Krakow and onward
Updated: Aug 13, 2018
As much as we loved getting out and seeing the Poland that isn't on everybody's initial tourist list, we also did have to hit those main sites. Well, we did Krakow and Warsaw, we didn't make it to Gdansk which seems to be a must on almost any Poland itinerary and gives us reason to have to return to the country. We also missed Moszna Castle which is just 2 hours outside of Krakow (which we basically drove past when we came across from Wroclaw), and we decided to pass on the morbid overly recommended Auschwitz site.
But, let's talk about these big tourist sites - Krakow - this is a city that we absolutely loved. It's crowded and touristy in mid-July, but that's not enough to dampen the city - we booked an apartment to stay at, one of the first on our trip, and we never saw anybody in the transaction. They emailed us a code for the doors, once inside we had the keys, and with a mini-kitchen, and clothes washer we were ready to settle in and live the cheap self dining life while touring the city sites.
Parking was easy, but hard as well, it was just on the street and you need coins to pay the meters for the parking ticket. You can purchase for as long a stay as you need, we did one for one day and the next for three days (including the free Sunday - it calculates that), but the problem was when we arrived we didn't have enough coins, we had enough to purchase a 1 hour pass, and you can't exchange cash for coins at the money exchanges or at banks, you need to purchase items in stores and ask to get given change back. We found one currency exchange that gave us some coins and then we had to purchase some water, but eventually we had enough to cover the first nights stay and we unpacked our car and settled in.
First up on the touring agenda, the Wieliczka salt mines, they are about 30 minutes outside of Krakow, the tour takes almost 3 hours, and it well worth it for the information and just the amount of work that has been done over the years to pull the salt out of the ground in these massive mines. Tina had booked out tickets online ahead of time and that made everything quick and easy once we go to the site.
From a structured tour we spent most of our time slowly wandering the city and it's central square. It's just wonderful and easy to stroll around in, and to sit and enjoy a drink at one of the many outside cafe's and bars. The wonderful weather we had been having finally caught up to us, and we did get caught with a few afternoons of rain, but as much as the skies were generally cloudy it would only rain for about 30 minutes and then clear up.
We spent a morning in the old Jewish quarter having breakfast before heading out to an old quarry that had been used by the Germans during the war as a prison camp, and where parts of the movie Schindler's List was filmed. It was a long walk and a hot day, interesting but maybe not fully worth the hike in the heat.
One thing that we would say is worth it are the free tours that they offer in the city - as we've looked more we find that many cities have them - but this was the first for us. We arrived as people we grouping up, they had an Old Town / Castle tour and a Jewish Quarter tour and the guides had great English speaking skills. The tours are free, but they do hope that you would tip them at the end of the trip based on how you've felt you enjoyed it. We enjoyed it immensely, especially learning about the bugler and finally seeing him wave to the crowds - after two days of seeing people staring and waving but never seeing the bugler this alone made the tour worth the price.
The tour took us to the Castle and finished there, leaving us with time to tour the Wawel Cathedral.
The tour didn't take us into St. Mary's Cathedral so we returned to that and were amazed by the beauty of the inside. After that we found a nice bar that we could sit and watch the final match of the World Cup - it was strange that none of the outside restaurants had televisions outside while most of the other towns in Poland had the matches on everywhere. We had found a small bar, without air-conditioning to watch the 3rd place match, and managed to find a nice bar that had a fully air-conditioned upstairs seating area that was perfect for watching the match.
We also found a cute little church where, when we visited, we were the only ones inside other that a nun that was praying.
The next morning we were up and out, up to a night in Warsaw before heading on a marathon flight to Tasmania. We spend an afternoon and the next day in Warsaw touring, it's been fully rebuilt since the war - the city it nice, nothing special. The memorials and sights are moving, but from what we can tell there's no need to spend more then a day here if you fly in before heading out to Krakow and the rest of the amazing cities that are scattered across the country.
The hell of the trip came that night, we had a late evening flight to Tasmania. A long flight that took us from Warsaw, to Qatar, to Sydney, and finally down to Hobart. Almost 30 hours from dropping our rental car off in Warsaw to picking the next on up in Tasmania. We picked up our rental car, drove straight to the Hobart hotel we had booked and. after a quick dinner, went straight to bed to try and recover and adjust to our new time zone.