Krakow and Zakopane Trip Review

Old Jun 28th, 2006, 01:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 45
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Krakow and Zakopane Trip Review

I found a number of threads on this site useful when planning my trip to Poland so I thought I should just detail a little report on what I did and thought of it all in the hope that someone else may find a little of this useful.

My wife and I (30 and 31) were in Poland for 6 nights and 5 days. We flew into Krakow airport late on Friday evening and flew out on Thursday morning. We spent 3 nights in Krakow, then travelled south to a town at the foot of the Tatra mountains called Zakopane before travelling back to Krakow for our last night.

Krakow Airport - There isnt much there, a little cafe, a shop that doesnt open till 10am but it was clean, seemed efficient, had free trolleys (paid ones are a real hatred of mine) and had bank machines.

We had a taxi from the airport arranged by the people who looked after our apartments in Krakow. It cost 50 Zloty (henceforce known as Z) and takes in light traffic around 20 minutes into the Krakow old town area. On the way back to the airport we got a taxi off a stand and the meter came to just around 53 z.

The apartments we stayed in were nice enough. They were 40 Euro or 160Z a night, had two singles beds which could be a bit unsatisfactorily shoved together, really basic cooking facilities, nice shower and toilet (no bath) with what seemed a permanent supply of hot water, aircon, tv with polish channels and BBC world and were generally pretty modern. Overall they seemed good, and because we had two stays in Krakow (1 night and 3 nights) we saw 2 different ones and both were good. They were pretty quiet but as with any place in a busy city if you leave the windows open there was some noise. I think the guys who run this have a number of differnet locations but the two we stayed in were south west of the main square in a place called Na Groblach Square. The location was great. 5 minutes slow stroll to from Wawel castle, 10 to the main square and 15 to the Kasimeric district. One word of caution - both apartments we got were on the 3rd floor (for the yanks out there the 4th). With no lift and it being a big old style house with high ceilings this meant a lot of stairs, something to think about if you have trouble getting up and down them. We checked out a number of hotels and the like for our one night before leaving Krakow and they were all pretty much what you would expect to pay in many big European cities, maybe a touch cheaper, but the cheapest vaguely decent one we saw was about 360 Z a night, so a lot more than these.

Krakow itself has a lot to see. Compared to many places in Europe it escaped WW2 relatively architecturally unscathed. The main square - Rynek - is very pretty, and is surrounded by shops and different types of mainly european style outside restaurants. When we were there a couple of the buildings were being worked on so the scaffolding didnt quite fit in with the rest of the scenary but it was still nice. I have no real idea what is outside of the touristy old town, as that is where we stayed. When we were getting the bus out if looked like many other small-medium sized european cities. There could be loads to do and see but we didnt get to it.

The castle on the hill - Wawel - is also worth a stroll around. We didnt go into any of the collection and museum rooms but the church in the grounds seems to house a whole bunch of old Polish and Lithuanian kings.

It became a bit of a running joke between my wife and I (2 Irish and she is a catholic) that we were actually in Catholic disneyworld. You couldnt walk 15 metres without seeing either a nun or priest - more young ones than I have seen in my entire time in Ireland, picture of either the current or past pope or indeed a catholic church. Some of these are very very ornate and worth looking at, plus they were about 20 degrees cooler than outside which was nice. The one on the Rynek - St Marys - is good to see, as is the one to the west of it called St Annes, some of the stuff in there is fantastically garish, barely a space on the walls without a painting or ornament on it. ( I do wonder if Christ really wanted the richer members of his church spending what must have been a vast amount of cash on decorations on a huge expensive building when the majority of ordinary people at the time, believers or not, didnt have much food or anything. Anyways, rant over and at least it means there is plenty for tourists like me to see nowadays.)

The Kasimeric area 15 minutes walk south of the main square is the old Jewish area of Krakow and it was pretty cool. Sadly the Nazis basically eradicated all Jews in Poland (as a result of this and boundary changes Poland went from being 70-75% catholic pre WW2 to about 98% post) so it is a Jewish area with very few non tourist jews. Its got a bunch of synagogues but a lot of them seem shut and not used anymore. You saw a few places with Hebrew or Yiddish outside and Krakow does seem to be remembering its Jewish heritage quite a bit, there were a number of signs around for various Jewish heritage festivals etc though none were on whilst I was there. The architecture down here is pretty shabby and to be honest dirty but the real thing we liked about it was the area seems to be the place where the younger poles hang out out so it had a lot of nice bars and stuff that were a little bit removed from the tourist hustle and bustle at the Rynek. We had one meal down there in a place called the Hotel Alef that apparently Steven Spielburg used to eat in whilst filming Schindlers list. It was average at best. Overall the Kasimeric area didnt look very pretty, I'm not Jewish so there was no significance for my visit but it was a fun place to hang out with some really cool bars and beer gardens - we spent 2 of our 4 evenings in Krakow there, the other 2 around the Rynek.

Overall the food in Krakow wasnt fantastic but not bad at all. It might be twice as expensive as the food in small town Poland but compared to home (Belfast) or indeed most other tourist cities Paris, Dublin, Rome, London it is a real steal. Around the Rynek the restaurants there had prices ranging from about 15 Z for a main to probably abour 50 Z. If you went away from the main area things generally got cheaper. We had a couple of meals in polish type places - one cheap 30 Z for mains and beers, another a bit more expensive 100 Z for the mains, starter and beers. Traditional polish food isnt a world beater but there is some nice stuff, the little sausagey type things pierogi were good. It is very meat orientated, not sure how well veggies would do here. Meat and sauerkraut with various tubers thrown in seems to be the order of the day. If you didnt fancy local stuff there seemed to be a fair few more standard european places, plus pizza, loads of kebab places and a number of fast food joints.

Beer is very cheap and also of a good standard, 4-8 Z for a 1/2 litre (a bit less than a pint) and is good beer - just dont go for a wine as they are appalling! The vodkas are nice as well, try the flavoured ones that actually taste pretty good. The nut ones, cherry ones and Bison grass ones were my favourate - I didnt much like the honey one. They cost around 4 Z for 50ml. I didnt have any cocktails but I think they were something like 7-12 Z. Softdrinks cost considerably more than beer in restuarants per ml. If you go into shops to buy stuff food and drink is very cheap.

We spent one day in Auschwitz (the polish town is called something like Oszweicm but I gaurantee that isnt the correct spelling). All the guides say get a bus to it and not the train but we got the train there and the bus back and the train was a million times more comfortable and might have been marginally quicker, if still painfully slow, about 90 minutes. The only problem with the train was that it doesnt drop you into the actual site whereas the bus does. The station is a short taxi ride away, I think it cost 15 Z but we were ripped off, if it had been on the meter it would have been about 7 and you could walk it in 20 minutes and there were buses available from station to museum.

I am not sure I would recommend Auschwitz. I quite like my history and the like but I dont feel I learnt a great deal there that I didnt already know. We were there on a sunny day and espescially the original Auscwitz camp had the feel of a summer camp (the original buildings there were polish army barracks so they werent designed to house those who were going to be killed) than any place of horror. A couple of things surprised me, the rooms full of childrens shoes and hair were just awful and the actual size of the Birkenhau camp (the extension the Nazis added to the original camp about 1 km away) was very very big, scary to think that almost all those who made it there died, and only about 1/4 who got off the trains werent directly sent to the gas chambers. Other than that though I am not sure I think the place should be left standing. In historical terms there is not a great deal there, much of it was destroyed by the nazis. If it were up to me I'd raise the whole place, put a museum somewhere on the grounds and build a very nice park around the memorial that is already built. If the very few surivivors wish it to remain open then that is what should happen but in years to come I am not sure it serves any purpose by remaining open, the only way it could really remind people of the horrors was if you could see and smell it in its original state which thankfully we cant now. Maybe it is time to lay to rest those murdered inside and let the people of the town move on.

After our first 3 days in Krakow we got a bus south to the town of Zakopane. They leave from the Krakow bus station very regularly - about once every 20 minutes. We made the mistake of getting the state owned bus company one there. It was hot, slow and crowded. On the way back we got a private bus company one, which leaves from the same station in Krakow and just beside it in Zako and it was much better. There are a lot of roadworks on the main road between Zako and Krakow, I think they are building a dual carriageway between the two cities so in a couple of years the journey will take a lot less time, it is only 100 or so km, but it took us about 2 hrs 45 minutes.

Zakopane was nice and pretty, it is at the foot of the tatra mountains and seems to be a big polish tourist spot. English was spoken but by a lot less people. The food up there was more limited. THere were grills, barbecues and grill barbeques. maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. The stuff wasnt bad and again you could get your pizza and fast food but there was not a huge range of choices. Also the place shut down a lot earlier than Krakow. At about 11pm there was not much going on.

We went for a walk around the hills to the north of the town. You got some great views of the tatra mountains and the planes that head towards Krakow. We took the funicular railway up Grobalowka (i think pronounced grub a lovski) and then follwed some of the trails around. The trails werent wonderfully well signposted (bits of paint on trees) but if city dwellers like us could make it 3hours walking without taking any wrong turns it cant be that bad. To the south of Zako there is the Tatra national park which we didnt go into but there you can do some serious hiking on the mountains we looked at.

In Zako we stayed in the Hotel Sabala, which is on the main tourist street. It was nice, cost about 300 Z a night and had the feel of a big, recently refurbished, log cabin. The swimming pool in it was small and not great and the rooms didnt have baths, just showers, despite a massive space for it. The breakfasts were included and were good, buffet with cereals, breads, cheese and omelettes if you wanted. Staff were pleasant. Overall reasonably impressed with the hotel, which I think is one of the more expensive ones in Zako.

Our trip to Poland was very good. For europeans with access to easy flights to Krakow I can heartily recommend it for a weekend, similarly for those interailing it is well worth a stop. We were probably travelling on a middle of the road budget and it was good value, and as someone who has travelled on the dirt cheap budget level as long as there are cheap hostels here (and I bet there are) it would be a great place to go.
Bigchiefally is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2006, 01:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,181
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for posting. I was there in May and enjoyed reading a slightly different slant. Your comments about Zuschwits are especially interesting. We didn't visit and many said we should.
Mary_Fran is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2006, 03:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,642
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the report. We were in Krakow in March and didn't make it to Zakopane.
I understand what you meant about seeing Auschwitz in the summer. We were there on a grey, cold, snowy day in early March and you really did get a sense of desolation and despair. I would not want to see it razed, however.
BTilke is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2006, 04:47 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 123
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It was interesting to read your thoughts about Auschwitz. We visited in the summer, but it was a cool, gray, rainy day. It felt nothing like summer camp for us! The horrors were many -- the display of hair, the crematoriums (don't know if that's the right name for what was near the barracks), the wall against which many were executed... We went on a tour of Auschwitz/Birkenau and at times it felt too rushed. When I branched off of the tour and took the time to think and imagine, it felt "horrific" -- hard to put it in a word. I, too, would hate to see it razed. I'm glad my two daughters had the opportunity to see it and learn from it.
jeg is offline  
Old Jun 28th, 2006, 06:03 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 10,104
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
"if you could see and smell it in its original state which thankfully we cant now"
Egad, man, couldn't you smell the chemical in the room with the hair?
And would you want an authentic odor of one toilet for a barracks of 300 men?
tomboy is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Oct 9th, 2017 10:44 AM
Jun 19th, 2014 10:12 AM
Aug 8th, 2011 01:11 AM
Jul 28th, 2006 12:11 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -