Poland wasn't necessarily on my visit list, but I am so very glad I went. The sights and the food made it a wonderful trip.
Landed the first day and went on a food tour, tried Polish beer, ate soup and pierogi, tried zapiekanka (great open faced sandwich), sampled vodka, and tried a wonderful version of cheesecake. We walked all around the city including areas that were used in the filming of Schindler's List. Those areas, and most notably Kazinierz, are having a huge resurgence with many excellent restaurants and bars.
My first full day I had booked an all day tour to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka salt mine. It was an incredibly long day, starting before 8am getting a break for lunch and finishing around 7pm. I had booked both thinking it was all one tour, but we drove all the way back to the city and started the second tour later. That did give me the opportunity to try a "milk bar" recommended on every travel blog I had read about Krakow, U Babci Maliny. It did not disappoint. This was an absolutely exhausting day partly because it was long and partly because it was emotionally taxing to see a site where so many people died.
I didn't take many pictures, out of respect, but you can't help but be aghast by the sheer volume of the carnage at Auschwitz. This picture includes one of the gates with the infamous words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work will make you free). There is also a room which displays some of of the items left behind, people showed up to the depot at Birkenau with everything they could carry and 75% didn't even make it to the work camps. There is an entire room of human hair, that was cut from victims before they were sent to the gas chambers. Really this was such a humbling and evocative experience that I think everyone and everyone should visit.
Next I went to a salt mine that was in operation from the 1600s until 20 years ago. The tour was only 3 miles long and we only saw 2% of the mine.
Hundreds of steps going down.
Chapel, out of salt.
Last Supper, out of salt.
Totally weird, but they encourage you to lick the walls... to prove that everything is salt. It is.
Last day was spent just going ALL around the city.
Stopped to see the fabled dragon who breathes fire during my run.
Saint Mary's Basilica on the outside. I really wanted to climb the tower, but waited until it opened to get tickets. Big mistake. They were already sold out. But I did get a ticket to go inside and take pictures.
Worth the 7 euro or whatever it was. The inside of this church is breathtaking.
The cloth hall is where to buy all your Poland souvenirs. I bought so much beautiful amber for myself and my family and it was soooooo cheap!
I loved wandering around the city, it is still almost completely intact after the war.
I went to Wawel castle, which was actually PACKED, so I didn't see any of the inside, I don't dig lines.
The line to climb the tower wasn't long though, so I did that.
The food was so amazing I have to talk about it again, this was a restaurant from the food tour that was so good I went back, Kuchnia U Doroty. I love pierogi turns out, and I really liked the ones with chicken and sauerkraut, they even had fruit ones!
On the recommendation of a friend I also went to Starka, had a freaking amazing meal and great vodka.