Cracow and Eastern Slovakia

Nov 5th, 2000, 01:32 AM
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Cracow and Eastern Slovakia

Next Spring we'll visit Eastern Europe, probably by train. We'd like to stay 2 days in Cracow, one for the city, another one for the concentration-camp in Auschwitz/Oswiecim, which is about one hour away by train. We've been told to visit the salt-mines in Wieliczka as well, but the Deutsche-Bahn server does not recognize that town, some 12 km. from Cracow. Do you know how we could arrive there?
From Krakow we'd like to go to Zakopane and from there cross the border to Slovakia, where, as we've seen at the forum, there are beautiful towns, most of them not very unknown yet for Western tourists, but we don't know how we could do to visit the most interesting areas by train. Do you think it can be made or we maybe should rental a car to reach those towns and the NE of Hungary?
Nov 5th, 2000, 03:23 AM
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From Zakopane take a bus across the border to Slovakia. There are a few buses per day. Athough you have to get off one bus go through the customs and get another bus. It was painless procedure when I used to do it. I suggest you buy a ticket as soon as you get to Zakopane. If you want to take a train you will need to go back to Cracow. The train line ends in Zakopane. What month you are planning on going? April is not very pleasent time to tour Cracow because of rain. I lived there for five years. In Tatras there is still snow in the mountain in the end of May and it is usually a lots of heavy rain in May. June is, in my opinion, the best time. And starting the end of June Tatras and especially Zakopane are very crowded. It is a less known area to toursits from US but is was discovered by Germans, French, and many others from Europe a long time ago when I attended University of Cracow 25 years ago.
Nov 5th, 2000, 06:11 AM
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Several of us recently posted about the salt mines and about Auschwitz. You might want to do a search on those topics, but briefly....
I found the best way to do the salt mines was a tour from Krakow --just a bus ride and English speaking tour late in the afternoon -- for very little more than public transport and admission to the mines. It is extremely difficult to impossible to get an English tour there on your own, so the package makes the whole thing much more feasible and enjoyable. (And I say this as a person who normally avoids any package tours like the plague.)
The same is true of Auschwitz. A package will not only take you and bring you back without worrying about the connections and times on the train, but will also take you to Birkenau -- a most important part of the trip, and will provide you with a good English guide for the whole trip.
Nov 5th, 2000, 11:54 AM
Ben Haines
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The 1996 issue of the Lonely Planet guide to Poland says that the easiest way to Wieliczka is by minibus at 75 US cents from ul Pawia opposite the tourist office and from the front of the bus terminal. The current Polish railway timetable shows no rail service.

I go round Slovakia by train and bus: these serve the Spis towns and Kosice well. I expect they're good for other areas too. From eastern Slovakia two railway lines run into north east Hungary. The main line is from Kosice to Miskolc (I didn't think much f Miskolc). A minor line runs from Barca through Slovenske Nove Mesto and the adjoining Hungarian town of Saturaljaujhely to the great castle of Sarospatak and on to Mezozombor. On that minor route, trains cross the frontier and busses run to and from the frontier, which you can walk over.

I shouldn't like to see Ausschwitz and Burkenau with a tour party. I wanted to choose how fast to go, and when to sit and think, or to sit and weep. Taxis from Auschwitz to Birkenau are cheap, I expect cheaper than a tour. Busses and minibusses run often from the Krakow bus terminus to Ausschwitz.

Please write if I can help further.

Ben Haines, London

Nov 5th, 2000, 01:02 PM
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The "tour" we did to Auschwitz and Birkenau was not like a usual tour as I picture them. We arrived at Auschwitz and could see or not see the short introductory film. We then followed a guide to some of the main buildings. At each one after a brief intro, we walked through on our own and at our own pace and met again outside. After the main part of the tour --I'd say maybe an hour to one a half hours, we had another hour to either have lunch or retour on our own or walk around. Several people chose to go totally on their own and set a time with the guide when to meet back at the bus. A similar treatment of Birkenau --but shorter. There was a woman on our bus who had friends who had done the whole thing on their own two days before. They took a train to Auschwitz and toured on their own. Then they started walking to Birkenau, found it was further than they had planned so tried to find a bus -- had just missed one of only 2(?) per day. They got a taxi to take them there and wait for them to return as they were told it would be nearly impossible to get a taxi back. They arrived back in town for the last train of the day and it was cancelled for some reason. They ended up spending the night at Auschwitz and returning by train the next day. I'm not saying this is the normal occurence, but for something like $ 20.00 a person, we had a very full day -- and no typical "tour" stuff, like stopping for souveniers. And the group was limited to 15 or 18.

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