Kraków, Poland

  • Visited July 2018

Wow! What a place. I absolutely loved loved loved Kraków! It has beautiful architecture, loads to do and it’s a great place to spend time. On my first day in the city I headed to Oskar Schindler’s Factory then mooched my way through Kazimierz and the Old Town area. Visitor numbers are restricted at the Factory so it’s worth pre-booking your ticket or getting there early. Restricting numbers is a good thing though because it means the permanent exhibition doesn’t get overcrowded and you can go through it at your own pace. The permanent exhibition is excellent – well-constructed with the intention of educating visitors about the Nazi occupation of Kraków during World War II and the role that Oskar Schindler played in saving the lives of over 100 Jews.

On my second day I visited Auschwitz. You can make your own way there by bus from Kraków (with a pre-booked ticket obtained from the official website) but I went with the See Kraków tour company which I can recommend. For me, it was the easiest option as you get picked up from your hotel, led around the two sites (Auschwitz I and Birkenau) and returned to the pick up point. Our tour guide was very good and I found the whole experience incredibly moving.

My third day entailed a trip to the magnificent Wieliczka Salt Mine. Though you can arrange a tour that does Auschwitz and the Salt Mine on the same day, for a more relaxed experience I would recommend doing them separately. Again, I took the See Kraków tour, it was a smooth experience and the Salt Mine is a wonder to see.

On my final day in the city I was going to go shopping with some lovely Irish girls I met at my hostel but we hadn’t realised that the shops would be closed on a Sunday – so we picked a restaurant overlooking the main market square and enjoyed chilled Polish beers in the sunshine – before catching the night train together. Good times!

Selection of pictures from my stay:

Warsaw, Poland

  • Visited July 2018

What can I say about Warsaw? I didn’t love it but I’m glad I went and I did enjoy myself. Like any other cosmopolitan city, there’s loads to do: numerous museums, places of interest, bars, great restaurants, shopping etc so tourists can definitely have a good time here.

For me, the main reason to visit Warsaw is to understand the historical significance of the city’s role in World War II which I had not fully appreciated until my visit. Tourists are always wowed by the beauty of the Old Town but what they may not realise is that it was destroyed by Hitler’s troops and had to be completely rebuilt. The reconstruction is so good it has been recognised by UNESCO. Though it’s tempting to head straight for the Old Town when visiting Warsaw for the first time (as I did),  I would really recommend going to the Warsaw Rising Museum before the Old Town, as it does an excellent job of documenting the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (I was in there two hours and didn’t get to see everything unfortunately as I’d timed my visit too late in the day, underestimating how much there was to see) and when I went back to the Old Town, being there felt more meaningful to me rather than just being aesthetically pleased by the architecture. After visiting Warsaw, I would also recommend watching the biographical film ‘The Pianist’, a moving account of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s experience of living through that time and fight to survive. There is a reason why Warsaw is nicknamed The Phoenix City and though it hasn’t made my list of favourite places I’ve visited, this is a city that has been through so much and deserves to thrive.

Selection of pictures from my stay: