Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Poland - Krakow and environs

We have been living next door to a Polish family for over 20 years. Yet up to recently, we never considered taking a trip to Poland. But finally it happened - and we don't regret it.

It's only a short flight (1,5 hours) from Brussels to Krakow. We had a hotel out of the city center, but taking a taxi in Poland is not a problem. The countries once behind the Iron Curtain are still relatively cheap to us western Europeans. The taxi ride only cost about 25 €.

Just like Budapest, Krakau is quite an interesting place to visit. For starters, it's an old town, going back to the Middle Ages. And it's surrounded by places that you'll want to see. The most important one of those are the German death camps for Jews, Auschwitz and Birkenau. These are their German names, I can't pronounce the Polish ones. We did a guided tour there, and it was quite impressive. And the smell... Even after so many years, you could still smell the fear of those who were kept there.

Another place of iinterst is the salt mine of Wieliczka. This I know in Polish: kopalina soli. 380 steps take you down in the mine. There are several levels, and the deepest one is around 300 meters of depth. You can see (and taste) the salt crystals all around. I particularly liked the figurines the miners made in salt. They even carved out chapels. Pope John Paul II visited this mine (he was Polish, of course) and one of the chapels is named in his glory.

The Old Town of Krakow is worth seeing as well. Lots of old buildings and a cosy atmosphere. Churches and chapels galore, but also shops, caf├ęs and restaurants. In all of these, you never pay too much. We dined a couple of times (and very well) for less than 50 € for two persons. Another place not to miss is Wawel Castle and its cathedral.

Also, I must say Polish people are very polite and friendly. When we rode on the tram, some young guys immediately gave up their seats for us. You don't see that happening in Belgium anymore! And in shops, pubs and restaurants we were always greeted warmly.

Our neighbor was right in saying Krakow was a good place to visit.

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