5 days in Krakow and surroundings (2017)

Who I am
Martí Micolau
@martimicolau
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

When a person decides to organize a trip abroad, he rarely thinks of Poland. Yet this nation has a lot to offer: an example? just the city? of Krakow which? less popular than some cities? neighbors such as Prague and Budapest to which, moreover,? very similar in several respects. The beauty of this city? it is not found only in the numerous monuments (castles, churches, towers, etc.), but also in the markets and in the narrow streets of the city? Vecchia (Stare Miasto) where you can breathe a particular air that refers to Polish tradition and culture.

1 day

ARRIVAL AND ACCOMMODATION
As in all school trips, the departure? early in the morning. In fact around 4 in the morning we leave to reach the Ciampino airport (Rome) from which we will depart? our flight. The plane leaves on time and after about an hour and a half of travel we land at Krakow airport named after the main figure linked to the city: John Paul II. Although it was April, the temperature fluctuated between 1 and 0 degrees, a very rare thing since the week before we arrived the temperature was the same as in Italy.
After collecting the luggage we reach the hotel (Hotel Demel). Time to leave the suitcases and immediately go out to see what was around the hotel. The neighborhood (Krowodrza)? very quiet and there are numerous clubs and mini markets. ? also relatively close to the center: about 20 minutes by tram or 10 minutes by taxi (varies according to traffic). After this quick tour, we return to the hotel for dinner.



2 day

VISIT OF THE CITY?
After breakfast at the hotel we begin the guided tour of the city. Let's start from one of the main attractions of the city: the Wawel Castle. It takes its name from the hill on which? built (Wawel) and has a particularity: it encloses the city's Cathedral inside. After entering the main door we visit the Cathedral (Katedra Wawelska), a typical Polish style church. Wawel Castle also kept a very famous painting: the Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is located in Krakow why? it was donated to the Polish royalty. We were very lucky to see it still preserved in the Castle why? a month after our trip to Krakow it was moved to the National Museum in Krakow, where? still preserved today.
In the afternoon, after walking through streets full of shops and traditional churches we reach the main square of the city: Rynek Glowny. ? perhaps the symbolic attraction of the city? and heart of the Stare Miasto. In this square, in fact, there are the Palazzo del Tessuto (Sukiennice) and the Basilica of Santa Maria, the most? important of the city, with its two towers from which every hour a trumpeter plays.
After the visit we return to the hotel for dinner.



3 day

VISIT TO AUSHWITZ-BIRKENAU AND THE SCHINDLER FACTORY
After breakfast we leave for one of the symbolic places not only of Poland, but of all Europe: the Aushwitz concentration camp (about 1 hour and a half by bus from Krakow). It was not born as a concentration camp, but as a barracks. It was then transformed into a prison for political prisoners and eventually merged with the nearby Birkenau camp to form a single complex. Our guided tour starts right from the famous gate with the inscription? Work makes you free ?. From here it continues through the various buildings (barracks, prison cells, cells) up to the gas chambers. After the visit continues to the Birkenau camp where the remains of the tracks and huts where the prisoners were forced to live are still preserved. From my point of view ? It was a very special visit: visiting such places where hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives makes us reflect on how bad it can be? do the man? does it hope that it will not repeat itself anymore? A thing like that.
After having lunch at a typical restaurant we return to Krakow to visit the famous Schindler's Factory. Oscar Schindler was a German industrialist who succeeded? to save numerous Jews by hiding them and offering them a job in his factory in Krakow. Now the old factory? it has been transformed into an interactive museum that tells the history of Poland in the 900s with a particular focus on the life of Jews in Krakow at that time.
After the visit to the museum, we return to the hotel for dinner.



4 day

VISIT TO THE SALT MINES
After breakfast we leave for a town about 45 minutes from Krakow: Wieliczka. This city? ? famous for the Salt Mines, the most? great of Europe, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the sculptures in the rooms present inside. After having gone down a lot of steps we arrive inside the mines: l? because of the humidity? temperatures may vary from area to area. We cross several galleries adorned with bas-reliefs and religious statues in halls, representations of miners at work and fountains of very salty water (which you can also taste!). At one point we reach the church of San Kinga, a real underground cathedral with enormous chandeliers adorned with salt crystals. After going through the last corridors and after passing through the shop, we take an elevator that takes us to the exit
In the afternoon we walk through the Jewish ghetto in Krakow: here? It is still possible to see synagogues and shops of the Jewish citizens of Krakow.
During the evening we return to the hotel. Here we have dinner with typical Polish dishes: a meat soup and the famous goulash with rice.

5 day

RETURN
After breakfast we go downtown to buy some souvenirs before our return to Italy. One of the main places for shopping? the Palazzo del Tessuto: inside? It is possible to buy traditional objects such as painted eggs, rosaries and sacred objects related to Pope John Paul II (who was born in Krakow), greatly venerated by the locals, but also postcards and magnets in the various shops. All souvenirs have very low prices (a postcard can cost up to 5 cents) due to the monetary difference between the Zloty and the Euro (1 euro = 4 zloty). Precisely for this reason Krakow? a city? very cheap compared to Italian standards: a bottle of water costs 20 cents (1 zloty), a taxi costs 2-3 euros per person (if you are 3-4 people to use it) and a dinner in a restaurant in the center can? cost from 5 to 10 euros per person! L? they also accept euros, but my advice? to pay in local currency why? most of the time the shopkeepers make a? subjective? to try to earn a few more euros. There are numerous places where you can easily change euros into zlotys and vice versa.
After this quick tour of the city center we reach the airport by bus (about 30 minutes from the city). From here we return to Italy. This ? the end of a journey of discovery, reflection, but also of fun that I will remember? forever.




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