Two Week Poland Trip 26th October-9th November 2013
26.07.2014 - 09.11.2013
Day 7: Friday 1st November:
So this morning I had a little later start and left around 10:30am and walked down to the Lazienki Park, it was ridiculously cold on this day and so didn't spend too long here but it is a beautiful place. I caught the tram from just outside the main entrance up to the Old Town and explored some of the smaller streets coming off Castle Square leading to the Old Town Square. It is like a completely different city in contrast to the centre around the train station and Zlote Tarasy ect. Full of character. However I did notice that some shops were closed even though it was 11 o clock! It then hit me that maybe it is a public holiday as there was hardly anyone around apart from a few tourists here and there, and I did remember reading something. I had planned to go back the Historical Institute of Polish Jews today but had a feeling this would be closed too. After exploring the Old Town and its quaint little streets and doing some souvenir shopping I decided to head back to Plac Bankowy and found the institute without a problem today and just had I guessed it was closed, disappointing but I knew I was visiting similar places when I got to Krakow. So instead I had some lunch and headed towards Zlote Tarasy which was closed too, but walked to Ul.Prozna where there are some old houses with faces of people draped on the walls, very moving as these were probably victims. The coldness just added to the feelings felt when stood looking up at all of those faces. I continued on down this road and back out onto Marszalowska where I went and sat in Starbucks for an hour or so as there was nothing left to do and by this time it was around 4pm so decided to head back to the hostel to pack and get ready to leave in the morning.
Day 8: Saturday 2nd November: ZAKOPANE
So I awoke this morning at around 4am and got ready to leave for Zakopane. I left the hostel at around 5:30am and caught the tram the two stops up to the train station. I had booked this ticket online before I left for Poland and cost me around £20. The station is easy to navigate if you look correctly at your ticket and the information provided within the station. Anyway the train left around 7:20am and was comfortable. The views coming up into the mountains were unreal, so beautiful and atmospheric. Just what you would imagine from mountain towns and villages. The train arrived at Zakopane at around 3pm and I was so glad to get off after all those hours. I chose to walk to the hotel I was due to stay at which was called the Willa Carlton and situated around a 5 minute walk from the main street of Krupowki. I had never been in a place like this before, surrounded by beautiful mountains, just such a great atmosphere. I knew almost instantly that I would have such a great time here and would end up falling in love, which I did! Anyway I knew that the hotel was around 15 minutes away from the station but chose to walk regardless of my two heavy suitcases. I arrived at Willa Carlton at around 3:30pm and checked in straight away. It is an old, dated building but it just fits in nicely with the whole town and it's surroundings. The room was spacious with good storage options, a desk, tv, large radiator and double bed with small tables. The bathroom again did it's job with enough space, no bath though. I did notice that every time I took a step the floor creaked quite loudly but this wasn't an issue. I quickly settled in, unpacking the essentials ect and then headed out and took a slow walk down Krupowki, the main street. And wow it was so full of character with a excellent warming atmosphere, it is so hard to explain. I browsed the shops and stalls buying some gifts and souvenirs. I had dinner at the Sphinx restaurant which was great value for money and huge portions! I then continued the walk down to where the market place is and then turned back around towards the hotel. I arrived back at the hotel for around 7:30pm and had a shower. The water was cold! Not freezing but cold all the same, so it resulted in a quick hair wash and scrub down and then jumped in bed, it was quite cold in the room as well and the radiator didn't seem to heat up. I was then half asleep when I heard a key turn in the door, and it creak open, I sat up wondering what is going on and there was a man that about jumped out of his skin when he saw me and said sorry repeatedly before locking the door again. I wonder what he could of wanted and who he was I do not know, but didn't have anymore issues with that during the stay and felt like it was a genuine accident.
Day 9: Sunday 3rd November 2013:
So I awoke this morning and had breakfast at the hotel, which was a small buffet with things like cheeses, ham, breads, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, coffee, tea, juice ect. I left the hotel around 8:30am and walked down to the bus station, which is next to the train station. I was headed for Morskie Oko. The minibuses to Morskie Oko will park in the lay by type feature opposite the bus station with a sign in the front window. There was a bus waiting as I arrived and hopped on. It cost 10 zloty each way and took around 45 minutes if I remember correctly. I was quite scared about doing this trip as I had never attempted anything like this before and wasn't sure about how I would find my way ect but once you are in the car park it is obvious which way to go as there is a man on a stall that will take your entrance fee for the park and horses and carriages waiting to take people up. I had read on here that the horse and carriages won't leave until they are full and there wasn't a single person in them so decided to walk. For most part it is a long tarmac road with little to see. There are a few creeks, waterfalls and mountain views to be seen on the way up. About half way I came to some rocky steps which you follow up to the top, and then carry along the tarmac road once again. Then I arrived at a large clearing with the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountains! I knew I wasn't far away now and it was just beginning to rain. It was incredibly windy and when I put my umbrella up it shot off down the side of the mountain! So I carried on and about twenty minutes later I arrived at Morskie Oko! So beautiful, something that somebody like me could only ever dream about and look at in brochures! I stood looking out over the clear blue waters for some time before taking the steps down to the edge where I took some photos of myself. I could of sat here all day except the wind was getting so bad I was finding it hard to stand straight and the rain was really coming down fast now so made for the hut by the lake which sold hot and cold food, snacks, drinks, souvenirs and had toilet facilities and places to sit. I had something to eat and a hot drink to warm up. I stayed in here for around 45 minutes and the rain showed no sign of stopping so decided it was probably time to head back, as I had completed what I set out to do and was really happy that I had the courage to come here after all the doubts I had. So I walked back down which took me about 1 hour and a half in horrible conditions, it was so bad that my trainers had water puddles in the bottom as they couldn't physically soak up any more water! I stayed quite dry myself though thanks to my Canada Goose jacket which was worth every penny! I bought some gifts from the stands in the carpark at the bottom and jumped on one of the buses back to Zakopane. I was wet, freezing and tired and so once in Zakopane I headed straight back to the hotel to get changed and begin drying some of my things out. It was about 3:30pm and had decided to go back out for dinner and to walk around looking in shops ect at about 5 o clock but once I had got snuggled up, warm and dry the tiredness hit me and my muscles began to ache and so just caught up on some programmes on my phone and did some reading before going to sleep.
Day 10: Monday 4th November 2013:
So I awoke this morning to aching legs from the long walk yesterday but got up regardless and had breakfast before leaving for Kasprowy Wierch. I got the minibus which pulled up at the bus stop. Once there I intended to take the cable car both ways, however due to construction work it was closed until the following day, so that blew my plans right out of the window! So with it being quite early and not really having any back up plans I decided to start the walk, I kind of knew I wouldn't make it all the way, think it was a 3 hour trek up. I began walking and the scenery was beautiful! After around an hour you come to steep, rocky steps which just never end! I became incredibly tired and made it to the one and a half hour mark so half way before finally giving in and heading back down. I got some really great photos though, so was pleased I made it as far as I did. Afterwards I headed back to the centre of Zakopane for some lunch before walking to the end of Krupowki to where the market is. I bought some gifts before heading to the Gubalowka funicular station which is at the back of the market place. The funicular runs every few minutes and takes around 5 to get to the top. I was taken back by the incredible views, never would I of thought I would be in such a beautiful place in all my life! It was cold, but I just couldn't move away from the spot I had glued myself too! There are shops and restaurants up on Gubalowka apart from many of these were closed but would be a lovely way to spend an afternoon in summer! There was also a fun looking toboggan run which was running but I didn't have the guts to go on it! I had my photo taken with a sheep and dog with a Gubalowka sign and one of the traditional looking hats and thoroughly enjoyed it up there! After around an hour I took the descent back down via the funicular and continued to browse the shops on Krupowki before having dinner again at Sphinx, I had a pepperoni pizza which was delicious and then decided to head back to the hotel to get ready to leave for Krakow the following morning.
Day 11: Tuesday 5th November 2013: KRAKOW
I walked to the bus station in Zakopane which is located next to the train station and caught the 8am bus to Krakow. The bus was comfortable and had lots of free seats. The journey took around 2 hours and I got off at the central station in Krakow. Again I decided to walk to the hostel I was staying at which was called Hostel Centrum on Sw.Gertrudy which was very centrally located. The woman helped me carry my cases up to my room. The room itself was spacious and very clean, I also had a locker which is a must for me. It turned out I was the only one in the room for two out of the four nights I stayed there. I unpacked the essentials before heading out to explore Krakow! I headed to the main square about a 5 minute walk from where I was staying. It was beautiful! So atmospheric! I got some lunch and began the Royal Walk starting at the Barbikan and following it down through Florian's Gate to the market square where I detoured to have a look in the Cloth Hall, which was full of stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs, handicrafts, gifts ect I bought a few things from here and carried on towards Wawel Hill Castle, by this point it was raining quite heavily so decided not to walk around the castle complex and walked by the river instead. I had a look at Smok the dragon and also the very moving memorial to Dzok the dog who waited for his master to return at the same spot he died at for over a year. I then walked back in the direction of the square stopping for a hot chocolate and then continued back to the hostel, ready for an early start in the morning.
Day 12: Wednesday 6th November 2013:
I awoke early on this day, eager to get the first bus at 8am to Auschwitz-Birkenau , I have been to concentration camps before and have a very keen interest in World War II and the terror surrounding it. I just had a feeling I had to visit here as this is the most infamous camp and comes up in the majority of books. I knew it would be incredibly sad and moving. I decided to take the guided English tour at 11am I think it was. The tour guide spoke good English and explained all the key details. There is also time to read things at your own pace. The camp itself is a moving place and has a sobering atmosphere. It was deadly quiet with only the sounds of people in our group. The tour lasted around 1 hour at Auschwitz camp where most of the exhibitions are and then we got the free bus which takes around 5 minutes to the Birkenau section of the camp. Here are many barracks and also part of the railway line, remnants of the gas chambers and a memorial. It was a very sobering experience but it was something I knew I had to do, and also a main part for me choosing to come to Poland. I bought some DVD's from the shop and also some books. I didn't arrive back in Krakow until around 4pm and decided to have a walk around the main shopping centre, Galeria Krakowska. I had some dinner here also. I then headed back to the hostel, arriving back at around 7pm.
Day 13: Thursday 7th November 2013:
I left the hostel this morning at around 10am and walked down to the Jewish Quarter. I started at the Galicia Jewish Museum which gave insight to the horror that Polish Jews were subjected too, and highlighted main sites and towns within the Galicia region that had fell victim to the horror. I bought quite a few books from here. I highly recommend this museum. After here I continued down to where the old Krakow ghetto once was and went to the Pharmacy Under The Eagle museum situated on the square. It had lots of information about the Krakow Ghetto and what happened within the walls. It was quite small but took around an hour to get around. After here I walked the 10 minute walk to Oskar Schindler's factory. It was incredibly detailed with the effect that you are walking around the ghetto and parts of Krakow, the information was detailed however I was hoping for more information related to Oskar and the factory and also the people who worked there. I would still recommend visiting however you could be there all day and still not of read all of the information. By this point in the trip although I was loving Krakow and the experiences I was getting, I was becoming quite homesick and found I was starting to count the hours down until I could leave for the airport, but still wanting to stay at the same time if that makes sense. So I went back to Galeria Krakowska, having dinner and then sitting people watching in Starbucks until I headed back to the hostel at around 7pm to get ready for my last day in Krakow.
Day 14: Friday 8th November 2013:
I had booked to go to Wielickza Salt Mines with the tour company See Krakow, they picked me up at 11 am outside the hostel. It only took around half an hour to get to the mine and once there we had to wait a while before our guide was ready. We then entered the mine via lots of steps. The mine itself was spectacular, very beautiful, especially the main chapel. The salt could be seen and tasted if wished coming through the walls and explanation of why this happened was given. Throughout the mine was various cafes and shops and also a restaurant. It was a very good, informative tour that lasted around 2-3 hours. I bought some gifts from the shop which included things made from salt. We then came back to the surface via a very cramped shaft which was claustrophobic and a bit scary but all part of the experience! We arrived back in Krakow for 4pm and the driver dropped me back at the hostel. I had a very early morning ahead the next day so decided to grab some dinner and get a early nights sleep.
The following morning I awoke around 4am and the transfer I had booked was very efficient showing up at 6am. I arrived at the airport for around 6:30am, I still had over an hour before check-in opened which was a good job as my case weighed 26kg and I had a 23kg allowance. My hand baggage weight was unlimited though, however my hand baggage was pretty much full to the brim. So once again I began messing around trying to put some of the heavy things in my small case and pockets and managed to get it down to 23.6kg which was allowed through! I got some breakfast from the café upstairs before checking in and heading through security. I still had over 2 hours before my plane was due to leave but this flew by as I was just so tired so was more than happy to just sit around in a world of my own. I flew with EasyJet who were very reliable with friendly staff and are now actually my first choice of airline due to cheap prices and reasonable allowances. The only thing I was disappointed with is that they didn't accept zloty in less than a ten note and if they did it was a rubbish exchange rate which they did tell you about so had saved around 40 zloty for nothing but it wasn't a lot so didn't mind.
Absolutley loved Poland and would love to come back and explore some of the other cities and would love to take my family to Zakopane. Had some great experiences!