Day 12 : Friday 5th June continued….
We crossed into Poland and headed for Kraków. Arrived at the Hilton Around midnight. It was all new and very luxurious compared to most of the hotels we had stayed in up to this point. I had to share a double bed with Jon. The bed itself was pretty comfortable but I couldn’t get any sleep, there was far too much snoring, I even tried sleeping on the floor near the door but it was too uncomfortable. Not sure I’d ever do the same sort of trip again without having my own room!
Day 13 : Saturday 6th June
After a crap sleep I got up and packed, we were off to Fortuna Bis our final hotel of the trip.
Got a cab from outside the airport, the driver told us a little about Kraków.
This was it! we had made it to our final destination, 2 weeks of exploring and travelling around Europe with virtually nothing but flights booked! We had accomplished the impossible or so it seemed at some stages. We could almost relax, no more constant worrying and stressing about booking the next leg of the trip. We were all so shattered but had a sense of achievement which perked up up a little; anyway there was no time for rest, Krakow was waiting to be explored!
It was too early to check into the hotel so they were gonna let us put our stuff in the luggage room but after a quick check found that our room was actually ready, bonus.
The room was ok but there was no air conditioning and it was getting warm, there was a fan so at least we could blow the hot air around!
Headed in out to explore Kraków and grab some food. Found a kind of street food/ cafe near the castle, got some food and sat in their seating area.
Went wandering around Kraków city centre, the sun was shining and it was hot! Checked out the touristy sights and souvenir shops. Managed to a perfect flag for my bar from the first stall, cheap too! I also bought some gifts for the family including Russian dolls and bird whistles! First impressions of Poland were good, it also seemed like the cheapest place we had visited.
Jon split off in search of more record stores. Keith and I checked out Wawel Cathedral and Castle, it was so hot now Keith took advantage of the sprinkler! I don’t seem to have taken one photo of the castle!
Keith’s concrete senses were tingling so we headed to the other side of the river to check out the Forum Hotel.Unfortunately there were huge advertising banners draped over it on both sides so not great for photos!
There was a beer festival going on in and around the old hotel.
We wanted to go up in the balloon so met up with Jon there, the queue was long so decided to come back another day. This was a bad idea as the next day it was closed due to the wind.
Keith went back to the hotel for a rest while Jon and I went to get a cheeky drink at the beer festival, I tried a random plum beer, it was actually quite refreshing.
After the beer we headed back past the castle. We noticed a tower (Sandomierska tower) that you could pay to go up so we did. It is one of the Wawel Castle’s two artillery towers. It cost 8 Zolty approx £1.36. It was ok, not much in it and the views were better outside at the top of the first lot of steps. The photo below may have been taken from there but I can’t remember! The view under definitely wasn’t.
Back at the hotel we got ready to go out to get some food and have some drinks.
We headed for the Jewish area as apparently there were quite a few restaurants around there. After wandering around for ages we were getting stressed out so ended up going to another Mexican restaurant!
Keith’s meal was too hot for him! He was dying by the end but managed to eat it all! Jon forgot his diabetes stuff so had to trek back to the hotel to get it!
We met up with Jon in a café bar in the main square and after having a couple of drinks went for a wander. Jon wasn’t feeling it so headed back to the hotel again.
The two of us went into a bar/club, where we bought some cheap shots and some expensive vodkas! It was ok in there, a few pretty ladies but a lot of blokes. I got some verbal abuse in the toilets off an random angry Polish guy for no reason! We stayed in there for a while but decided to head somewhere else, the next club we got pulled into was dead so we left straight away! It was fairly late so decided to call it a night. Not the best night out I’ve ever had to be honest, a bit disappointing.
Day 14 : Sun 7th June
Keith and I decided to check out the Jewish chairs memorial so headed in that direction. We went to café that served lots of vegetarian food, we halved our meals, I had falafel in Mexican bread and he had grilled cheese with tartare sauce, all of which was pretty good.
Crossing Father Bernatek Footbridge we saw thousands of “love locks”.
We found the Memorial to the Jews of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow which is made up of lots of steel/ cast iron chairs. The ghetto was established in 1941 by the Nazis, it was enclosed by barbed-wire fences and a stone wall. Between 15,000 – 20,000 Jews were contained within this area, some used for forced labour.
Today was by far the hottest day we’d had or at least it felt like it. I’ve always thought of Poland as being a cold country but for us it certainly wasn’t. It was about 34•c.
Keith and I walked miles and were exhausted, we met up with Jon in the central square and paddled in the fountain. I walked further into it to cool down further and for Keith to take some photos, whilst in there I accidentally pretty much punched a kid in the face!
Keith attempted to buy another bird whistle off a little stall but the woman was really weird and wouldn’t let him!! she made him blow it then took it back! Didn’t think to film it until the end.
There were hand water pumps all over the city. Jon either picked a broken one or he wasn’t man enough!
Jon suggested checking out the museum underneath the the market place, underground things are cool so I was well up for it. To be honest it wasn’t that good, there was some interactive things, displays of Krakow’s history and archaeological ruins. It was cool being under the square, we could see up to where I was sitting in the fountain.
We decided to go to an Indian restaurant for dinner, it was really good. Keith and I decided to share a yoghurt rice. When it turned up it was actually just a bowl of sour cream and by then we’d accidentally eaten Jon’s rice!, it didn’t matter because as usual Jon had ordered too much food!
Jon wanted to check out the Chmiel beer pub where you pay 15z (approx £2.55) for an hour of play on loads of old pinball machines, it sounded interesting so we headed there. It was good fun!
Went back to the hotel to get a fairly early night, Jon and I had booked the 8.30 trip to Auschwitz. Bit of a sad depressing end to a holiday but it’s something we both wanted to see.
Day 15 : Monday 8th June
Got up early after a rubbish nights sleep. Packed our luggage and went outside to wait for the coach. It was about 30 minutes late. I was literally dialling the number of the office when a man in a minibus waved us over.
The drive was about 1hr30 mins. The trip cost approximately £25.
First impressions : it was very, very busy with tourists and school children, we were given a headset and receiver so we could hear our guide over all the other guides.
I’ve seen many pictures of the gate, its kind of a symbol of the holocaust, I’ve never actually researched what it meant. Arbeit Macht Frei means ‘work will set you free’ is pretty disgusting really, what freedom did the prisoners have? Work just caused an early death. I didn’t even notice that the B was upside down, apparently the prisoners made it like that in protest to the slogan.
It was quite a moving tour, the worst part was the room with the hair from the victims. The display of false legs and crutches was pretty bad too, knowing the disabled or injured people who could not work were sent straight to the gas chambers. Crutches and artificial limbs were sent to Germany for the soldiers wounded in the combat.
Also got to see shoes, pots and pans and were shown lots of empty tins from the cyanide crystals used for the gassing.
I didn’t take many photos or even take my camera, it didn’t feel right taking photos. Saw people taking selfies which seemed pretty wrong.
For the next part of the tour we had to get back on the coach and travel a short distance to Auschwitz 2 Birkenau. Got to see the railway line and platform where the majority of people were brought into the camp.
Back in Krakow we met up with Keith who had been visiting some parks. We found an Italian café/restaurant to get some food. After waiting quite a while the food came out, Jon enjoyed his pizza, I enjoyed my pizza, Keith hated his pasta!!! He hates olives! It didn’t mention it had olives on the menu! It also tasted like spaghetti hoops. Not a good last meal for Keith!
I lost count of the amount of times we got asked if we wanted to go to a gentlemens club or “strivp club” while wandering around Kraków!
The adventure was coming to an end, went back to the hotel to collect our luggage and get a taxi to the airport. Asked the hotel if they could book a taxi and how much it would be. It would have been …… Which was a lot more than on the way. The previous taxi driver had given us his card and said to text him if we needed another can. Keith text him but not sure if if it went through, after waiting 10mins or so we needed another option.
Jon suggested trying Uber. We had no idea if they operated a service in Kraków so checked and amazingly they did! Booked through Uber,couldn’t quite believe the price, about a quarter of what the hotel was gonna charge! 5 minutes later we loading our luggage into the boot, well after the driver moved his gym kit into the front!
He was a friendly guy and very honest. I tried to give him a tip but he said he couldn’t take it as it was part of the terms and conditions of working through Uber. All he wanted was a 5 star rating. Thank you Dariusz!
At Kraków airport we had to queue for ages to check in. Had to queue even longer for the security checks. Got through and it’s the smallest departure lounge I’ve ever seen. Went in the duty free shop which was tiny! Had to queue for ages. Had to queue up when the plane was ready for boarding. I hate queuing!!!!
Flight was ok, went fairly quick as me and Keith kept making word searches for each other based around things from the holiday.
Got into Stansted early but then I’ve never had to queue up for something so long in my life, went for the e passport queue which took about 30-45 mins!
Jon spotted his bag going around the conveyor, it was soaked. He opened it to find his vodka bottle had smashed!
Vodka soaked bag on his back and smelling like a distillery; Jon went off to get his bus and we headed for the car park. In a couple of hours we were home. The end.