The Salt mine in this cozy little town is quite spectacular to say the least.
Giant catacombs and tunnels form an amazing labyrinth underground. Including a huge underground Cathedral and religious salt sculptures. Unfortunately you are restricted and most take a tour, you will also have to pay for a 'camera' ticket (they did check). Cost was a crazy 20 Euro in total?! Too much. But still, a not to be missed place.
One of the reasons I came to Poland was a life long milestone of seeing this place. Located just outside the city of Oswiecim it's easy to take a direct bus there from Kraków for a day trip.
- The concentration camp of WW2 where between 1.6 million people and 4 million died. It is the one place I took a tour without question. The tour lady was the granddaughter of a survivor, thus giving it a personal touch. I enjoy old war movies, and being there was slightly surreal. The history of the place, and some of the sights are truly provoking. The building with the human hair, clothing, luggage were more chilling than the gas chambers. Though on a tour, you are free to enter by yourself and just wander around. Walking past barbed wire fences and sentry posts is eerie.
- Do not leave without taking a connection bus to this former extermination camp. Here you will walk past chimney upon chimney of prison houses. Nearly all the wooden prison houses have fallen down now. All that remains are the chimney stacks. The gas chambers lie in ruins after the Nazi's tried to blow up the evidence when they left. The fields where the victims ashes were strewn are lonely places. As are the ponds once filled with the ashen bodies. It's a desolate place that will humble you into rethinking your own perception of history.
I took the Eurolines bus from Germany direct to Kraków. There were no border stops at all.
It does exist and it's an overnight venture. I have read others talk about it. But it never showed up for me. I documented the event here. I think it was just bad luck for me.
I did not have much time to document this one given the above. But getting a last minute ticket was not a problem. There was a Slovakian passport inspection onboard.
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I seriously enjoyed polish food. They are little heavy on the red pickled cabbage but all else was good. Pork cutlets, meat dumplings, stews and root vegetables galore. My favorite was Goulash and buckwheat. Add to that Chorizo and you won't be searching for a takeaway. Polish pastries are as nice as anyone's.
The Polish love of alcohol is well documented. Vodka in particular. While not on the budget scheme for binge drinking I did seriously like the Tyskie branded dark beer. One of the best I have had.
I noticed that the Polish were getting a bad name around Europe during my travels. I actually saw none of
this during my stay. I found the people to be one of the friendlier European nations. A feeling of having a hard life is there. And out from the main cities this is true. But stop and ask a question and you will get an answer. All in all, I liked the Pols.
Polish is quite similar to Portuguese phonetically, so if you speak Portuguese you will do well.
Do make an effort to head away from the center of Kraków to the local bars. They are great fun. But be careful going back at night, it is a major city and like all big cities has its bad elements. Do take the Auschwitz / Birkenau tour, the guide book is not enough and leave early to make a full day of it. Do enjoy local food, its really good. Do not buy a bus ticket to the Ukraine without reading this account of my own attempt first, it might help.
Places to stay
I am lucky enough to have a
Polish friend for most of my
stay in Poland. So I didn't
need to find many places to
stay. I will say the following
place was very clean in Krakow.
. ul. Mazowiecka 3a, 30-019 Krakow
tel.: +48 12 631 07 45
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For some reason I never considered Poland as a potential for home. Language and economic woes being the main reasons. One thing for sure, I certainly felt like I did not see enough of the place. If I could go back and spend more time there, I would.
How much is a daily budget for travel in Poland?
It may be east Europe but Poland is still up there on the pricey side of things. Hostels were expensive, the one I mentioned was
15 Euro a night, the average was 20 Euro a night. Hotels
start around 35 Euro a night.
Food however is cheap. A local meal will cost you 4 Euro while more expensive restaurants start at
Local transport is also cheap, with bus services under .50 cents.
Entrance tickets to sites are very expensive. Budget 30-40 Euro a day.
Buy a 5 Euro Polish sim card from any nearby shop. Cheap calls, and texts will follow.
Money in Poland, what to do?
International Credit cards like VISA or
MasterCard work everywhere as do most debit cards. Money exchangers litter the city, and Pounds, Euro and Dollar are excepted for the Polish złoty