Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Wintry Weekend in Krakow, Poland.

     Our vacation to Krakow, Poland last weekend was one of the coldest trips I have ever taken!  We arrived in Krakow on a Thursday night when there was snow already on the ground, and the rest of the trip stayed around -5C and -10C (which is around 20F).  On Friday we bundled up to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in the morning and the Wieliczka salt mine in the evening.  I didn't take any pictures in Auschwitz because it didn't really feel right, so you won't see any below, but you can read all about it online.  After the hour drive, we took a guided tour at both areas of the camp which took around five hours.  I'm glad I went to learn more about the Nazi occupation and the crimes committed on their concentration camps.  After that we took a short ride to the salt mine which was a lot of fun.

     The mine was almost completely made of salt (with the exception of some wooden support systems) and we only saw 1% of the entire thing, which puts the enormity into perspective.  There were lots of statues (made of salt) as well as some more interesting pieces of art (as you can see The Last Supper below).  There were three artificial lakes in the tour.

          On Saturday morning I set off on my own adventure so I could learn more about the history of Krakow, so I met a group of other travelers for a free walking tour which I highly recommend.  In the freezing cold (complete with snow, ice, and wind) we trekked through the Old Town on foot to learn more about the Main Market Square and St. Mary's Basilica, then we went to the city walls on the outside of the Old Town and then Wawel Castle.  The tour was a lot of fun (despite the freezing cold) and one of my favorite parts was a quick stop in Jagiellonian University to get a coffee in a 13th century building.


     After I finished up my tour at the castle, we all met for lunch and then visited the castle again before doing a little shopping.  It was amazing how cheap the entire city was--from food to souvenirs.  While we were shopping, I ran into one of the friends I made on my tour and we invited her to go to dinner with us in the square.  We went to Wesele which was recommended by our driver (that drove us from the airport to our apartment) and had a wonderful meal.

     On Sunday our flight did not leave until the late afternoon, so I was able to go inside the church and see a mass being held at noon in St. Mary's Basilica which was much more ornate and baroque than the outside. After that, we went to a tattoo shop (yes, a tattoo shop!) because Stephen decided that he wanted to get a tattoo while we were here, so he did it!  He got his birth year (1988) in Roman numerals below his knee.  It was partly planned, but quite spontaneous!

    Krakow was a wonderful city and Poland was a great time.  It was definitely freezing and again (like last January in Berlin) I vow to never travel in the dead of winter again! 

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