I really enjoyed spending three days touring Krakow's very tourist friendly city and would absolutely recommend this city to other European travelers.
I stayed outside of the Old Town in this cute little studio apartment. It was really affordable, right at a tram stop into town and had the friendliest owner. Highly recommended.
My first priority in Poland was pierogies. I wanted to eat them at every possible chance.
That is my friend Laurie's fault. While we were in college she introduced pierogies to me and I even had the chance to make them with her grandma.
I. Just. Love. Pierogies.
I found my first round of pierogies at a little pop up festival that was happening for a handful of days.
|the first of many pierogies!|
The first full day in Krakow started with a free walking tour of the city. Krakow is such a cute European city, and it was so easy to navigate and get around.
|Krakow's main church|
|sculpture in the large, central piazza|
|part of the castle, showing clearly its variety of architectural styles|
|Krakow's main square|
I also took a most delicious food tour! Lots to come on that in a separate post!
During my time in Krakow I arranged a small group tour to Auschwitz, Birkenau, and the Salt Mines. It was a great and easy way to cover all of that in one day, with little hassle!
While Auschwitz and Birkenau are not easy places to visit I chose to go because I believe education is the best way to prevent history from repeating itself and I want to know as much as I can.
Auschwitz now serves as a museum. Several of the buildings house some of the possessions collected from the prisoners and others serve as exhibits established by different countries. The perspective from which each presents their viewpoint on the war is quite interesting. I felt like the photos without color were more reflective of the appropriate sentiment for this stop on my trip.
|"Work makes you free."|
|one building had walls covered with images of some of the prisoners|
|from the Dutch exhibition|
Birkenau has been kept as it was during the Holocaust. While the site remains as it was, it has been decided not to make attempts to repair or preserve the buildings there.
For me, the saddest and most difficult part was standing near the rubble of the gas chamber, where there is a stone marker recognizing the lives lost, looking out over the uneven ground and knowing what's under the space in which you're standing. Very, very sad.
|the entrance to Birkenau from inside the camp|
|buildings where some of the prisoners were held|
|inside one of the buildings|
I wish I had heeded their advice. The salt mines were one of my least favorite places I've ever toured.
It was over commercialized and way too long. The tour guide from the mine had no personality and you can only take guided tours there. The audioguide ran out of battery. You couldn't exit when you wanted; you had to wait until another guide would "let" you out via a small, cramped elevator.
Anyways, I'd say 'save your money' and spend it on eating more pierogies!
|carved in salt|
I spent the rest of my time enjoying the sites, people watching and indulging in delicious food! If Poland wasn't on your travel list before, it most definitely should be!
Tips for visiting the concentration camps:
Go with a small, private, group tour. It was reasonably priced and included our tickets for the camp and the salt mine. We were able to wander on our own at Auschwitz and not at the pace of a guide with a large group trailing us.
The link to the company I used is mentioned above. We skipped all the lines and walked right in at all three places. Ticket sales are up more than 60% this year due to the anniversary of the war's end and many people are being turned away at the gate. Also, all bags into Auschwitz must be smaller than a sheet of paper. They actually have a sheet of paper to hold against your bag.