Another overnight train to Krakow, and an early morning arrival in … Warsaw? Eh, that’s not right! It turns out that some cross-country European trains split up during the journey. If you’re in the wrong part of the train then you end up in the wrong place. You’d have thought that the conductors might have warned me.
So I hop on a train back to Krakow utterly screwing up the only part of the trip I had actually planned in advance. After a quick chat with tourist information and my hotel staff I work out I can still do the stuff I really want to do if I go on organised tours rather than trying to do it all myself. With that it’s off to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Wow, just wow. Pictures don’t just do the place justice, you’re walking around and it’s already pretty impressive and then you turn a corner and there’s a bloody great church carved into the rock, 120 feet underground. It’s awesome, in the original sense of the word. Maybe this shoddy video will give you an idea, remember this is in a mine 120 feet underground:
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I can’t recommend the place enough. I went with an organised tour (Cracow Tours) from the city but you can go on your own and wait at the mine for a group to form with a guide that speaks your language. The advantage of going on your own is that you can hang around and eat in the underground restaurant, although I suspect you’d need to book in advance.
The next day I used the same company to go on a tour to Auschwitz. The sheer size of the place is staggering, and it gives you some idea of the scale of the atrocities committed during the war. The downside is that it’s full of tourists, there’s something about groups of tourists being shepherded around a Nazi death camp that struck me as grimly ironic. Again it’s a place you should visit if you’re in the area but I’d avoid the organised tours and head there on your own as early as you can manage, if you get there before ten you should be able to get ahead of most of the tours.
Krakow itself is beautiful, the old town is a wonderful set of cobbled streets complete with horse drawn carriages, there are more pictures in the flickr set. The food everywhere is excellent, the drink is cheap. Make sure you head out of the old town to the Jewish District of Kazimierz which is cheaper and less touristy than the centre.
I’d absolutely go back to Krakow, there’s a ton of stuff I didn’t get to do and I’d love to get a group of us over there and go on the Crazy Guides Communism Tour. The flights are cheap from Edinburgh and it’s a perfect weekend getaway destination. Poland is my favourite country so far, I might try and visit somewhere in the north when I go to the countries up that way.