A few weeks ago we set off for a long weekend in Krakow, Poland. Why Krakow? Well we both have one Polish parent and had been meaning, for years, to visit Poland but the factor which swung the decision, was cost. The flight via Easy Jet and the hotel price were extremely reasonable and costs of food and drink were also low, so there was no competition against our other option, which was Stockholm
The weather was amazing- bright, clear blue skies and sunshine- perfect for strolling round the old city. It was very cold but as we were expecting cold , we dressed up warmly in hats and gloves and scarves.
The city was untouched by the war so retains all its old buildings with a medieval Cloth Hall in the central square and the imposing Wawel castle complex, set high above the river. As well as visiting the major sites we ventured into some of the smaller museums, finding some typical guards, obviously left over from a previous era. Each room had a stone faced custodian watching with eagle eye, to check that we touched nothing. It was reminiscent of trips to galleries in Eastern Europe before the collapse of communism. That apart all other Polish people were very friendly and helpful and we had some really good food. Our favourite beverages were warm mead with honey or mulled wine with spices. There was nothing better, after a few hard hours sightseeing, than going to our favourite Cafe Camelot and sitting down with a hot drink and a delicious slice of homemade cake.
My favourite church, and there were many churches, was the Basilica of St Francis, which had the most fantastic Art Nouveau stained glass and wall paintings by Stanislaw Wyspianski. We were fortunate that the sun was shining to illuminate the stained glass in the gloomy interior and it was quite breathtaking.
On our final day we went, with some trepidation, on a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, about 40km west of Krakow. It was , inevitably a gruelling day but very moving. Our guide was a young, local Polish girl and it is difficult to imagine how she can do this job every day-describing the horrors of life and death in the concentration camps. We were amazed at how much of Auschwitz was preserved, whereas Birkenau was largely destroyed by the retreating Nazis. Birkenau has a real feeling of desolation and still has part of the railway track used to transport people to the camp. It was a long day .
We would thoroughly recommend a trip to Kracow as we had a great time. Would probably not go in June, when the English football team will be staying there while taking part in the European Cup!