We touched down in krakow at about 11am and were greeted by uncomfortably hot weather, we survived the confusing experience of European buses (why don’t you buy your ticket from the driver? If nobody checks it what’s the point?) and made it to our hostel after about an hour of walking down streets in the general area that that it might be on. We stayed at Pink Panther’s Hostel, a really cool hostel conveniently located just off the main square. (I might have picked it just for the colour of the common room)
We just hung around at the hostel and and the main square for a few hours before the Segway tour we’d booked for 7pm. We booked through Viator with Cool Tour Company, located just off the main square, and it was £31.20 each. Pretty pricey considering you can get free walking tours, but walking is for losers. Our guide Eugene took us and a German couple around the Old Town for 2 hours, and told us a lot about the history of Krakow and Poland and made a lot of incredibly cringey jokes. After all that Segwaying we needed that classic Polish dish pizza and found a cheap place near our hostel called Fabryka Pizzy. It was only 26,65 zloty (~£5.13) for a pizza and a beer! It pretty good pizza, but then I’ve never had a pizza I didn’t like.
On day two we got up and made breakfast with some eggs that we’d bought the night before – 12 eggs to be precise. We scrambled 4 of them and put the rest in the supposed safety of the hostel fridge – this would turn out to be a terrible mistake. Lizzy, for reasons unknown, felt compelled to check on our eggs 5 minutes later after we were done eating, and to our horror an egg thief had opportunistically struck. Not one egg, not two eggs but six eggs had vanished. We noticed our Chinese roommates making some kind of egg fried rice and, although we didn’t say anything, we made a mental note of our new nemeses and quickly labelled our remaining eggs. In spite of this setback we had to carry on with our holiday as best we could.
Ever since we tried to visit a cat pub in Budapest and were devastated to find it was closed, it’s been my life dream to visit a cat cafe/pub/place. Luckily there’s one in Krakow – Kocia Kawiarnia Kociarnia.
We entered through a wardrobe, and were greeted by an array of cats chilling out. Being cats, they were all very disinterested in us and were sunbathing so we just sat next to them and stroked/admired/took photos of/tried unsuccessfully to take selfies with them (see above). Then, all of a sudden, a tiny ginger kitten emerged and was met with delighted squeals from everyone. I nearly shed a tear. (I might be emotionally unstable.)
Next up was Lost Souls Alley, pitched to us as a kind of escape room gone wild. We arrived and were paired up with a Polish couple, given a torch which would be our only source of light, and sent on our way. We gave the torch to the man, because obviously us poor women couldn’t lead. It was terrifying. Things jump from nowhere, it’s pitch black, and I spent the majority of the time hiding behind anyone near me. It’s not particularly hard as an escape room, it’s just one code or key per room and they’re not too hidden. One room had pieces of material hanging from the ceiling so we couldn’t see a thing and we took so long the creepy man who was scaring us opened the door for us to get us out. Very kind of him. The girl of the couple ended up screaming to be let out near the end, you just have to scream stop and someone will come and retrieve you. This made the whole thing a bit less scary to me, until the end. I don’t want to spoil it for you but I nearly had a heart attack.
When we got back to our hostel the staff organised a game of beer pong. This was good because free beer. But this was also bad because we had too much free beer. We are absolutely crap at aiming and ended up downing a lot of beer in a short space of time. We were sloshed. How sloshes? We joined in the karaoke. We did a karaoke version of Baby – Justin Bieber. Microphones, speakers, the whole works. Strangely, not well received by the other guests. I ended up going out to a vodka bar – not sure which one – with people from the hostel – not sure who – while Lizzy stayed in the common room crying to some Australian girl that I was going to get kidnapped. Not an unfair prediction.
The good news was I escaped being kidnapped. The bad news was I had a catastrophic hangover. The talk of our hostel room was a boy that was naked passed out in his own sick on the floor of our room. No one knew who he was. (We later found out he was from another room.) Because of the great shame we had brought upon ourselves, Lizzy and I decided it was best if we avoided to common room and interacting with the other guests for as long as possible. We went to Fabryka Pizzy again for some pizza with bruschetta for starters, I was in that hangover ‘I really need food but also feel sick’ way so it was both great and truly awful. We then headed to the cat cafe in the hopes that the kitten would make us feel better, but kittens are very selfish and they only care about themselves and not your hangover, and thus do not give you the attention you deserve. I could feel my pizza resurfacing and I wasn’t prepared to let the cats see me like that, so we went back to the hostel to sleep for as long as possible.
This day we decided we were actually going to do something with our holiday and managed to leave the hostel before midday. We went to Milk Bar Tomasza for lunch – these were basically a cheap place to eat in communist times and are now a bit ‘hipster’. We both ordered fried Camembert with chips and salad, and got a half portion of pierogi – polish dumplings – to share, ours were stuffed with cottage cheese and potatoes. Everything was delicious. And cheap – about 21 zloty (~£4.04 each).
We then headed to check out Church of the Virgin Mary, just off the main square. This is a really beautiful church, it’s 5 zloty to get in and for some reason, an extra 5 zloty to take pictures. You’ll need to pay that 5 zloty because there is a person employed to watch your every move. She came for me and she’ll come for you.
We then headed to Wawel Cathedral and Castle. We got into the cathedral and paid for tickets to visit Sygmunt’s Bell, the Royal Tombs etc. The actual cathedral is free to visit but the extra attractions inside are 10 zloty (7 zloty for students). Definitely worth a visit because the views from Sygmunt’s Bell are amazing. The Royal Tombs were not my thing, I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed a visit to a tomb.
We were too late to get into the castle as last entry is at 4pm so we just sat outside and ate ice cream like the great tourists that we are.
We then went to the Rynek museum which is under the main square. It was pretty interesting, it was all about Krakow in the olden days etc. There was a show in a little room on with a mechanical talking crow and things popping up which looked quite good (to me) but when we got in and sat down we realised it was for children and entirely in Polish. At this point, we were surrounded by children and didn’t want to have to barge our way out so sat through the whole thing. I’m not sure what it was about but there were mermaids, a castle coming out of the floor, and a guy on a throne popping out of the screen and it all seemed quite exciting.
We went for dinner at Fabryka Pizzyagain because they have this thing where every day a different dish is 15,60 zloty (about 3 quid) and Friday is the only vegetarian option. It was this pasta dish which was again, really nice.
After dinner, we went in search of dessert and went to Cafe Mini just off the main square. I got a banana and caramel cake which was obviously delicious. This is the photo I’m most pleased with, you might be able to tell I just got a DSLR and I don’t know how to use it, so this photo actually being in focus made my day.
We decided to spend this day in the Jewish Quarter and going to Oskar Schindler’s factory. The Jewish Quarter is about 20 minutes walk from the main square and it didn’t have much in it really, not that we could see anyway. It was a Saturday so we couldn’t go inside any synagogues. Good planning.
We went to the main square in the Jewish Quarter to get some Zapiekanka, a sort of open baguette sandwich you can get various toppings on. There’s a building in the middle with different places that sell them, we went to the one with the biggest queue because by our logic that is the best one. Mine had basil, cheese, tomato and spring onions on and Lizzy’s (on the right) has cheese, spinach and garlic sauce. People said they were maybe for sharing, we scoffed at this ‘share food??? You don’t know us’. But let me tell you that is a lot of bread. We finished them because we don’t like to waste food, but I can’t say we felt well afterwards. They were both delicious though.
We then went to Oskar Schindler’s factory which was a very interesting museum about life in Poland under Nazi rule, definitely somewhere you should visit to get an idea of the horror of it all. We then got an electric car back to the old town, you’ll see these everywhere offering guided tours or just taxi rides. The Jewish Quarter is within walking distance of the main square, and Schindler’s factory is in walking distance of the Jewish Quarter, they’re about 20 minutes each. But 40 minutes back is too much for me. It was only 20 zloty each and he gave us a little bit of information about what was around us, but not a full blown guided tour.
We then went to Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa to try out some Polish vodka. Upon entering I was hit with an overwhelming sense of deja vu. I’d seen these walls before, I’ve stood at this bar. Another life perhaps? Or was this were I had come to on the second night? Luckily no more memories resurfaced and so I can carry on living my life in blissful ignorance. Chupa chups is one our Segway guide told us about, which was lemon vodka with ginger snaps and pepper. We tried a few others as well, none of them were delicious but they were at least better than normal vodka. The shots were only 4 zloty each (~76p) which is a bargain, we had 8 between us.
We booked a tour of Auschwitz through our hostel, with Cracow City Tours that left at 8am on this day. Now, I knew bad things happened at Auschwitz, we all do, but the reality is much worse than I had ever imagined. On the coach journey, which was about 1 hour long, we watched a documentary ‘The Liberation of Auschwitz’ with footage filmed by Soviet soldiers when they got to the camp and freed the remaining prisoners, which was truly horrifying. We started off at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, there’s a train track in the middle of 2 sets of barracks – one female and one male. These housed all the prisoners, you’ll hear from the tour guide and see when you go inside one of the female barracks the way they lived (it wasn’t good.)
Next up was Auschwitz I – this is where there’s kind of a museum whereas Auschwitz II-Birkenau was just left as it was when all the prisoners were freed.
In the displays here there are piles of human hair taken from corpses (which the Nazis used to make fabric for soldiers) and piles of people’s belongings – shoes, prayer shawls, suitcases, pots and pans – all stolen from the prisoners by the Nazis. There are photos on the wall of the prisoners with their date of arrival and death dates, just a few days, weeks or months between the two. I would highly recommend getting a tour because the tour guide added so much information that you probably wouldn’t get otherwise. The gas chamber there is probably the worst thing, you can see the fingernail scratches on the walls from people desperately clawing them as they were poisoned en masse. All in all, not a pleasant experience, but one that I believe everyone should do if they can.
When you book a tour with Cracow City Tours, you get a free lunch at Greg & Tom’s Beer House Pub & Restaurant. The selection changes every day, there are 3 options and the veggie option this day was penne pasta with curry sauce. Although a rogue combination, this was actually quite nice. You have to buy a drink to get the free lunch which is fair enough, I had a Polish summer which was a nice fruity gin cocktail. We also bought apple pie for dessert which was presented wonderfully, but I haven’t yet mastered indoor photography.
For dinner we went to Krowarzywa and got a vegan burger. I had the Cieciorex which is made out of chickpeas, parsley, pepper and herbs and I added vegan cheese for 1,50 zloty. In total it was 15 zloty (~£2.87) and it was so good! Even if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, save a cow and give it a try.
This day we went on a tour of the salt mines with Cracow City Tours again. We booked this even though it does sound a little dull, what could possibly be in a salt mine? Well, there are salt sculptures, chapels, salt crystal chandeliers, salt lakes, and much more. I would highly recommend a visit. Best of all it was 33 degrees on this day in Krakow and it was gloriously cool down there.
We got our free lunch again which was unfortunately a salad :((( but hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth.
We went back for a shower and a change of clothes because, my god, it was hot. Then we went to have another look at the fire-breathing dragon by the castle. We got taken there on our Segway tour but I didn’t get a decent pic. I still didn’t but this will do:
We decided to live it up and get dinner on the square this night #YOLO and went to this place called The Spaghetti that I can’t find on Trip Advisor. It actually wasn’t even expensive in the end, I spent 56,50 zloty (~£10.87) on pizza, a glass of wine and dessert. We both got the four cheese pizza which was sufficiently cheesy.
For dessert we both ordered the semi freddo (yeah we just eat the same thing all the time) and this came:
While that looks nice, that is not a dessert to me. That is a small snack. It tasted good though.
We went back to the hostel expecting something to be happening but it was weirdly quiet that night. Overall I have no complaints about the hostel, the staff were really friendly, there was quite a sociable atmosphere and there were different events each night in the common room with plenty of free alcohol and food. Some nights it was quite loud but we were downstairs from the common room so we had no trouble sleeping.
Krakow is a beautiful city, maybe not enough activities for a whole week, but I would definitely recommend spending a few days here. It was incredibly cheap and we managed to not spend very much money at all despite not really watching our zlotys. I love Poland and will definitely be returning one day.