Getting Kray in Krakow!
This weekend, I boarded a midnight bus to travel 6 hours to Poland! Although, it was a struggle to find a comfortable position to spend the night and get some much needed sleep to be ready for what was to come, it was an adventure in itself! It reminded me of the long, achy, painful airplane ride from New York to Prague. Like I’ve mentioned before, traveling is not always glamorous or what it’s like in the movies. However, having the experience from the plane, I was prepared for the bus because I was now able to find effective ways to get myself comfortable. This time I was actually able to sleep!
Prior to going to Krakow, we started with going to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. I cannot express enough how completely shocking it was to be there and to be in the actual place where such inhumane and horrifying crimes took place. Looking around the empty fields and towering barracks, I felt so devastated for the millions of people who lost their lives, the people who fought for their lives under such harsh conditions, and the ones who lost loved ones. I walked along the railroad tracks that lead people to the haunting gas chambers. It was chilling and immensely eye opening. We learn about it in our history classes but nothing compares to physically being there and standing where it all took place. Santayana said a quote that truly encompasses why we should reflect back on history and open ourselves up to places that may seem hard to be at first but are entirely necessary; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Unforgettable images from Auschwitz-Birkenau
After 2 hours of traveling and reflecting on what we experienced, we made it to Krakow.
Krakow, to me, is so underrated. It’s not one of the expected places that people say that they plan to travel to and I think that’s too bad! Krakow was one of the few cities that was preserved in Poland during the World War II because it became the capital Germany’s General Government. The German’s were actually going to convert the Polish city into a German town but were stopped before any drastic changes could occur. In turn, so much of the history of the city- the stoic, old buildings, the Main Square, St. Mary Cathedral, Wawel Castle, the Jewish Quarter-all of the beautiful history that I find so interesting has remained intact.
Main Square in Krakow
My favorite area of Krakow was the historical district of Kazimierz. This used to be an independent city from Krakow separated naturally by the Vistula River. Since Second World War, the Jewish inhabitants were all forced into this part of the city. The culture and history still reflects there. Now, it’s a place where all the “young” people go to meet up with friends and locals tend to spend the most of their time . (The reason I say “young people” is because Krakow has had an increase of the younger population over the years and it’s becoming a center for them). Another favorite part of mine was walking along a path that wraps around the city which used to be there the old walls that encircled the city stood. It was serene and peaceful and I was able to see things around the city without getting lost!
Furthermore, I found myself asking the question, ‘what’s with all the dragons?!’ (because you’ll be seeing a lot of stuffed animals and souvenirs of dragons). Apparently, there is an old fairy tale about the dragon of Krakow. There are several versions but the one that I heard is quite intriguing. Here it goes: There was once a dragon who liked to eat young maidens. No one could defeat the dragon on their own physically so they had to get smart. This poor cobbler named Krakow came up with a trick to stuff a lamb with sulfur and leave it for the dragon. The dragon ate the lamb and caused him to have a massive stomach ache. To quench the pain, the dragon drank from the Vistula river for 7 years until he finally exploded. The city was named after Krakus, thus the city of Krakow! There are even “dragon” bones that hang from Wawel Castle!
We went to the Wieliczka Salt Mines! This place was really cool! We were able to lick the walls and the floor because it was all made of salt. There were even sculptures carved out of salt. This was a booming business for almost a thousand years and still continues to be used.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine (chandelier made of salt)
Eva impersonating the Statue made of Salt!
I had to have some traditional Polish cuisine: Pierogis! I ate them when I was younger and enjoyed them and eating them here reminded me of childhood but there is nothing like pierogis in Poland! It is so simple but one of the best things I’ve eaten so far on my overall trip. This is something you definitely should do when coming to Poland. I also had some winter tea with orange slices and spices which was absolutely soothing, warming and perfect.
Perfect Pierogis with Zima Caj (winter tea)!
Krakow is a wonderful place and going there turned out to be my favorite trip so far. It is highly recommended!
This weekend I’m going to Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges in Belgium! I’m ready for some waffles and chocolate! Oh, and of course some culture too! 🙂