A destination that is as of yet to become mainstream, but one that since I have got back I have not stopped recommending – Poland. A place stuck in time of years gone past, with decedent buildings and a Jewish quarter that still holds religious markings of yesteryear.
Just a short flight from London, around 2 hours, and we arrived in Krakow. The airport is located only around 20/30 minutes outside of the city centre so you really do get to make the most of your holiday and explore almost from the moment you land.
We were greeted by one of the most friendly and helpful chauffeurs I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He delighted in telling us the best places to go for traditional Polish food, and the areas that were best if you wanted a great night out.
After our short transfer in to the city centre we arrived at our hotel, the Queens Boutique Hotel. I cannot begin to express how wonderful this hotel was. From the exceptionally friendly and polite staff on the reception desk, to the restaurant serving Michelin guide rated food at ridiculously reasonable prices. The rooms were large, with floor to ceiling windows and heated floors in the bathroom, and the whole atmosphere of the hotel was one of luxury and opulence. That’s before beginning to express how enjoyable the breakfast buffet was, with champagne and smoked salmon on offer.
If you are due to visit Krakow I would definitely recommend staying here during your visit – it’s a 4 star hotel that should surely be rated much higher!
One of my primary interests in visiting Krakow was to go to nearby Auschwitz. I have a great interest in WW2 history and after having read so much about the lives of those that were ruined because of the Nazis I had a great desire to visit the place that so many of them passed through.
Auschwitz truly is a place that everybody needs to visit at least once in their life. Without a full understanding of what happened, and us passing on that knowledge of future generations, the awful things that happened during the holocaust will soon be forgotten – and that should never happen.
If you do intend to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau it will take you almost a whole day to get around the two sites – located just a short distance from each other. But it is definitely worth it and it is a place that will remain with you forever – the memories still haunting the very earth of the camps, with birds and flowers forever disappearing from the landscape.
We also visited the nearby salt mines – something that I will be honest in admitting I didn’t think would interest me. However after climbing down hundreds of stairs and discovering a fully functional cathedral made entirely of salt, 150m underground – you soon change your mind! This attraction requires a lot of walking, so wear sensible footwear and ensure you have enough energy. It is quite a feat however, and evidently the mines are so large it would take 3 months to walk round them in their entirety!
Days and evenings were too spent in both the Main Square and Jewish quarter of Krakow. Polish cuisine is readily available in both areas and so cheap you will be able to sample almost everything during your stay! From mince wrapped in cabbage to traditional polish dumplings, with a variety of fillings, the cuisine is hearty and wholesome but exceptionally tasty too. Plus drinks are cheap too – just 80p for a beer and around £1.20 for a spirit/mixer!
You can walk for hours during the day and never tire of the buildings, culture and dining opportunities available. It really is a fantastic place to spend a long weekend.0