Before setting out on any trip or destination we always wonder what can we do and plan there to make the journey memorable and of course the most exciting one, such that, you reminisce each moment without having to give it a second thought.
In its first instance Poland struck me with its medieval charm and simplicity. Apart from the atrocities that we have heard about and so many other rumors that come our way I find it so important to visit these countries with a past because it changes your perception and perspective about how the world just sees it with rose tinted glasses. There is so much more and that too dynamic things that make Poland my favorite and reasonable party and relaxing destination.
Poland is situated at the very centre of Europe and has borders with seven countries; Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany. The northern border runs along the coast of the Baltic Sea.
In terms of area, Poland ranks seventieth in the world and ninth in Europe.
Poland is a relatively inexpensive country; food, public transport and accommodation are all cheaper than in Western European countries. Currency can be exchanged in any one of the countless foreign exchange bureaus or banks. Polish banks are open from Monday to Friday. When it comes to shops, however, a great many are open seven days a week.
Poland is relatively homogeneous as far as ethnicity and religion are concerned. The largest ethnic minorities are the Germans, Ukrainians, Russians and Romanies.
Nowadays, Krakow has become the new trendy hot spot for travelers to visit in Central Europe and for good reasons. Unlike Warsaw, even though Krakow is a big city, being there will make you feel like you are in a warm, closely-knitted neighborhood. The charming little district of the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz), the stunning Wawel Cathedral surrounded by the Vistula river, and the colorful St. Mary’s Basilica, there is no shortage of things to see in Krakow.
Let’s be honest, it is no longer possible to escape the crowds in Europe. Places like Krakow are no longer a hidden gem and even though, you can try to avoid the peak months, you will likely see many tourists still.
This place is cheaper than most countries but not dirt cheap. Expect to pay around 30 – 50 USD per day per person including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more towards the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in an Airbnb that is pre booked at least two months prior to your travel, eat out only a few times (there are ample of local things available in super markets that you can buy and prepare your own breakfast and dinner if you are planning to have a chilled day). I recommend to have lunch and dinner outside (one or two dinners can be cooked at home with all the local produce) and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often involves walking and of course taxis in Poland, because Uber is kind of really affordable here.
Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter) is probably one of my favorite places in Krakow. With its chill vibe, laid-back culture and liveliness of the neighborhood, it is like a little Berlin where everyone can find something they enjoy.
You can go shopping at the vintage flea market on Plac Nowy, sip a nice cup of latte and read your personal “quote of the day” scroll at the Cytat Cafè, or you can learn about the history of the Jewish Quarter by exploring the old part of town like visiting the oldest synagogue in Krakow.
Are you craving Polish food? If so, be sure to drop by Starka Restaurant for a cozy lunch or if you are looking for a place for fine dining and a glass of wine, Nova Resto Bar is highly recommended.
You crave Indian food in Poland (hey, it happens!)? I’ve got you covered! Head over to Taste of India restaurant and order yourself a butter chicken and a garlic naan. It’s cheaper than most Indian restaurants I found and it is delicious!
Step into the Fairy-tale-like Old Town Square of Krakow and admire all the old architecture like the St Mary Basilica, the Town Hall Tower, and the Kraków Barbican. Go down the Florianska tourist street and experience the liveliness of the city in full swing.
If you are there in the summer months, you might be able to participate in many activities organized in the Old Town Square like a flea market or street food market as well.
You can easily plan a day tour from Krakow to Ausschwitz concentration camps and spend the whole day there. The local travel companies help you plan day tours and pick up, drop facilities are provided by them which excludes your food, but includes the tickets at the camp. You can easily book this with www.visitbus.com or www.auschwitz-tours.com
This whole thing can cost up to 70euros per person.
This is a must for those who want to learn about what went down during the Holocaust, how the Nazis systematically exterminated a large population at once is heart-wrenching but it is important to know how low humanity can go so that we do not repeat the same mistake.
There are 2 concentration camps in Auschwitz, the original concentration camp which is turned into a museum (and required that you have a ticket) and the Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, the second concentration and extermination camps where the infamous train track goes, and you have to visit both. You will need an entire day to see it all.
Suggestion – Not many people know this but you have to have a ticket prior to arriving at Auschwitz 1 in order to get in. During the summer months, the place is jam-packed and if you want to get in, I would recommend you reserve a ticket online and pick a time slot that works for you, days before you arrive.
You do not need a ticket to go to Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, which is connected to Auschwitz 1 via free shuttle buses so if you get an afternoon time slot, you can easily travel between the 2 camps.
To get to Auschwitz, you can also get a bus from the MDA bus station in Krakow to Oswiecim or you can tell them to Auschwitz and they will issue you the right ticket. If you want to do it in a day, you will have to go as early as 8 AM and get the ticket from the counter downstairs.
Once you get the ticket, you can get on the bus on the platform upstairs. The bus will cost you around 12 PLN and it will take around 1.5 hours to get there.
It was a strange feeling visiting Auschwitz and it wasn’t as emotional as we thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it was astonishing to see the size and scale of what happened here, but there were way too many tourists and lots of people didn’t show much respect.
Some people were sitting on ruins, others were taking selfies and one guy even thought it was a good place to drink a beer. It wasn’t really the behaviour I was expecting to see at a concentration camp.
What can you buy in Poland?
Bison grass vodka
Oscypek sheep’s cheese
Home Army anchor pin
Salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Traditional Polish wood carvings
Poland is in the European Union but does not use Euro as currency and thanks to that the country has its independent monetary policy. The currency is called Złoty (PLN) and because it is strongly undervalued, the prices are very affordable when compared to other European countries.
Poland will be on my must visit list once again because it is one of the most affordable and likeable countries I have visited in Europe. Take my suggestions and always book an Airbnb when you are not sure of any hotels. It was one of my best decisions here. I got one of the cutest apartments near the city centre and it hardly took 10min to reach the main square by Uber at as low as 12PLN, which sums up to 4 euros. Even the metros here are very well connected but you need to study them in advance.
If possible, avoid speaking German here, stick to English as far as possible and use a Google Translator app if you do not know Polish or Russian. Most of the citizens and locals who cannot speak English do the same with travellers. Cannabis is legal here and you can buy it within Poland and use it here only in limited amounts. You cannot take it outside the country. Additionally this is “the” place to have beer!
Its actually cheaper than everything!
All in all, the soup in a bread, with pork dumplings and bacon bites will be one of the few reasons why I will come to Poland once again!
Until next time with Greece!
Stay tuned to my blogs.
Rucha S Khot