Steph and I had a lovely pre covid tradition of trying to increase his country count by having a monthly date weekend in a new European country. Our favourite visits were those where we could experience the dual culinary delights of a Michelin starred dinner of local cuisine AND an exceptional hot dog van. (Highlights to date of the hot dog tradition have been Copenhagen, Reykjavik and the Faroes). We had high hopes for this weekend’s adventure to Krakow – where we had heard of a famous kielbasa (sausage) van and we had secured a reservation at Fiorentina. Bonus points were also going to be in order if we could get some excellent dumplings
To balance out our weekend, we were visiting Auschwitz. I am not really looking forward to it, but think it is an important place to visit.
Late arrival in town, kielbasa and pierogi (sausage and dumplings)
We arrived at 9pm but were confident that left time for dinner. We checked into our very luxurious suite at the Bonerowski Palace (a suite at a bargain), and then went on the hunt for the famous blue sausage van in the south of the old town. The sausage and roll combo commanded a queue of locals but it was worth the wait. Delicious. We were still pretty peckish so wandered around the old town and found a nice restaurant in the old square for some pierogi with cheese and potato. We were most amused in the middle of a european energy crisis to see packed terraces in the old town square with both gas and electric heaters going at full blast. Clearly no energy worries here.
A sobering day at Auschwitz Birkenau
Visiting Auschwitz has always been on the plan since I was a kid in NZ studying the holocaust at high school. It was a sobering and horrible day, in spite of knowing exactly what we were getting into. The vastness of Birkenau was hard to comprehend. The only gratifying part of the visit was how busy it was – crowded but respectful – which gives me at least some hope that these atrocities will never be forgotten.
A sunnier wander around the Wawel castle and over to the Jewish Ghetto
We headed up to the Wawel castle to check it out. We were planning as we went, and as i looked up reviews to see what we should visit and pay for, I was amused by Heinrich 16’s review on Tripadvisor – ‘a bunch of mismashed buildings, with outrageous fees to visit some inside rooms, not an actual castle’. Harsh, but not entirely untrue. The cathedral was lovely and the views of the river were great, but we were too lazy to pay to squish in a queue and walk slowly around some state rooms inside (you can see everything outside for free) . We enjoyed more the lovely walk along the river with the autumn leaves and across the Father Bernatek’s bridge with the excellent acrobatic sculptures. And we wandered around the old ghetto with a sobering memorial in the square with empty chairs
Visiting the modern art museum
Most of you will know that I love modern art – the more obscure the better, and I will always visit a modern art museum if there is one. Krakow has an excellent museum. The current exhibition was pretty shocking with a mixed bag of protest photos and videos – covering everything from women’s rights (yay) to anti Putin material (yay again) to groups campaigning for the right to murder gypsies (wtaf).
A fine albeit brusque dinner at Fiorentina
In keeping with tradition we had booked a michelin recommended dinner at Fiorentina. The service was amusingly Polish, and I was getting pretty hangry 45 minutes after we were seated and I had only been fed a small amuse bouche with smoked sour cream. The speed of service improved and dinner was good though not outstanding.
Walking tour around the Old town and Kazimierz
After an excellent bacon, cheese, egg, pickle and onion brioche sandwich for breakfast, we embarked on two walking tours (old town and Kazimierz – the jewish old town) that the guide suggested would take all day (maps below). We meandered and finished in two hours, but admittedly couldn’t visit the inside of any of the religious sites as they were either closed or in use for services. Our favourite spots were the flea market in Kazimierz (doing a roaring trade in fur coats), the 15th century Remah cemetery which was the lovely resting place of most of the famous polish jews, and the Franciscan church (mass performed with gusto). We passed lots of huge tour groups getting ferried around in electric buggies…. Krakow definitely is a bustling tourist destination… but it didn’t detract from the loveliness.
Everyone in Krakow uses bolt not uber – it works well. We took it to auschwitz and bag for c. £45 each way, and it was £10 to the airport (don’t be a dufus and take a taxi to the airport like we did (we thought it was a fixed fare), it was much more expensive than a bolt)
Stayed at the Bonerowski palace – lovely
Prebook your Auschwitz visit a few weeks in advance as they do sell out. We managed to get a slot on a french tour as there were no english ones left. https://visit.auschwitz.org/?lang=en
Walking tours from IYP below