Claire and I have been wanting to go for a weekend break together for ages. We decided to finally just do it, and after comparing both of our 'to-go-to' lists, Kraków in Poland was on both of them, so we booked that it that very same week and then last Saturday hopped on the plane to Eastern Europe.
The flight was only about 2 hours long, and as it was only 6am I promptly fell asleep as soon as we took off, and didn't wake up again until we landed. We walked off the plane to be hit in the face with icy cold air. After getting through immigration quickly we jumped in a taxi and headed to The Sheraton Kraków Hotel. It was a typical American five-star hotel, it felt quite business-y, but the staff were amazing and allowed us to check into our Club Level room at 10am. We had a lovely view over the river!
We dropped off our stuff, piled on our thick clothing, coats, and boots, and headed out into the city to explore. The main square of Kraków was just a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel, and although it was raining and cloudy, there was no denying how beautiful the city was. It felt more like an over-sized medieval town than a city, but everywhere you look the buildings just take your breath away.
We started by wandering around the square and exploring the famous Kraków Cloth Hall. It was busy and bustling and we didn't know where to look first. We took our time, walking from one end to the other, looking up, down, and all around us.
Suddenly we heard singing and a band, so walked around to see some sort of protest happening in the street. We still have no idea what it was all about!
On both of our lists was the 12th century St. Mary's Basilica, which features the famous 13th century Altarpiece of Veit Stoss, which is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world!
The church itself is absolutely stunning, it was only when I was half-way round that I realized I'd been walking around with my mouth hanging open. Everywhere you look there are beautiful works of art adorning the walls, frescoes, and chandeliers. One of the things I love about being Catholic is that the majority of our churches are basically huge works of art, you enter them and you're surrounded by hundreds of years of history.
The Altarpiece has a really interesting history; when the Nazis invaded Kraków they removed the altarpiece and had it shipped to Nazi Germany. It was eventually discovered after the war in the basement of Nuremberg Castle. Every day at 12 it opens to reveal the scenes within, we timed it really well so were there just in time!
After seeing St Mary's we walked down some of the little Medieval backstreets.
We then headed over to a restaurant that had been recommended to me by someone actually from Kraków; Restauracja Miod Malina, or in English, Honey and Raspberry. It was a very cute little restaurant with images of raspberries everywhere! We perused the extensive Polish menu and chose; Goose liver terrine with parma ham topped with red onion preserve, Stewed sauerkraut with mushrooms and sausages served in a bowl of bread, and the sauerkraut and mushroom oven-cooked dumplings.
Everything was absolutely delicious. I particularly loved the dumplings, which were (unusually) deep fried (so naughty, but SO good), and the sauerkraut and sausage bowl was insanely good and really moreish. Claire avoided a dessert, but I saw my favourite on the menu and couldn't resist; Forest fruits with creamy mascarpone cheese under almond crumble. Oh my days this was amazing, and the best way to finish my meal.
After lunch we walked to the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. It was strange, seeing the Jewish Quarter underneath the dark clouds and rain. In blue skies I'm sure it's a beautiful part of Krakow, but in the rain and clouds it was eerie. We silently walked through it, stopping just to see the Jewish square and snap a couple of photos, and on to Schindler's Factory in the old Jewish Ghetto.
This was a strange part of town, you cross the river and the feeling just changes, it feels deserted and full of sadness, as if you're surrounded by thousands of ghosts suffocating you with every step you take. Maybe it's just me, I get weird feelings like this in certain places, I just got an awful feeling from it that I just couldn't put my finger on, and couldn't wait to get into the Schindler museum and off the cold, foggy, darkening street with the railway line and deserted wasteland at the side.
It gave me goosebumps thinking about what happened in that Ghetto all those years ago. The persecution, the grief, the horrific animosity.
We spent a couple of hours in the Schindler Factory Museum, and were surprised to discover that it's an entire museum, and you can't actually see any of the old factory. Apparently it was used as a factory and commercial building a few times after Schindler's Factory closed down, so the insides of it were never the same as they were during WW2. The museum was good but we were disappointed that there wasn't much information about Oskar Schindler and his factory workers, it was mainly about the Polish Jews and WW2 in general.
After the museum we headed out into the cold and got a taxi back to our hotel. After freshening up and watching a bit of National Geographic, we wandered down to Hotel Copernicus where we were having dinner that evening. But, more on that tomorrow!
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