One of the great perks of my current job is an annual Support Team trip, which happened to be to Krakow this year. It is somewhere that I had always wanted to visit, and it was fantastic to have the majority of the expense covered! Thanks!
Even though I really wanted to visit Krakow, I didn’t really know what was there to see, so it came as quite a pleasant surprise when we finally walked through the beautifully preserved buildings within the walls of the Old Town. Amazingly, other than the synagogues which were understandably destroyed by the Nazis, buildings in town were mostly spared from the bombing and destruction of World War II, and then later the post-war Sovietification that occurred in many other cities.
The Old Town is only a tiny area, easily covered on foot in an hour or two – depending how many photos you stop to take!
The main sight is most certainly St. Mary’s Church in the Main Market Square, with amazing spires that tower above any and all surrounding buildings. The interior is awash with colour and detail, however the usual photography restrictions applied.
The Main Market Square is also a major tourist drawcard, and understandably so, with so many beautiful buildings from multiple eras, including Gothic and Baroque, to see. Just expect the usual problems with tourist areas, especially after dark, where countless hawkers will approach enticing you to their club (or strip club if you’re a group of guys). We even ran into a few women running scams to lure men to visit bars and to purchase overpriced drinks – which was funny on the second and third nights!
Another worthy place to visit is the Wawel Castle, perched upon a hill at the south of the Old Town, featuring fortified walls, turrets and an intricate church (same interior photography rules applied). I timed my visit poorly, so I could only quickly walk around the grounds of the castle, and not visit any of the exhibitions.
A little outside of the comfort of walking distance of Old Town (though, still walkable), was Schindler’s Factory Museum, which is mostly devoted to Nazi occupation of Krakow (and Poland) during World War II. Instead of walking, we jumped in a little golf-buggy like cars and saved our knees (it was 20PZL each). I had to re-watch Schindler’s List after visiting, and immediately the front gates were familiar (though not pictured). Inside the museum were many replications of the area during occupation. It was a little shocking to see giant swastikas hanging on flags, but I guess that is all part of the point of the exhibition. As usual, we didn’t allow enough time to see it properly, and while I started out reading every piece of text on the walls, I soon realised that I was having to skip through the words, and by the end I could do no more than a cursory glance at the photos, which was surprisingly depressing for me.
And, it’s not just about history, either. It is a lively student town, with no shortage of bars and restaurants. Plus, it’s incredibly cheap – our hostel cost $10/night, and beer/shots were about $1.50!
The only downside of visiting with work is that Risa wasn’t able to come, too – so we’ll likely have to visit again!