Krakow

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Destination

Location

Date of travel

September, 2019

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Adult family

Reasons for trip

Our first surprise on arrival at Krakow was how rural it is en route to the hotel from the airport. However our hotel, The Sympozjum, was a fair way out of the City and it isn’t a hotel that I can recommend at all! It is a large conference type hotel and the staff were very unfriendly and unhelpful. They failed to clean our room on the first night just because they “forgot”. They also failed to pass on an important message to us from a tour company we had booked with. This resulted in us being unaware that the tour was delayed 2 hours! They did not apologise for either oversight and merely shrugged! The breakfast, although there was plenty of food on the buffet was fairly inedible! Scrambled eggs that were runny, the toaster didn’t work and the fruit was almost frozen. The hotel was situated a tram ride away from the Old Town but this actually wasn’t a problem as we discovered that OAP’s can travel free! So please do visit Krakow but definitely avoid The Sympozjum Hotel.

Despite the hotel we had a lovely stay in Krakow. The main square (Plac Mariacki) is thronging with restaurants and bars and you can visit St Mary’s Basilica with it’s two uneven towers, take a horse drawn carriage ride (I have never seen such magnificent horses and ornate livery) or climb to the top of the Town Hall Tower. (I did and the views are excellent but the steps are very steep and difficult). We listened to live music in one of the bars in the square and then sampled pierogis (polish dumplings) in a little restaurant off the square called The Morela Restaurant. Great food and really good service from our waiter Matt. We even got a free vodka aperitif!

The next day we visited Schindler’s Factory which is a moving interactive exhibition telling the story of Oskar Schindler (as depicted in the film Schindler’s List) and the Jewish workers he saved from the concentration camps. This museum is very popular and you have to book timed tickets which is probably easier to do on line. It is a very thought provoking exhibition and well worth a visit. Nearby is the Pharmacy Under The Eagle which is a smaller museum in a pharmacy that was run by Tadeus Pankiewicz during the German occupation. We also visited Wawel Castle. Set at the top of Wawel Hill this castle has numerous things to see, The State Rooms, The Royal Private apartments, The Crown Treasury and armoury and you could easily spend most of the day there.

On our third and last day we went on a tour to Auschwitz and Birkenau. After the initial mix up where the hotel didn’t relay a new start time for the tour, it was a wonderful trip. I can’t say it is a happy carefree tour, it actually makes you feel sad and aghast at the atrocities committed but it also makes you realise how easily most of us go through life and how our petty worries are nothing compared to the thousands of people who passed through these concentration and death camps. We had an excellent tour guide and we passed through the barracks where the prisoners were kept, the stripping rooms where they had to undress and, at Birkenau, saw the remains of the gas chambers. As well as the haunting pictures of wide eyed children being led by the hand into the stripping rooms by their mothers, I think the most moving thing was the glass exhibit cabinet which contained a mountain of human hair! Another room displaying the suitcases taken from the prisoners was equally emotional as each case had someones name and number on it. It was a very poignant trip.

There are other trips to do from Krakow such as Wieliczka Salt Mines (although bear in mind there are some 800 stairs to navigate on that trip!) but we only had 3 days. It was a trip with a difference but I am so glad I went!

Rowsie

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