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Last updated : Nov 2009
Krakow, Poland
Pros: amazing experience, lots to see and learn, dynamic nightlife
Cons: none

Krakow, Poland

Wednesday, Oct 10, 2001 08:58

The Polish Onslaught.

Streching out our contorted muscles after stepping off of our couchette train ride, we arrived in Poland. We had heard stories of Krakow being dangerous and our early 5am arrival didn't help to calm our nerves.

Amongst the shady looking characters in the dimly lit train station, we spotted 3 other fellow travellers looking as confused as we were.

Scott, Todd and Brett, backpackers from Australia and New Zealand were more then happy to team up and pool our ressources to find a hostel. The sun hadn't come up yet so after some brief introductions, we headed to the hostel where we met up with travel mates. It was nice to get a big group of backpackers to head up our onslaught into Poland. The salt mines were our first stop on our visit to Krakow.

The salty side of Poland.

"How is salt mined anyhow?" was our first question to Edita, our tour guide to the mines.

To find out the answer, we toured through the salt mines for several hours. The salt mines were incredible. Salt, in the middle ages was as good as gold because it was used to preserve food and due to the hazardous conditions, 10% of the miners died mining the white salt.

The truely remarkable thing about the mine is that the miners actually carved statues, monuments, and a fabulous, gigantic church which you can rent for 1000$ Canadian, all made from... you guessed it, salt! (Check the pictures out, it's something else)

After the tour, we convinced our tour guide, Edita to meet us for drinks later that night and headed back to town for some local grub. Perogies, cabbage dishes, unidentifiable meats and local beers... and all for next to nothing. For western travellers, Krakow was an untapped, cheap and authentic destination and we were more then happy to indulge.

Polish Debautchery ...

After our Polish feast, we headed for the meeting place, a trendy bar near the town centre. We got there and met with Edita, who, to our surprise brought her friend to meet the 'Canadians' she had met earlier. We enjoyed the company, good music and great Polish Vodka. We also made a good friend out of the waiter Pat, who, after some good'ol peer pressure, hesitantly snuck a vodka shot after taking a look over his left and right shoulders, to make sure the boss wasn't around. The shooter bribe paid off... He sent us to a night club called Music Number 9 which turned out to be one of the hidden secrets of Krakow.

This place was amazing, to say the least. With an upstairs lounging area and a staircase that leads into darkness, we entered into what would be one of the best nights so far on this trip.

A beer costs roughly 2 slotez, which is less then 1$ Canadian so you can just imagine the chaos that ensued. The bar consisted of different rooms, all of which looked like little caverness cellars made from stone, with a main dancing area in the middle. After many hours of socializing and dancing we left the bar around 4am but some of us found ourselves in an even more remote and tiny area deep beneath the murky surface of Krakow.

In this den of debautchery, the walls were made of rock with only three dimly lit rooms. One was a bar of course and the next was a small but very busy dance floor that resembled the bigger raves that we all know from back home. The third was a somewhat hidden room that seemingly housed a nice resting area but, with a bit of investigating, we found a wooden ladder that led to a mazzanine containing no less then three beds, which in our part of the world, is not ... ummm... typical for a dance club.

Hours later, we found ourselves picking up our slightly pickled new friend, Scott off the floor and stumbled out only to find that it was 7:30am... Exactly the time we had agreed to get up to take the bus to Auswitzch. Doh! This day was going to be a rough one and it was only just beginning...

The good news is that we had stayed up so late that it was already far passed the hostel curfew by the time we got there.

It was a mad, blurred, rush to the train station to meet the rest of the crew for our bus to Auschwitz...

Auschwitz, the not so happy side of Poland

Ok, a quick stop at McDonalds, a quick change of clothes and we were ready to visit the famous death camp. A short 60 minute bus ride away gave us time to sleep and recover a little for what we were about to bare witness to. There is no way to explain with words the disturbing pictures that are now and forever burnt into our minds.

In the first part of the tour there were dozens of barracks containing piles of belongings from the to the millions of victims of the death camps. Everything from shoes, combs, suitcase and human even hair was piled high displaying the brutality and inhumanity that was shown towards the jews and other minorities like the gypsies. It's only when you actually see the site and hear the narration from the tour guide that this really hits home. Some of us preferred to skip some parts and go visit the second section of the camp which housed most of the victims. We did take some pictures but at the time of this writing we are unsure as to which we will unload due to their horrific nature.

Night two in Krakow...

After taking a quick shower, we were back into the night scene of Krakow. Not having rested "properly" the night before, we took a quick group vote and decided to go meet a few ladies we met the night before at the music number 9 bar but hunger got the best of us and we quickly got side tracked hunting down some authentic Polish food.

We had searched loooooonnnnnngggggg and hard for a nice restaurant. The fact that they all closed around 20:00 didn't help. With a bit of luck and alot of perseverence, we found this really amazing Polish restaurant that was strait out of mideveal times. Complete with a round table, complementary bread and lard spread and gothic music playing in the backround, we ordered everything from perogie ruskie to Polish borzch soup. The menu even contained whole lambs and pigs spit roasted and served to you the way they did hundreds of years ago (with price to be negotiated and 24 hrs notice of course), we skipped the whole pig and stuck to the main dishes...

After such a full and amazing meal, we headed for another quick beer before calling it a night which would be our last night in Poland.

What we now have planned ahead of us is a very long 25 hour train ride from Poland to Romania.

We will keep you posted...