Well, as tradition dictates, I decided to start the diary of my last trip. Poland was a destination that I really wanted to travel. So I started looking for flights. As I got the tickets well in advance, I left the topic of hotels and visits for later.
Our plane would leave in the early morning, so at night we left with the car in the direction of the airport. We arrived at the scheduled time and left the car in a parking lot that is right in front of the airport.
Once inside the airport and with the checked backpacks, we only had to board our flight that left with a half hour delay. After a quiet flight, we finally landed at the Modlin airport in Warsaw. It's a sunny day but the temperature is very low. There were crystals in the environment, like glitter.
We left the plane and the airport had a bus to take us to the terminal. So everything was perfect, if it were not for the bus that took 10 minutes to start and the distance to the terminal was 50 meters. In that time we would have gone and returned walking 10 times!
At 12.35 we arrived in Warsaw and we had to catch a train to Krakow at 3:06 PM, so we had a couple of hours to eat and change money. The bus stop is in front of the Palace of Culture and the train station is next to it. We try to take the pictures of rigor. We take out our gloves from the backpack with almost frozen hands.
First we exchanged money and decided to eat something at the same station. We tried the meat pierogi. We went around the mall and when it was 3 pm, we picked up our bags and went to the train station.
Everything is very well indicated on the screens. The train arrived late, which was increasing until more than 1 hour. I think it arrived around 4.30pm. This was the only "incident" we had. The rest came out good. With the cold at the station we drink the hot chocolates.
The trip does not get tiring, although it was also cold on the train. As it had already darkened, there was little to see. We finally arrived at Krakow Glowny and went to the office where we had rented the apartment for the night in Krakow. First contact with Krakow at night seemed very good.
Ulica Florianska is one of the most touristy streets in the city. We enter the apartment. We leave our luggage and go to dinner. We were already late because it was 9 o'clock and of course, there people have dinner early. In the next street we found a great restaurant, with music. It was very cozy and we had a wonderful dinner. The scallop piece is impressive. It is big and tender not to mention the skewer that left us speechless.
It was topped with the typical drink Zubrowka (grass vodka), which helped to warm us up. Today has been a basically a day of travel, but we liked what we have seen.
DAY 1: AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU AND SALT MINES
At 6.40 we had booked the bus so we wake up at 5.45 a.m. Today a busy day awaits us. Our goal is to visit the concentration camp of Auschwitz (Oswiecim, in Polish) in the morning and the Wieliczka salt mines in the afternoon. With the cold we had a lot of layers of clothes, which required an extra time to get dressed. After a good breakfast, we arrived at the bus station with the purchased ticket.
The bus trip lasted about 1 h 15 minutes. We arrived after 8 in the morning and the bus leaves us right at the parking garage door. At that time there were hardly any people. The tour begins with a video that lasts throughout the outward journey (approximately one hour and 10 minutes).
The guide explains what happened in the concentration camp. In them we can see the blocks for prisoners, stores where the possessions of the Jews were kept and huge piles of shoes, orthopedic legs, glasses, baby clothes, photos of the camp, photos of the prisoners with their personal data and 70 tons of woman's hair.
Some barracks have signs indicating the nationality of the prisoners. When this visit ends, the guide gives us about 15 minutes of rest to buy some drink or food. We had plenty of time and we had some hot chocolates to warm up. Immediately we get on the bus to go to Birkenau.
The truth is that after this trip we have a bitter taste in our mouth because we think about everything that those people must have suffered without doing anything. To return to Krakow, we had to take the bus at 12.10. It was clear that we did not have time, as the next tour begins at 2.20. When we arrived there were only about 10 people in front. In the end we all fit, but there were a few standing.
As it was time to eat, we stopped to eat at one of the Rynek Glowny restaurants. We ordered two pasta dishes, water and coffees. At 4.10 a train left to Weliczka. We had to buy the ticket and find the platform. The truth is that it is very close and as we came from the bus station we did not even have to travel.
At the beginning we have to go down a lot of stairs until we start the visit. Everything in the mine is salt. The temperature in the interior is stable over 14 degrees so with the cold outside, inside it was very warm. Here we can admire the ancient spires, the underground lakes, the collection of mining machines and other tools, sculptures, bas-reliefs.
The most impressive is the Chapel of St. Kinga. The chapel is spectacular, with statues of salt. We go back early to catch the train beforehand and returned from the tour around 8:30 in the evening. So we went to a shopping center next to the Krakow station and bought Polish food to have the dinner in the apartment. We went to the apartment's office to get the keys and the girl accompanied us to our apartment that was in Ulica Sławkowska, just 25 meters from Rynek Glowny.
The apartment is very cool with bathroom, kitchen and a living room with sofa cum bed, double bed and LCD TV. There we had dinner tasting typical dishes. The mushroom soup with the bread was spectacular. After dinner we went to bed right away.
DAY 2: WARSAW
This day we get up early. Today we had to leave the keys of the apartment in the office soon and go to the station in Krakow to catch the train to Warsaw. Our train was in the afternoon. So we go to see the Wawel Hill, where the cathedral and the castle are. The park that surrounds it is the Planty Park. When we saw the Wawel hill we stopped to eat at the cafe in Ulica Florianska to eat.
We went down to the basement and sat down to eat there. We were alone with the air conditioning on top because everyone was out eating in the square. We ordered a minestrone soup, some flasdelle with spicy sauce (which was very good but it was stinging), and a spectacular caesar salad. The food is delicious, and the portions are very large (as in all Poland) and the waitress who attended us was very friendly.
After lunch we went to the Florian's Gate. It was historically the traditional entrance to the city of Krakow. Today it is still a very usual point to start the visit of this Polish city. We continue along Florianska street and we arrive just at Rynek Glowny which is the Market Square.
It is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. In the square we can see the fish market full of stalls with its vaulted corridors. On the top floor is part of the National Museum and that we could not visit because it was under maintenance.
In the same square, we also see the Church of St. Adalberto which is one of the oldest churches in Krakow and the St. Mary's Basilica. It is the most striking and rightly so because it is beautiful. In it is the Church of Our Lady, a large stone crucifix and a wooden altar-triptych, the largest Gothic altar in Europe.
Also, in the square is the Town Hall Tower which is the only thing that remains of the old city hall of Krakow. It leans like the tower of Pisa in Italy.
We go to the platform to go back to Warsaw. In less than two hours we were at the Warsaw Central Station and had had a juice with two cookies for lunch courtesy of the Polish train company. We bought our return tickets as soon as we arrived. We took the road to our hotel in Warsaw without knowing that we were waiting for a 20 minute road under a scorching sun carrying a ton of bags!
Now I laugh, but at that moment I just wanted to get into an ice pool even if it was to refresh myself. We finally arrived at our chosen hotel in Warsaw and where we were going to be two nights. The room was tiny and the bathroom the same, but for the price and for the time we were going to stay we could not ask for more. We left our things, and went to take a shower and left for the central station.
We got there, and changed money again in a kantor and we ate in a post that is in the underground passage after crossing the Juan Pablo II avenue. From there we went to visit the Palace of Culture and Science of the city of Warsaw. The inhabitants of Warsaw are not very happy with this construction that Stalin gave to the city and reminds of the socialist era.
For years it was the tallest building and it competed with the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Along with the offices, the building houses an auditorium, a cinema, a theater and an ice skating rink. We left the Palace of Culture and Science and although our idea was to take the subway we went walking through Aleje Jerozolimskie until we reached Ulica Nowy Świat.
This is the street where the royal route of Warsaw begins and in this street there are many of the important monuments of the city. It is a beautiful street with flowers, and the color of the houses. From it in a straight line we arrive at the Plaza of the old city. So we follow our particular royal route, but not before stopping at one of the terraces of this street to replenish strength with an ice cream.
We tried to drink something on the terrace of the famous cafe, which is the oldest in the city, but they took a long time to serve us. The ice creams were served at another counter to take away and we wanted to sit down to chat a while and enjoy the street atmosphere. After our break we followed the real route where we passed through the Chopin Museum.
Following the same street we find the Church of the Holy Cross, which is where the real royal route begins. On this street we can see the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences. We followed our route until we reached the Castle Square, where we saw the Sigismund's Column and the Royal Castle. As it was already late we leave the route for this day.
We walked to the subway stop Ratusz-Arsenal and then take it to Centrum to leave us near from the Palace of Culture and Science station and walk to our hotel. Our hotel was a complex of two hotels together with two restaurants. So we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. We had the vegetable risotto and raspberry yogurt ice cream and hot chocolate for dessert. We go to sleep as next morning awaited us an intense day.
DAY 3: 48 HOURS IN WARSAW
This day we got up later than ever because we fell asleep, but it was not too late when we left the hotel. The problem was that when we arrived at the central station to change a few zlotys I had left the money in the suitcase. So we again to the hotel and it was not far, but it was not close either and the heat that made the days in Warsaw unbearable.
I took the money and again I walk back to the subway. We arrived at the metro and did the same route as the previous day but in the opposite direction. A few minutes later we were already in Al. Solidarnosci and we headed towards Castle Square again. We arrived and went to enter the castle that this day was free to enter.
We have views of the Vistula River. When we left the castle we went to see the Market Square and I tell you that it is beautiful and full of restaurants to eat. The Poles know it as Rynek Starego Miasto, as it is rectangular and is surrounded by buildings. In the center is the fountain of Sawa, the Mermaid of Warsaw.
Close to the square is the Cathedral of St. John which is the oldest church in Warsaw. Just behind the Cathedral is the bell to ask for wishes. Just at the moment we entered, we could not stay long because they were celebrating a Mass. At this time our bellies were already asking for food. We went to take a break eating at a restaurant that is on the side of the Royal Castle and had air conditioning. We eat a good plate of pierogi and a salad.
Hydrated by the water, and with rested feet, we went straight to see the Nowe Miasto passing through the Barbican, which is the gateway to the old city.
Just past the Barbican we are in Ulica Freta and it is in this street where we can see the house where Marie Curie was born. There is a museum dedicated to her and to radioactivity, cause for which she died.
As we continue through Ulica Freta we run into the Rynek Nowego Miasta, which is the square of the new city. When we arrived there was a market and we went around to see the stalls, although there was not much. So we caught a perpendicular street to see the Vistula river from the city and we saw it!
After taking a stroll through the streets of the new city we went to Plac Krasinskich to see the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. For those who are interested in history or stories of courage, this museum is an unmissable event. To get an idea of what life was like in Warsaw during World War II, this museum shows how citizens resisted German forces through images, photographs, recorded interviews, life-size dioramas and written information boards in Polish and English.
It was already five in the afternoon and we had to make a choice because we had two things to see and we could only see one. The Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw and the Lazienki Park. We decided to go see the ghetto because we were caught on the way to the hotel. To go to see the park we had to take transport and we would lose more time.
So we took the subway to Swietokrzyska and from there we walked to Ulica Prozna. It is the only street that preserves the buildings as they were in the ghetto that the Nazi government decreed. The tourist information centers offer a brochure called "Jewish Warsaw" that indicates the Jewish points of interest. The Nozyk synagogue stand out, which was the only synagogue that remained standing after the war partly because the Nazis used it as a warehouse.
After this we ended our visit to Warsaw and we went to the hotel. We had dinner again at the hotel restaurant.
DAY 4: THE END
We get up at 6:30 in the morning. As we had everything collected and stored in our suitcases, we showered and went to the station. The apartment was very close to the station. So we arrived immediately and at 7:30 we were already on the Balice Express that took us to the Krakow airport.
We arrived at the airport at 8 o'clock. Then we went up to the boarding gate and waited for them to announce our flight. The flight was very quiet and we arrived 40 minutes late. Now we only had to take the car. After 1 hour and 50 minutes we were in a little house.
In conclusion I have to tell you that Poland has enchanted me and especially Krakow.