Monday, 9 March 2009

Back from my travels

...Flickr photos here...

Kraków, or "KraKUUF" as it's supposed to be pronounced, was AMAZING! what a beautiful city. loved the mix of the perfect 'old town', the jewish area 'kazimierz' and the rundown lived-in suburbs, beautiful in their own crumbling grandeur way! food was amazing, drinks fantastic, prices a dream, public transport fun and people very warm and friendly. it was such a comfortable city to be in. i never once felt threatened and that is a very rare thing in a strange country and such a big place. wished we could've stayed! the bars/cafés were perfect too. each one totally unique and not trying to be cosy and funky at the same time like bars back here, but just being like that! i am hooked on Zubrówka (bison grass vodka) and apple juice - tastes like apple pie! also got into cherry vodka and banana juice. so much so i bought a bottle of each vodka back with me and went to the polish deli today for banana juice while my puncture (ugh) was getting fixed. as you can see from the first photo, the hot chocolate was pretty special too - so thick :P

about that... well it was a bit of a 'mare! up at stupid AM for the flights from luton (they were cheap!) so left cheltenham around 3.30am and managed to hit a rock in the road, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere. joy of joys! especially as i'd taken out things like a torch and foot pump from the boot of my car to get the cases in! doh! who leaves a bit of drystone wall in the road anyway? normally i'd drive round such things(!) but i was partly zombified and no-one saw it until the very last minute - well, as i hit it in that unavoidable split second. hey ho. luckily i knew the bit of road we were on and there was a garage just down the way so we pulled in to assess the damage. flat tyre ahoy which we could only really see properly if my friend sally waved her arms about to make the garage security light go on! all the luggage had to come out the boot and my little brother and i tackled the wheel, panicked as were already a bit later than we wanted to be going to the airport and miles away. we must've looked a right sight! safe to say we managed it, though we thought the wheel was stuck on as none of us noticed for a while one of the 5 wheel nuts was still on the wheel! made it to the airport with time to spare and our flight was a little delayed anyway so we were fine...

the dots are there because we made it on the flight fine and to poland fine. however, don't trust budget flights! listed as 'katowice/cracow' on their website gave the impression it was a flight for kraków. WRONG! katowice has its own airport and so does kraków. katowice is over 100km from kraków!!! this we didn't find out until we were on polish soil. my own mistake really, i should've checked, but then i am not too hot on polish geography. a flight sold as one to kraków, you'd expect to land near kraków! anyway, this made for a bit of an adventure once we'd realised what had happened. a bus into town for 45 mins for about £4, then a train (once we'd communicated what we wanted in pigeon polish and sign language! - no-one in katowice spoke much english) for 3 hours, frustratingly doing about 2 miles an hour, for less than £2. so, we weren't too much out of pocket, just a little time poor! however, it was fun to see a bit of the real poland we hadn't planned on and it did feel like an adventure :) we had a 20 minute walk through 'planty', the park round old town to our hostel which was ideally situated and very nice - ARS hostel, highly recommended :)

we spent our time exploring the city, aimlessly wandering (but with the map to hand for when we got lost!), eating, drinking in some amazing bars/cafés and doing a couple of trips out of town. we did auschwitz and the salt mines on friday and saturday afternoon respectively. we had originally planned to fit both into one day but understandably auschwitz took a whole day. it was terribly moving and a real rollercoaster on the emotions. we all felt very drained at the end of the day. auschwitz 1, a repurposed army barracks, looked almost like a holiday camp in the sunshine so it felt very surreal. it was strange to even be there anyway but that was unexpected. the big camp (the most famous one) at birkenhau/auschwitz 2 was so vast. i wasn't expecting it to be so enormous, nor so close to town. it was very hard to get my head around it but i think i felt i needed to see it to be a witness, if that makes sense. there were some teenagers there from israel wearing flags as cloaks which was a bold and defiant gesture so that put a positive twist on things.

the salt mines were incredible! totally unlike anything i'd seen before. the tour was very informative but as with most tours, i felt a little rushed. you weren't allowed to go around at your own pace for fear of you getting lost down there forever! the way down was odd and made me feel dizzy. sets of stairs in sets of 5, always turning to the left, over 300 stairs. felt like we were doing the same thing forever! maybe that's what hell is like?! i was glad when we reached the bottom. coming up was also funny - in one of the miners' lifts, 9 people crammed into a space only comfortable for 3 or 4. it was very much like being a sardine! the mines themselves were beautifully lit and looked almost like a film set. very cool :)

all in all, i LOVED kraków and will defintely go again. there was so much we didn't have time for. i'd certainly recommend you visit and would advise you to:
  • use the fab public transport - very cheap, clean and regular.
  • don't buy the coach tours to auschwitz/the salt mines - they're easy to get to on your own steam (we went by public bus). auschwitz has info in polish and english so you don't need the tour - i wanted to go at my own pace and knew enough beforehand.
  • take a polish dictionary - our guidebooks were helpful but we could've used one for food etc, and maybe a phrase book. try to speak polish where you can, even if it is just 'please' and 'thank you' - the poles really appreciate it.
i've just paid the balance on my next trip to new zealand. eek! exciting!!


  1. Ooh, that hot chocolate looks amazing! Sounds like you had an amazing time, I will have to put it on my list of places to visit.

  2. Hi Steph, I came across your blog by chance and have noticed Zubrowka picture :) I am from Poland, not from Krakow but smaller place called Torun - in Poland we say that it's a Krakow miniature. I am happy you loved Krakow :) You are a good observer, your comments are so true, hmmm maybe apart from the one about the public transport. We have a horrible public transport - always full ad you are always squashed. But it looks like you maybe haven't experienced this :)) I live in Edinburgh now and recently hooked by jewellery making, so I will definatelly come back to read your blog. Sorry for my spelling mistakes :) and 'dobranoc' and 'do uslyszenia' Beata


Thanks for your interest in my glassy blog. I love to hear feedback so fire away...