You can find Krakow Part 1 here!
Contemplating history – recent and past
The alarm rings out at 7:30am and I gingerly test my feet. Yep, they still ache but walking is an ability I thankfully appear to still have. A quick kiss for Mr Fletche to remind him that four years ago today I made him the luckiest man in the world – or was it the other way round? – and we go down to fill up on a hearty breakfast.
Today’s driver is Thomas K and he is punctual, friendly and genuinely interested in our life back home in Birmingham. On arrival at Auschwitz, Thomas K purchases our tickets and an information guide for us, points out the recommended route and leaves us to our own devices.
I will not go into too much detail about our time at Auschwitz, or at the sprawling site of Auschwitz II-Birkenau; only to say that I am glad that I visited the site to see where one of the biggest atrocities of the 20th century took place. History such as this should never be forgotten; it has shaped the world that we live in today. We chose to not have a guide which allowed us to wander around in our own time, paying our respects quietly to those that lost their lives, and we saw nothing but respectful behaviour from our fellow visitors, young and old.
It is almost 2 o’clock when we wearily pile back into Thomas K’s car… it’s been an emotionally and physically draining morning and Thomas K is astute enough to recognise that we don’t want a lot of chatter on the way back to Krakow, leaving us to quietly contemplate what we have seen. I catch forty winks on the return journey and we arrive back at the hotel at 3 o’clock.
A wonderful surprise awaits. Housekeeping have spied our wedding anniversary cards and have left a nice bottle of red wine and two glasses in our room. What a lovely touch! The wine must wait though as we haven’t eaten since 8am this morning and we know that just one glass is likely to have us rolling around drunkedly on the floor. Only one thing for it… a zapiekanka from Plac Nowy will be the perfect “light snack” to tide us over before a fancy anniversary meal tonight.
We’re finally experts at finding Plac Nowy… how did we have such problems two days ago? We select a window, and place our order. I order the “Carnivore” and Mr Fletche orders a “Rural” which gets lost in translation and ends up as a “Royal”. My “light snack” arrives. It is a foot-long open-topped baguette with cheese, mushrooms, bacon, salami, ham, sausage and a generous dollop of garlic sauce. Similarly, Mr Fletche’s “Rural/Royal” is topped with chicken, bacon, sweetcorn and enough spinach to make his late lunch resemble a small garden. I bravely attempt to tackle my feast standing up, but quickly realise that this is the quickest way for half of my food to end up on the floor; we find a recently vacated seat, which means that the food now lands on my lap instead of the floor… It seems like mission impossible, but eventually we both finish our zapiekanke.
There will be no fancy anniversary meal tonight. We are stuffed. So we decide to celebrate with an alcoholic beverage or two. Back at the hotel, Mr Fletche has a short (half hour) battle with the corkscrew before our complimentary anniversary wine is finally uncorked and we enjoy a glass of red before venturing back out into the night. The feet are still protesting, but I whisper to them to be quiet, and we wander back to Rynek Glowny. Creatures of habit that we are, the red fleecy blankets of Pod Sloncem invite us to sit down, take a break and have a beer. So we do. And another one. And a vodka. We soak up this alcohol with a pot of very moreish salt sticks. It’s a lovely way to sign off our trip to Poland, and a lovely place to celebrate our anniversary. The long day and alcohol takes its toll and we head back to the hotel for the final time.
Keeping it in the family, it is Daniel’s father that takes us on our return trip to Krakow airport. His English is limited but he is punctual and friendly. I can’t fault KrakowTrips.com in the slightest; they provided a wonderful service and were happy to accommodate our Auschwitz request at the last minute. They were possibly not the cheapest option but they took any worry out of travelling and would certainly recommend to other Krakow travellers.
Other than the slight weather delay on Day 1 – and my poor blistered toes – the only other issue we have is at the airport on departure. We arrive two and a quarter hours before departure, and spend all of that time queuing. Note to Easyjet – one check-in clerk for a full capacity flight is NOT sufficient! Once our bags were finally checked, we then had to join the line for security which was practically snaking out the doors of the airport (and possibly back towards Krakow itself). I’m now as grouchy as I was when I arrived. Passengers for Bristol are finally pulled out of the security queue due to our plane’s imminent departure. Through security, to the gate… and there’s a queue! And, then a queue for the bus! All queued out, we are finally homeward bound…
The minor hitches were inconsequential… we would – and will – return to Krakow. We didn’t visit Schindler’s Factory (however hard we tried), the History of Krakow museum, Wieliczka Salt Mines, Collegium Maius or St Mary’s Basilica; we didn’t climb the Old Town Towers; and we didn’t visit any of those restaurants or bars on the “must-visit” list! It’s not a “pretty” city in the way that some other cities are, but it is charming and Rynek Glowny rivals any Town Square I have visited previously. The locals were all very friendly and most had an excellent grasp of English – meaning I didn’t have to subject anyone to my poor attempts at Polish…
Dziekuje Krakow for a wonderful break!
Many of the photographs featured here were taken by Mr Fletche – CPF Photography