Travel

A Tour to Krakow

in Travel

For the last year and a half, travelling has had to be put on hold for most of us because of the pandemic. Now that the situation seems to be more under control and vaccine passports are being rolled out, booking a holiday seems more realistic and less of a distant fantasy. Many european countries are granting tourists access so long as they can provide a negative PCR test, proof of vaccination or have recently recovered from covid. One of the countries currently offering entry to tourists is Poland.

Poland was never high on my bucket list, but we were travelling to Prague over Easter and thought we’d add another stop on the way before flying home. Krakow ended up being a cheap place to travel to and to this day, it’s probably one of my favourite cities in Europe . When you walk through the city centre, it feels like you’ve stepped into a medieval-esque fairytale. Whether you’re looking for history, cheap delicious eats or a fun night out with friends, Krakow has it all. Here are my recommendations if you’re thinking of spending a few days in Krakow, Poland.

What to do

The main reason most people travel to Poland, is to visit the Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp that’s located an hour drive from Krakow. As you can expect, it is quite an emotional visit but one that is well worth the trip. For me, it all felt a bit surreal until I left and then could reflect on what we had seen. The guide took us through the different bunkers and showed us the conditions the prisoners slept in, the gas chambers and even a display of all the shoes and luggage that had to be confiscated from the prisoners. It’s crazy to think what happened here occurred less than 100 years ago, and how over 1 million people lost their lives. If you would like to visit the camp then I suggest booking through GetYourGuide or Escape2Poland.

Next on your trip I’d plan a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which takes you 140 metres below ground where you will see sculptures, chapels and various items made out of salt. What I found interesting is that people actually host wedding receptions here, which can’t be easy for guests in high heels considering the 500 steps to get down there!

For the last bit of history on your trip, you can pay a visit to Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Here you can learn the story about the man who was a member of the Nazi Party and yet saved the lives of over 1000 people during the Holocaust. If you’d like to hear more about the story, check out the film Schindler’s List starring Liam Neeson.

Once you’ve ticked these things off your list, the best way to get to know a new city is with a free walking tour. If you search ‘‘free walking tour Krakow’ on Google you’ll find that a few companies run them both in English and Spanish. Some areas you’ll want to explore are the Jewish Quarter, the Old Town and the Wawel Castle complex. If you’d like something a bit more exciting, I’d recommend doing a ‘7 Deadly Sins of Krakow’ night tour where you’ll learn about Krakow’s dark history and myths.

One of my favourite things to do when travelling is meeting new people, and what better way to do that than on a pub crawl? If you’re in your 20s or 30s then I’d suggest trying the Krawl Through Krakow pub crawl. Your guide will take your group (10-20 tourists normally) around some of the best bars in the city and usually includes free drinks at every location. If you would rather do your own thing, then Singer and Alchemia are fun quirky bars to visit. Fun fact, Singer is actually where the original sewing factory was!

Where (and what) to eat

One of the things that attracted me most to Poland was how much you could eat for so little. If you’re a foodie like myself, absolutely don’t miss the Taste of Poland tour. For 30 euros you will get to try some typical Polish dishes such as pierogi (stuffed dumplings), golabki (cabbage rolls) and my favourite, zurek soup (which came in a bread bowl!). Drinks are also included so it’s a good way to socialise and make an afternoon out of it. If you have a sweet tooth, then load up on Pączkis, a rose jam filled doughnut topped with orange zest. These cakes have been around since the 1700s, and they even have their own celebration day!

You’ll find the best foodie spots in Rynek Glowny square or in the Jewish Quarter. Some of my favourite restaurants we ate at included Szara Resto & Bar, Restaurancja Wierzynek, AWIW and Cafe Ariel. Interestingly, some parts of the film Schindler’s List were actually filmed in Cafe Ariel.

Some useful tips

Currently, entry into Poland is permitted as long as you can provide proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 180 days.

• The official currency of Poland is polish Zloty. I’d recommend exchanging your British Pounds to Zloty before travelling as paying in GBP won’t give you the best rates.

• Most of Krakow is accessible by foot, so you won’t need to hire a car to get around.

• The best time to visit Krakow is in the Spring and Autumn months, where the weather is warm but not unbearable.

Catalan Bay – `La Pompa’ & Other Places!

in Culture Insight/Features

Place names and labels are generally very welcome, and Catalan Bay’s caretakers, `The Village People’ are forever on the lookout for ways to improve the villagers’ – and those entering the neighbourhood – safety and comforts whilst preserving the hamlet’s long held traditions.

If there’s a wedding, communion celebration or other big event, I’m led to understand the whole of the village is invited! As a rule, that’s the closeness of the Catalan Bay community. The chain of command is headed by the Catalan Bay Social Club Committee for any formal changes that require seeing to and other community matters. Meanwhile, the Village People take on board smaller issues that concern the residents and improve the environment. Spokesman for the group and former `Foreigner’ – he’s not an indigenous `Caleteño’ – Johnny Walker, sat waiting for my arrival on `El banco de la’ shalaura’. “Well this is one of our improvements right here. We now have this covering or shelter to shield us from the hot sun and rain in winter as we sit and chat away `shalaura’ sometimes, and have a good view of the beach!” Johnny used to drive down to the village on his motorbike with a group of friends and that’s when he met his wife Marina, who is a true Caleteña! “As an outsider it took me quite a while to be accepted and integrated into the community and when you get your name in the `fat book’ and pay an annual subscription at the club, then you become an adopted Caleteño.” Johnny is also referred to as the `Mayor’ or `El Alcalde’ and has always taken an interest in helping to spruce up the nooks and crannies around the village and in approaching government departments to seek their help and advice. Johnny, along with Aida Yome and an English lady called Lizzy, make up the `Village People’ trio or, `Los Caseros’ (Caretakers) which is another name they come under. So whenever there’s a little problem as in faulty lighting in one of the estate’s stairwells for example, it’s quickly seen to by Johnny’s self-appointed Village People. In summer he liaises with the beach life guards to keep things under control. Whilst there, the `cake man’ arrived blowing his whistle to attract beachgoers to partake of his goodies and his whistle produces the same sound as the one life guards use to attract the attention of misbehaving swimmers. Johnny hopes to get the cake man to swop his, same-tune-as-the-lifeguards-whistle, for a different one! “Oh yes, and that’s another issue which we hope to remedy. During heavy levanter days the red flag is taken down at 7pm at the beach and we think it should stay up till much later and also raise it during the winter months when the `Levante’ kicks-in. It’s warm and sticky and the sea might look welcoming and not particularly rough but when it’s heavy levanter or easterly the under currents are strong and very dangerous so visitors especially need to be warned. We’re next to the Caleta Hotel and many guests come down to the beach in winter too.” There are many village issues the team has worked on and had implemented. The row of coloured lights all along above the beach wall are now allowed to stay lit all summer through to September after National Day. A wooden walkway was built at the instigation of `El Alcalde’ from the car park to the village entrance, allowing easier access for families and visitors to the beach. There’s Walkers Gym at the top of the hill and the latest job is giving street names to the little alleyways around the back of the estate’s blocks, bars and restaurants.

I’ve often wondered how postmen and other visitors have found their way to an address in the village! “Well those alleyways have never had street name plaques on the walls. They’ve always been known by some object, use or somebody’s name and everybody’s found their way to any address that way.” Johnny tells me that now, after approaching the elders of the committee who welcomed the idea, they’re having plaques made bearing those names by which they have always been known like, La Cochera, La Pompa (the water pump) – where you went in days gone by to rinse the sand off your feet – La Trocha, Conti, Patio del Pozo, La Cantina and there’s a `Conchita Street,’ named after a lady who with her handicraft efforts has mounted seashells on walls and plant pots along the alleyway! And there’ll be more names on rocks and walls too. At the far end of the beach we have, Lo Scheggi (of dubious origin) and plaques or signage for the famous, La Mamela and La Maseta, are still to be mounted… and then there’s a `Don’t Worry’ sign that needs to be read! Male club members don’t escape the trendy names either. They’ve been given nick-names also. We have El Commando, El Kuki, El Chacarin, El Aver, El Nene, El Take It, El Caleta and so on.

It’s clear the Village People have their work cut out especially during the busy summer months and Johnny was eager to rush off to see about another inquiry but not before we were attracted to a gentleman standing in the sea close to the shore making hand signals for the benefit of those Caleteños looking out to sea from their balconies wanting to know what the sea temperature was like. He apparently uses a thermometer and then passes on the information to potential village bathers by displaying, on this occasion, a full hand of five fingers four times meaning 20 then adding four individual fingers to his performance: Bingo 24%! Tony – a village regular albeit, a `foreigner’ – was communicating the message to the community’s populace… at that temperature, perfect for a lovely dip!

Yes Catalan Bay’s customs and conventions are pleasantly quirky. It’s the place which once again this summer has achieved `top spot’ for `ambiente’ (great atmosphere) and where it’s clearly evident, you come across the `in crowd’!  In the meantime and on the lookout to assist as always, you’ll find…The Village People!

0 £0.00
Go to Top