My trip to Krakow didn’t exactly get off to the best start. I rocked up to Sophia Gardens an hour early for my bus to the airport, absolutely buzzing that I’d actually managed to find my way there all by myself (plus a teeny tiny bit of help from Apple Maps but shh, nobody needs to actually know that) without any catastrophic disasters.
I waited around for half an hour, and just as the bus started to pull into the designated bay decided it’d be the perfect time to get the e-Ticket up ready to board. A quick scan of the ticket and yep, everything looks fine. It’s the right time, the same bus number, same destination…oh, crap, what day is it?!
Of course I’d only gone and purchased a ticket for the day before because I’m an absolute fool who apparently can’t tell the difference between Saturday and Sunday! One frantic dash to the National Express ticket office, an angry outburst about how blood useless the online ticketing service is (because of course it was their fault, not mine!) and £16 later I had a new ticket and was ready and raring to go but inwardly cursing myself for essentially throwing £16 down the River Taff.
As soon as I was on that bus to Bristol, though, it was like living an absolute dream!
Anyone reading this who lives in Wales (and probably some parts of England, idk) and has to travel all the way to sodding London in order to fly anywhere more exciting than Benidorm for less than the cost of 3 months rent will sympathise with just how freaking happy I was to be flying out of Bristol for a change.
I even Tweeted about it. I never Tweet. Well, I do now but I didn’t back then. So yeah, Bristol airport is the bee’s knees! Definitely almost accidentally wrote Bristol airport is the bomb there but airport and bomb aren’t allowed in the same sentence as each other these days so NSA, if you’re reading this – I am sorry. I am also not a threat.
Moving on swiftly…
I love Krakow.
It has charm, charisma, history, cheap eats and good WiFi – everything you could ask for in a city break destination! What’s more, it also has a lot of trees. You can’t go wrong with a good tree, am I right?!
Temporarily abandoning my usual “I’ll go it alone” mentality, this was not a solo trip. No, no, no, it was not. My friend Jay came along for the ride, which was pretty brave of him really given that the last time we holidayed together (he visited me in Italy back in 2013) he got caught up in a vicious Monopoly marathon and had to drink some gross concoction made up of pesto, vinegar, chilli oil and who even knows what else!
We stayed at a place called Emaus Apartments (not an affiliate link – just being informative!) which was a bit of a trek from the Historic Centre, but at £9 a night each was an absolute steal! It worked out cheaper than a hostel and we had our own full kitchen to run riot with. We didn’t actually use the kitchen for anything other than the fridge. But it’s always nice to have a safety blanket in the form of an oven and microwave, right?!
Seriously, the apartment was tiny but had absolutely everything you could need – even a pizza cutter! The only fault I have with it is that online it said no stag parties or other such large groups were permitted, but there was clearly something similar going on upstairs what with all the racket!
If you’re looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful and don’t mind walking at least 15 minutes to all of the ‘must-sees’ then I’d highly recommend checking out Emaus.
THE HUNT FOR PIEROGI
When it comes to eating out abroad, I’m not the most adventurous of sorts. A creature of habit and vegetarian to boot, there’s nothing I like more than a trusty old pizza or bruschetta wherever I am in the world. Heck, when I was in Sri Lanka I ordered Pizza Hut to my hotel! Although to spice things up a bit I did opt for the paneer masala flavour which was oddly delicious.
We arrived at our apartment pretty late on our first day there, and a combination of being tired, lazy and unfamiliar with where we even were in respect to cafes/restaurants we decided to use Poland’s equivalent of JustEat (www.pyszne.pl) to order an Indian takeaway. Judge if you will, but Jay is Bangladeshi and my stomach is certified Indian so there was no other choice really! Anyway, I can now personally vouch for the fact that Indian food in Krakow is not too bad. Not too bad at all!
Other than Indian (which we also ate on our third out of four nights – no hate!) I just ate pierogi. Seriously, it’s all I ate – twice on one day and once on the other two. Sauerkraut and mushroom is my pierogi of choice although I’m not against any other veggie flavour! Before going to Poland I honestly had no idea what pierogi was. THEY’RE LIKE EUROPEAN MOMOS!!!! I love momos. Always have, always will. If I were ever on death row, momos would be my final meal.
On the recommendation of Michaela’s blog post the first restaurant we hit up in the hunt for some bloody good pierogi was Goscinna Chata, somewhere which I’d built up high expectations for, and thankfully it definitely delivered! My first taste of pierogi here was like a taste of heaven – and it was so beautifully set out on the plate! At 18 PLN for 8 pieces I thought it was fantastic value for money!
The other two restaurants we visited were Restauracja Max 18 and Marmolada, both of which are situated on the main square and so we thought would be considerably more price than Goscinna Chata but were actually pleasantly surprised! Max 18 charged 18PLN for 10 pieces of (slightly mushy) pierogi and Marmolada 19PLN for 9. Marmolada was so good that after visiting there for lunch on our second day, we chose it as our ‘last supper’ restaurant, which is when I branched out from my pierogi-filled paradise and ordered dessert – traditional apple cake with cinnamon, which may actually have changed my life.
I’m not normally a person who takes photos of their food at restaurants. I probably would be if I was capable of taking good photos at restaurants, but I can’t so I don’t. However, in honour of my love affair with pierogi I made an exception.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
There isn’t a shortage of things to do in Krakow, that’s for sure. Although it must be said here and now that in the five and a half years I’ve been travelling, this was the most budget-y trip I’ve ever taken. I was counting pennies. And when I say that I mean literally, I was counting out pennies into my hand to be able to feed myself. To give you a better idea of how dire the situation was – I bought pre-packaged factory made croissants for breakfast. I am a monster.
Am I irresponsible for travelling when I knew from the off I had no money? Maybe.
But it wasn’t actually my fault. Long story short, the restaurant I work at didn’t pay me in December and unfortunately my double whammy of a payday fell on the last day of the trip in January. That’s the day I splashed out on dessert – kaching!
Anyway, despite actually having to scrape the barnacles off the bottom of my bank account to fund this trip, thus opting for free activities over anything else, there’s actually a heck of a lot for broke but eager visitors to occupy themselves with.
Old Town Krakow
We started off by taking ourselves on an unofficial walking tour around the main centre of Old Town. And by that I mean we aimlessly wandered around, taking pictures of pretty buildings that looked really unique and interesting and WOW they must be some sort of museum or official government office or something but no, just Costa Coffee. The prettiest darned Costa I ever did see!
After our own little explore, we joined up with the Old Town Krakow walking tour to find out a little more about the actual history behind some of the things we’d already seen, and some new sites and sounds too.
I’ll be honest with you, I can probably recall only about 5% of what the guide said.
What I love about free walking tours is that you get a feel for the history of the place, normally with no prior background knowledge, without feeling totally overwhelmed by a heap of facts and figures.
Well, I felt overwhelmed.
I think it was assumed that we all had a basic understanding of Polish history to begin with and, whereas a lot of the group did, me and my very UK-focused history education was absolutely clueless. Yet the guide was talking about some Lithuanian prince who married somebody but then didn’t marry somebody and then they died, and there was an invasion and maybe a murder chucked in there somewhere. It all went straight over my head.
The tour itself was quite enjoyable though, even if I didn’t come away with a yearning to learn more about Stanislaw and Wladyslaw (thanks Wikipedia).
We also took part in the Macabre Krakow tour a little later on in the day, which I thoroughly enjoyed (perhaps a little too much!). You can read more about that here should you be so inclined.
Wawel Castle & Cathedral
One part of the tour I liked so much I made Jay come back the next day to take more photos is Wawel Castle. Not so much for the castle itself though, but the Cathedral which was be-a-u-tiful.
Whereas you have to pay to enter most parts of the Castle, the cathedral is free and just as pretty on the inside! And you can do cathedral-y stuff there like pray and look at pictures of saints and Jesus and stuff. Or just walk in and straight back out, whatever you rather.
Schindler’s Factory | Museum of Wartime Krakow
Growing up I was all too familiar with who Mr Schindler was and what he did, only because Schindler’s List was, quite bizarrely, one of my mother’s favourite films. I’ve never watched it myself. It’s one of those films that you say you should watch, you tell yourself you want to watch, but when it boils down to it you’d much rather just stick on Pitch Perfect for the millionth time. Something feel good, you know?
As with all major cities, there are tons of museums in Krakow. But this was I didn’t want to miss! The Museum of Wartime Krakow, housed in Schindler’s actual factory.
Entry costs 21PLN for a standard ticket (free on Mondays) and it is worth every single penny.
I’ve never shied away from openly expressing my – for want of a better word – enjoyment at visiting war-related museums, and this may have just topped the lot.
It’s not solely focused on the history of Schindler, nor is it solely focused on how the war affected Krakow, but a well-balanced combination of the two. It’s insightful, it’s though-provoking and it’s informative. In short, it’s everything you could hope for in a museum of such historical and cultural importance.
There’s so much more to do and see in Krakow, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not doing the Jewish Ghetto free walking tour as opposed to the Old Town, but hey ho, there’s always next time!
And yes, I am missing something glaringly obvious here – Auschwitz. If you’d like to read about my experience visiting Auschwitz, you can do so here.
Until then… thoughts on pierogi anyone?