The first lesson I learned in Poland is that if you want to sound like a local, you have to say ‘Krakov’ instead of ‘Krakow’. The capital city of Poland, according to legend, was founded after the defeat of a dragon. Having escaped the worst of the World War Two bombings, Krakow retains its beautiful old-style charm and ambiance.
The second lesson that I learned in Poland, is that Wednesday is ladies night and if you’re a girl you can get free drinks from the bar. The fact that we had signed up for the pub crawl, and that it happened to be a Wednesday, meant that we had a fun, cheap night out.
The third lesson I learned in Poland, is that when you’re traveling on a limited time frame there are going to be times when you really need to push through. I learned this because the morning following the pub crawl was one of those times. We had one day in Krakow and we couldn’t waste it in bed, and so we were up early to get busy exploring the beautiful city.
We began the morning by getting dropped into the centre of town by our amazing bus-driver, Bogdan. Katie and I joined up with Zoe and a few others who were planning on going to Schindler’s Factory. For those of you who have seen the movie Schindler’s List, you will know that Oskar Schindler was a German Nazi who saved the lives of around 1,200 Jewish people by employing them in his factory.
Schindler’s factory has now been turned into a museum that is dedicated to the fate of the Jewish people who worked there. There is a lot of information on pre-war Krakow, the German invasion in 1939, Krakow as the capital of Poland under the Nazi occupation, everyday life in the occupied city, the underground Polish state, and the Soviet capture of the city.
It was quite a lot bigger than we expected and there was so much information everywhere – it was a little overwhelming. I’d recommend a visit there if you have a bit of time to spare, it was all very interesting but took up most of our day in Krakow.
When we finally got back to the centre of town (we walked and it took forever), it was getting on in the afternoon. We decided to spend a bit of time checking out what was in the main square.
One of Krakow’s most prominent features is St. Mary’s Basilica. It is from here that the city’s famous bugle call is played every day on the hour. Apparently there are two bugle-players who each take a half-day shift. We stood down below the towers and waved up at the man who was trumpeting away at 3pm. He actually waved back to us before he disappeared.
The bugle-call always stops very abruptly. This is to honour one bugle-player was shot in the neck while he was trying to warn Krakow of approaching invaders.
Another point of interest near the Town Hall Tower is a statue created by Igor Mitoraj which is known affectionately as ‘The Head’. It’s real name is Eros Bendato, but it really is just a giant statue of a head on it’s side.
Isn’t it, ahh, nice?
We had to go and meet up with Bogdan to get a lift back to the hostel, and so we started walking out of town. We walked down by the Vistula River near Wawel castle. There was a lot of lush green grass, sweeping pathways, and a beautiful sunset – we felt pretty lucky.
We had a great day out in Krakow; it is a beautiful, old city with so much history and I’d love to get back there to spend a little more time exploring.
For more European adventures, click this link to our itinerary.