Train from Prague to Krakau
The train from Leo Express was surprisingly comfortable. For only $15 I had a complete wagon for myself, unlimited (fast!) internet and incredibly friendly staff.
Too bad that the train had a delay of about forty minutes, because I would miss my bus to Krakow because of this. Or at least, that’s what I thougt… Because the company had scheduled a new bus for everyone who had missed this bus. What a service!
Once we arrived at the little station of Bohumín at the Czech border, we were welcomed by another friendly crew who would bring us to our final destination.
On the bus, we got free coffee, a soda drink and a bottle of water while we watched our favourite series and movies on the built-in TV’s.
Honestly, this was great client service! A lot of companies around the world could learn something of them!
With about half an hour of delay, I arrived at 6 pm and my citytrip to Krakow could finally begin.
The bus station was located behind Kraków Glówny (the central train station) and because this was a bit confusing, I couldn’t find the right directions at first. Once I finally understood where I was, I was amazed how modern and busy Krakow was. I didn’t think of Poland like this!
Obviously I had jumped to conclusions too fast, because the city really looked quite nice to live in or visit for a couple of days.
In about fifteen minutes, I arrived at my youth hostel, the Benedikt Hostel.
It was a bit on the old side, quite small –but because of that also nicer, because there weren’t too many people-, but the biggest advantage was that it was very centrally located.
Top sights in Krakow
During my long trip from Prague to Krakow I had a lot of time to find information on what to see and what to do for when I arrived in Krakow. A little bit of planning was definitely necessary, because I had only planned in one day to explore the city. The other days I would mostly spend on excursions to surrounding places of interest and monuments; Auschwitz-Birkenau and the salt mines of Wielickzka.
Since my hostel was located so central, I didn’t have to walk very far to see most of the monuments and landmarks. The most beautiful was literally right in front of the hostel: the Old Town.
The gates, the charming buildings, beautiful churches, the great atmosphere … Yes, Krakow is a really nice city to visit!
The Virgin Mary church is really beautiful and not to be missed if you are staying in this Polish city. She stands in the main square of Krakow’s old city. The exterior is very nice, but once you go inside it is even more impressive. Actually, it is requested that people only enter if they want to pray, but as a tourist you can’t leave this gorgeous church unseen, can you?! Taking pictures is of course not allowed, but this is really a unique, beautiful church with lots of colors and lavish decorations that you must see when you’re there!
Opposite to the church you’ll find the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). A beautiful building where inside you can also visit a permanent market. Since Christmas is almost upon us, everything was already put into Christmas decorations and of course that made the experience of the city even better!
Wawel Castle in Krakow
Having abandoned the small and less small streets of the old town, I walked on through the Planty Park. The green lung of Cracow surrounding the entire historic city center. Soon I arrived at the Wawel castle. Along the water you get a magnificent view of this gigantic fort. There are plenty of pleasant hiking and cycling trails around the castle.
Here you can also see the statue of ‘Smok’. A dragon famous from the folklore of Krakow. If you wait you may even see him spit fire!
If you walk a little further, you’ll just need to walk up some steps and soon you’ll wind up at the entrance to the Wawel Castle. Scattered across this vast area you’ll see some beautiful buildings within the castle walls. One of them is the Wawel Cathedral. Stunning from the outside, but inside it is really phenomenal. As in most churches in Krakow you can’t make pictures inside, but I can tell you that this could be a church located in the Vatican!
Lavish gold and silver works, marble statues and beautiful stained glass windows. The cathedral is packed with art and religious works.
This church has clearly received many sacrifices during its nearly 700-year history!
On the domain you can find also some museums and royal gardens, all well worth a visit!
Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz)
In Poland there used to live (and they still do) a lot of Jews. Just outside the old city center you can find one of those large Jewish neighborhoods back: Kazimierz.
During World War II this neighborhood was plagued by horrors, but fortunately there are a lot of great stories to tell as well.
Before I went to see the Jewish quarter, I decided to first go eat. Through Trip Advisor I saw the number one rated restaurant was located in this neighborhood, and since everything in Poland was still really cheap, I decided to pamper myself a little bit.
At the Starka restaurant I ate pork chops stuffed with dried apricots, a delicious sauce, tasty potatoes and phenomenally delicious stewed vegetables. For dessert I had a creme brulee and as a treat from the restaurant, I got a glass of vodka prepared by the cook himself. The total price: thirteen euros.
I definitely recommend this place. The next day I even went back and I enjoyed even more of all this deliciousness!
Throughout the Jewish neighborhood you don’t see a lot left of its horrible history. But some buildings look awfully gray and dull. Definitely the consequence of a grimmer era…
Oskar Schindler’s factory
One of those nice Jewish story examples is for instance that of Oskar Schindler.
If you saw the movie ‘Schindler’s list‘, you probably know the story already. (Briefly: he helped thousands of Jews to not end up in concentration camps) The man his factory was located in Krakow and you can visit it now. Actually the museum talks surprisingly little about the man himself, but especially about the atrocities committed against the Jews by Nazi Germany and its followers.
One exhibition that I found poignant was the room where the “Jewish ghetto” was recreated. The area is very dark and walled in by high walls in the form of gravestones.
A letter from a Jewish girl brought more clarification: “In one night the wall of the Jewish ghetto was built. The aim was to bring all the Jews of Krakow in this area. The wall was made intentionally so that it looked like a tombstone. As if they wanted to say: you’ll never get out.”
The rest of the museum contains many photos, letters and terrible scenes that we can not ever forget, because this can never happen again.
With a lump in my throat seeing all this suffering I got back to my hostel, wondering how I would feel tomorrow. Because I would go to Auschwitz. The largest concentration and extermination camp during World War II.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.