homePoland travel guidePoland travelogues > home, sort of
Poland guide
Traveler café 
Travel directory
Last updated : Nov 2009
Home, sort of
Pros: young student town, huge main square, many churches, concentraion camps-Auschwitz-Birkenau
Cons: none

Krakow, Poland

Thursday, Aug 11, 2005 15:04

In Krakow. (Ok that was only to hold the place of the following entry).
After Slovakia, I headed into Poland - first stop Krakow. Now for those of you thinking - Poland? Let me tell you, there were tons of tourists there. I think a main reason is Poland just recently lifted a lot of their visa restrictions so many people can visit without visas now. Also, Krakow is known for being a young student town - apparently like Prague but less crowded.

I really liked Krakow. There is a huge main square and there are always people in the square, performers/entertainers who are playing music, singing, dancing, fire dancing, horse carraiges, and the entire square is lined with cafes under umbrellas where you sit and drink (again tons of places where all you can do is drink - no eating) and watch the people in the square. Krakow was one of the only cities to make it through WWII unscathed, so the architechture of the square is beautiful. There are also many many churches in Krakow, and since Pope John Paul II was from a city not far from Krakow, there were loads of 'stuff' with both him and the new pope.

About an hour and a half from Krakow is Auschwitz-Birkenau where the concentraion camps were. I can't explain what it's like to visit. I took the tour which was four hours long. Before I went I asked people how it was and always their response was along the lines 'well, you have to go.' That's exactly what I would say. If you are ever anywhere near the area, it is most definitely well worth the visit. By the end of the day, you really are just mentally exhausted trying to comprehend it all.

A couple things about travel in general. Whenever you are taking a tour, make sure you get a guide that speaks english well. I tend to stay in the background before they break up the group to try and figure out who I'm most likely to understand. Always bring an umbrella. I can't tell you how many people I see run under doorways when the rain starts. The umbrella is one thing I carry with me everyday, no matter how sunny it is. The internet is the best thing in the world when it comes to train schedules. A lot of train ticketers at the station know, or pretend to know limited english and will really only present you with one option for travel. Use the countries train website, pick the best train to fit your schedule, and write down the train number, departure time and station and arrival station, and very important - date - and just hand that to the train ticketer. It makes things so much simplier and makes you not have to wait in the terribly long 'information' lines. Instead, you can head directly to the one ticket window that is actually open in the line of 10 ticket windows. It's higly amusing that in every country there is at least 9 'decoy' windows that are NEVER open. Amusing is all it can be when I've seen it in every country.