samster's adventures

An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.

A weekend in Krakow

I apologize for the lack of posts. It has been extremely busy with work and lots of travel, but I promise there are very many updates to come! I’ve been working hard on some new recipes, and checking out quite a few fun spots in and out of Ireland. Most recently, we spent the June bank holiday weekend in Krakow, Poland. And despite catching bad weather atypical of June, it was an absolutely amazing weekend. I wish we had more than three days there- I left already hoping to go back.

Repeating archways were a recurring sight throughout Krakow.

We arrived late on Friday night, but as our hotel was surrounded by many lively bars, we figured we should at least go out for a little while. There were six bars on our short block alone, so we did not need to go far. We started at a quirky spot on our corner, Finka. They had homemade lemonade, tons of cocktails with fresh fruit and a chic but relaxed vibe. After a drink here, we decided we were hungry enough to check out the giant pizza topping covered baguettes we saw everyone walking around with. We ordered a zapiekankie to split and met a local while waiting. He was having a rather rowdy night and invited us to join him at the bar across the square for some beer and vodka. We ended up staying out later than intended, as a complete turn in the weather brought on such a strong downpour we were not willing to walk the barely 5 minutes back to our hotel. We chatted with a few other locals in the bar and found everyone to be very friendly- and all fluent in English which was lucky for us. When the rain let up a bit, we made our way home as we had a big day of exploring ahead.

Wuwel Cathedral

Allowing ourselves to sleep in a bit, we headed to breakfast around 9 and then were off to see the sights. We started towards the castle and the old city, stopping in a few shops and a beautiful church along the way. Wawel Castle is atop a hill and just along the water. The grounds were gorgeous, as was the castle itself and all the state rooms. The cathedral was very interesting- there was so much detail and so much ornamentation. It was huge and almost did not feel like a church. We also went in to Lost Wawel, their archeological display, where the building itself was almost as beautiful as everything inside it. Unfortunately, it began to rain on us at this point and we were thankful the food and craft market below Wawel had some umbrellas for sale.

Food and craft market we passed through

From the castle, we made our way to the main square. It was huge! At the center was the old cloth hall, the oldest shopping mall in Poland. It is now filled with souvenir stalls, food, and two museums. Surrounding it was a mix of old buildings, a church and new tourist spots for food and drinks. One of the main highlights is Saint Mary’s Basilica. We wandered the square and stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants offering Polish options. After drying off over lunch, it was back to the rain. Stopping into the Tourist Info shop, we were able to plan a tour with Discover Krakow to Nowa Huta, the ideal communist town. We headed home to get ready for that.

Main Square

Following the tour, we were dropped off in the old town to grab dinner and a drink before the Dragon Parade. We stopped at Dog in the Fog, a classic pub, and after having a hard time picking something we wanted for dinner, decided to experience a Polish Mexican restaurant as they had a live Mariachi band. How could I resist? European style Tex Mex is quite an experience- a large step away from what is already a large step from Mexican. It was pretty good still. The Dragon Parade was worth the walk out and waiting in the rain- the floats, fireworks and light and music were very enjoyable. I was excited that I’ve now seen fireworks in three countries!

Sunday morning was our early day. We started with a tour of Auschwitz and continued on to the salt mines. In order to have a full day in town, we had to do both tours in one day. This meant getting a private tour instead of public transportation. There is a huge price jump, but given our short stay, it was worth it. Auschwitz was a heavy tour and very different than our tour of Dachau. It was tough to switch gears and get excited about the Salt Mines following. The tour was very interesting and the mines were cool, with such a gorgeous, spacious and detailed underground chapel- I could not believe how beautiful it was. We got back into town around 5 and had some time to regroup and get ready for dinner.

Underground Chapel

We gave in and had another Zapiekanki- yes, they are that good. We grabbed one in the market  and got cocktails to eat with on Finka’s patio. (I had to try the homemade lemonade I’d skipped on Friday). It was still nice out so we wandered our area a bit and found so many cute bars, cafes and tons of boutiques. We finally stopped into one with communist era décor and a cool, relaxed vibe. We sat for quite a while chatting about all we had learned earlier in the day and the night before, about Polish history and the very strong identity despite After wandering a bit more, we called it a night.

Monday was shopping day and so we headed to the Galeria Kazimierz. Many of the shops were the same as you’d normally see through Europe, but some were Polish brands as well. We went back to the main square as well, back to the Cloth Hall for some souvenirs. It was a nice enough day to sit in the square, have a drink and people watch. So we did that until it was time to head to the airport, around 2.

IMG_3335

It was a great weekend and a wonderful experience. I was sad to have to leave so soon, and definitely have this on my list of places I’ll have to go back to. Krakow was beautiful, and filled with friendly people and so much history that is still so prevalent today. It was a great opportunity to learn more about a country I did not know much about.

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This entry was posted on June 10, 2013 by in Playing Tourist, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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