Warsaw

It turned into a very unusual week and after Krakow, I had to dip up to Warsaw for two nights. Lots of running around to do (not the typical tourist activities), so I don’t have much to share except photos. I stayed at an Airbnb about a 10-15min walk straight (literally) from the train station (excellent Airbnb with a great host too). The train from Krakow to Warsaw cost 199zl ($54) for first class, and I think it was 129zl for standard – the whole journey took about 3 hours.

I’m going to gloss over the snow flurries that occurred right as I was arriving at my Airbnb after I took the picture of the arts and cultural building below (built in 1955 and now housing a variety of museums).

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Old Warsaw was destroyed during the war, with many of the buildings just shells of their former selves. The restoration work was amazing (see the header photo), with this part of the city being granted UNESCO world heritage status! (Between this, the salt mines outside Krakow, and old Krakow itself, I got 3 sites in 1 country!)

I wish I’d had more than 48hrs to spend in Warsaw – it is a city with lots of potential for a great vacation! (Ok, it snowed again a second time the night I arrived with big fat flakes.) It’s also a city filled with a mixture of period architecture, communist-era, and new, shiny modern – sometimes all on the same street. And from what I can tell, it is a huge, sprawling city with wide sweeping boulevards – fitting pedestrians, buses, trams, and cars throughout the city centre, lots of parks for recreational activities and relaxation, and amazing restaurants for a variety of cuisines and budgets (and like Krakow, McDonald’s everywhere). I need to go back (maybe when I’m better prepared for fluctuating weather)!

That being said, to head to the airport, I picked up bus 175 at the plaza between my Airbnb and the train station – it only cost 4.40zl ($1.15), took 30min, and dropped you off at the front doors of Chopin Airport! You can’t ask for easier than that, right?

Overall, go! Go to Poland! I was leery at first, but after one day there, between Krakow and Warsaw I was pleasantly surprised and you certainly will not be disappointed!

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Krakow

Not the first choice of a spring vacation/holiday. I headed to Poland and everyone else was going to warm climates. I’m ok with that. I’ve wanted to visit Krakow since I was a kid. There was a classic book called The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly.  (And without giving away the whole book, you can still stand in the market square every day and hear the trumpet…)

So, cheap flight on Ryanair (ugh) and hotel booked via Expedia. Tourist card (picked up at the airport rather than pre-ordered) for €30/120zl. I was prepared for lots of rain so I tried to pack the best I could.  The train from airport to central Krakow 9zl (machine takes cash or card). DO get a ticket as they come by and check every ticket, every train, daily!

I stayed at Hotel Legend, off sw. Gertrudy. It’s approximately 15min from the station (if you aren’t hauling luggage and actually know where you’re going). Lovely little hotel located at the far end of the old city near Wawel Castle. Would certainly stay again! The breakfast was amazing and that helped me save money as I generally didn’t need to eat lunch. Staff at the hotel was beyond friendly and helpful. They could arrange tours or guides if you needed, and most spoke excellent English. I had a basic room and it was more than comfortable for my 4 night/5 day stay. My room did face the main street, which also has a tram line that runs on it, so be warned of noise if you’re a sensitive sleeper.

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Scenes from Krakow.

Day trip to the salt mines nearby was very nice, and I opted for it on 3 May (Constitution Day – a national holiday akin to 4th of July in the US) as every other tourist attraction and most everything else in the city was closed! It was easy to take the bus there and the bus fare was covered by my tourist card! Tours of the mine are done in English and to be allowed photos was 10zl extra. Cost = 99zl = 23€ = $26 = £20 (approx)

I attended a concert at Sts Peter and Paul church for only 60zl (£12). Most churches offer evening concerts and this was amazing – featuring Vivaldi and Chopin. The only downside was that 14th century churches are super cold at night and generally don’t have heat. Sometimes it was hard to focus as I was SO cold! But the acoustics were beyond amazing – better than some symphonies I’ve attended.

Meals on average ran about 25zl. And don’t miss out on the pretzels sold by the corner vendors for 1.60zl! Flavours are poppy seed, sesame seed, or (asiago) cheese. And one day, it rained so hard, I grabbed a couple pretzels and ran to the Starbucks to hide out for a bit. Give me my overpriced tea, but I’ll sit and eat my outside vendor food.

Starbucks, Costa, and Cafe Nero are familiar sights in the city as well as McDonald’s. McDonald’s IS. EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. Yes, I ate there once, when I was rushing to the concert at the church because I lost track of time walking around.

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For fun, get a QR scanner app for your phone. There are park benches dotted around town with information to promote literacy! Scan the QR code, learn about the person (ignoring my ad-filled QR app):

And while the Schindler factory museum was fascinating (and very crowded with group tours, it was a tad annoying at times), there were a few photos I took that I don’t think need to be shared online as there’s enough hate, right? I posted one on Instagram so pop over there if you want to take a look. My favourite though was the Galicia Jewish Heritage Museum – the photography was amazing and poignant.

Fitbit stats = over 100k steps for the week and 25,000 or so on the day I went to the salt mines. Lots of thick stone steps and belltowers – my legs hurt!