wanted to do was travel. He had spent 20 years with his previous partner who wouldn't, so the most he ever got was a week in Cornwall in dog friendly accommodation, he can get himself worked up about the standard of dog friendly accommodation, quite frankly, I encourage it when I think he needs to let off a bit of steam.
I have spent the last 23 years holidaying with my offspring, I have done the gamut of trying to placate fretful babies to grumpy ' I don't want to be here teenagers' with some glorious and memorable holidays in between.
 As 2015 was the year that my youngest child was already 18 and could be left home without social services being concerned we decided to have as many trips as we could.
Our penchant is for a city break, we like to be able to walk a lot, we always use public transport as I am a big fearty about driving abroad and we will go anywhere we can afford. This seems to mean we go everywhere in the winter! We have had some fantastic breaks in gorgeous cities in feck it's cold temperatures, I suggest thermals and good boots, we are not glamorous travellers, no little black dresses and high heels for us, himself finds they don't go with his beard.
Anyhoo, Kraków, it's a beautiful city and visiting in December you find it very sparkly and twinkly which suits your auntie just fine. We got cheap flights from Stansted into Kraków and it was a very cheap zloty ride on the train into central Kraków and our hotel was literally across from the train station and a few minutes walk to the old town market square. We stayed from Thursday tea time till Sunday evening, so we had 3 nights but 4 full days. Mr auntiegwen aka mr adventures is also blogging about this trip but over HERE.
We stayed at the Puro hotel, very modern, you work the lights, heating, tv from a tablet. Rooms have colour change lighting and probably the most unusual thing for me was the bathroom being glass walled, even as someone who has been seen naked by my travel companion, I was slightly disconcerted by that until I found the privacy curtain! Very contemporary design in grey and ochre. Good size rooms and very helpful reception staff but a downside for me was that you had to go down to reception  area to access the free fancy coffee machine, I would have much preferred a less fancy kettle in the room and not having to get dressed before my caffeine.

We found our way to the market square courtesy of himself having a fancy phone app called 'Here' and we meandered round having some mulled wine and local delicacies such as watery soup for me and huge sausages for him, I got a bit of the fear that I would be a very hungry auntie this trip due to my vegetarianism. The market square is beautiful and the oldest one still in use in Europe. There are stalls selling gorgeous handmade glass decorations, lots of food, souvenirs and even a working blacksmith.

The next day we explored the area around the castle, we saw a tour group with a British flag saying ' Kraków free tours' we were sorry we had missed the first part as Ela the guide was tremendous, she was so good we joined her for the afternoon walking tour of the Jewish ghetto, mr auntiegwen was beside himself with excitement, free, walking and history all in one go! The castle and area surrounding it are full of charm, cobbled streets and beautiful architecture which remained intact despite WW2, I expect having the Germans occupying had to have some upside. It must have been so odd for the citizens of Poland to find themselves invaded, their country ceased to exist, they got rid of the Germans at the end of the war only to find themselves occupied by the Russians for next few decades!
                  In the afternoon we walked to the Jewish quarter with Ela from Kraków free walking tours and as the afternoon progressed we had our minds blown by the ruthless efficiency the Nazis employed to remove the Jewish population from Kraków. Schindler's List was filmed around here, we finished up at the Heroes of the Ghetto square with its very moving chair memorial. Tour finished we headed up to Oscar Schindler' s factory museum and in the evening we remained in the Jewish quarter and on Ela's recommendation we sampled the student bars where we added a good few decades on to the average age, I got quite fond of the cherry vodka and himself the bison grass vodka, we even ate the famous zapikanka, theFrench bread pizza the students invented, first time I have ever had cucumber and ketchup on a pizza, probably the last too! 

Next day we were picked up at the crack of sparrows and headed for Auschwitz  and Birkenau, our guide for the day was a high school history teacher who got the balance spot on, it's hard to explain how vast Birkenau is as how it was set up to kill as many people as quickly as they could, it's not an enjoyable day out in the traditional sense but I'm glad I went,  our guide Adam really knew the subject well and encouraged us to think why we were taking photos, which is why I only took one of the famous 'work will se you free' sign. 
We ended up back in the Jewish quarter and back in student bars drinking vodka, we did manage a padlock on a bridge though, we always want to do this but we never seem to travel with a padlock! Himself bought some in a supermarket!
Our last 2 days we walked, took photos and ate, we drank vodka and just enjoyed the beautiful  architecture.

You should go, it's very cheap to eat and drink, the people are very helpful and you can navigate your way round easily. You should definitely do a free walking tour, drink cherry vodka and visit  Auschwitz, it fairly puts your life problems and issues into perspective. Pro secco is around £3 a bottlein supermarkets there too, that might be an incentive to visit all by its own self, no judgement from your auntie.
They also have lots of interesting outside lights and cobbled streets, which seem to be the thing I photograph the most, especially lampposts, I could do a book on lampposts throughout the world, in this post I have restrained myself, you're welcome. 



Mac n' Janet said...

We keep talking about visiting Eastern Europe, Krakow looks amazing and the vodka would be much appreciated.

auntiegwen said...

Have the cherry one, it's like alcoholic cough medicine, I should be in sales!

libby said...

Glad you enjoyed it...and glad you went to Auschwitz.....we thought twice about it but were very glad we did. We are off to Gothenburg in a couple of weeks and the mister is still on t'internet looking for somewhere for's as if once us grown ups have no kids at home we go a bit crazy with the travel!

auntiegwen said...

Luba - enjoy Gothenburg, we are off to Riga in February, weather average temp therein February.? That would be between minus 5 and minus 25 ! Double thermals for us

Gigi said...

Oh you lucky over here means that a trip like that will, most likely, remain a dream.

I imagine visiting Auschwitz was sobering. I once went to a museum that was hosting an exhibit of shoes from the victims. I cried the whole way through.

blueskyscotland said...

I've heard it's a lovely city and looks it from the photos. Last time I was in a proper hotel(the first for 20 years) I couldn't get onto my floor, in and out the hotel entrance or into my room until I'd mastered some fancy gadget that controlled everything. (I'd unwisely missed the demonstration tutorial my sister got at the front desk and found myself locked out at midnight in a strange city.)
Modern times caught up with me that night with a vengeance as I never use hotels myself if I can avoid them for cheap accommodation like camping.
Bob.( Alex doesn't post anymore although he's doing fine.)

auntiegwen said...

Gigi - the fact that we live only an hour to an hour and a halfs drive from 3 major airports including 2 London ones makes Euopean travel very easy and affordable, most of our trips get both of us for 3 days accommodation and flights for £300 or about 435 US dollars. They also have a part of Auschwizc floor to ceiling glass wall behind which are the mountains of shoes, very poignant and in Budapest on the banks of the river Danube they have a memorial of shoes cast in bronze all kins from babies to high heels to commemorate where they marched the Jewish people down to the river, made them remove their shoes and shot them straight into the river. I wept like a baby there, I have seen holocaust memorials all over the world but that is the one that really got me.

auntiegwen said...

Bob - being locked out at midnight in a strange city would be my nightmare but would have himself dancing a jig of joy, he would class that as a huge adventure! Was your sister very smug? My husband is a huge aficionado of walking, climbing and camping too, I am going to send him to your blog, please don't encourage him in his notion of the west highland way because it will be me that will have to do it with him!!! Happy new year Bob and send my best to Alex

Trish said...

We love city breaks. Like you, we have a few airports to choose from round here so the short breaks are affordable.
Never been to Krakow so this is a fab recommendation.
We seem to have had a few hotels lately with glass partitions. One had no privacy curtain which was very unsettling - we had to tell each other to hide under the duvet whenever we wanted to spend a penny.

auntiegwen said...

Trish - would highly recommend Kraków, I think the glass partition with no curtain is a bit too far for me! The hotel Puro is worth staying it, very central and I think we managed 4 nights for under £400 for us both so really great value for money

ADDY said...

MY daughter was there in the summer (and also nipped across to Auschwitz). Your photos are lovely. It looks well worth a visit.

auntiegwen said...

Addy- definitely go if you can, it's a wee gem of a place, I'm sure your daughter would have been a much more welcome patron at the student bars than this middle aged auntie !