We went to Poland. Yep, we flew on New Year’s Day to Krakow for a little mini break. Now, let me tell you, it was budget – I used my Nectar card points to buy some of the break on Expedia, so it wasn’t exactly a ‘treat’ in terms of luxury.
Okay, so we flew from Manchester where the staff at security rival the guys in Miami for being unclear in their instructions and also pretty rude and aggressive. I watched as one member of staff engaged a passenger in conversation about their luggage and then in the next sentence rebuked them for lingering. It was a strange atmosphere. It does me wonder if they were on a high alert for an attack. There was an atmosphere of stress. (Or maybe they were all just hungover from the night before?)
We flew Ryanair. Hey, I said it was budget. We paid the extra to sit together, which I hugely resent, but hey, this is kind of a modern tax on flying budget these days. But you know what, for a Ryanair flight it was all pretty good. We got there in one piece, the staff were nice, our pre paid taxi chap was waiting for us. All good.
It was misty beyond misty as we were driven into Krakow. We were excited. It was our first time away together. A real test for a relationship. Can you holiday together? Are you both potterers or die hard sight see-ers? Café dwellers or hikers? I thought I knew my boyfriend well enough, but did I?
We arrived at the hotel, Leone Aparthotel at gone 11pm, and discovered we were on the third floor without a lift. That’s when we realised that 2018 really needs to be the year we get fit. We huffed and we puffed and we arrived in our room and well, it was really rather nice. Simple, white, clean. Happy days. We dumped our bags and hot footed it (cold footed it – was definitely chilly) into the night. We were a 10 minutes walk away from the main square where we were assured we’d find places to eat and drink that were still open.
Not so. Everything was closed. Apart from a street trader selling pork knuckle. So we ate that with mustard and fried potatoes and then bought beer in a mini-mart. It was a bit dicey to be honest. I was pretty much the only female amongst a lot of very drunk men. Goodness knows where they’d been drinking, as everything was shut or about to shut. Fire crackers were being let off in the square. I used to be fearless and then I had kids and drunk shouty people make me nervous now.
So we weren’t off to a good start but we went back and drank cold beer in bed and read our books (The Marriage Pact for me and a cycling book for him). The next day was a leisurely start as there was nothing but nothing planned other than pottering.
Oh dear, this is a moaning memoir, but I want to be honest. We slept badly. The room was hot, then cold, we could hear the man in the room next door snoring and the mattress was very hard and thin. It just wasn’t what we had wanted and I think we were both a bit disheartened.
We breakfasted at The Milkbar Tomasza the next morning which is a busy, busy place. We did a walk by early and found it heaving so went for a little wander and then popped back. I had a delicious herby gouda omelette which was spot on for being slightly undercooked and yet crisp at the edges. No mean feat.
Scott ordered a black pudding stack which he assures me was delicious, though I am afraid black pudding is one of the very few things I am squeamish about. I know, I know, but, well, no.
More pottering around beautiful Krakow (which is a little Parisian in looks at times and yet also so clearly Eastern) and then a pit stop at a chocolatiers where I enjoyed what can only be described as a mug of warm chocolate ganache topped with whipped cream. It was truly decadent and started off some kind of hot chocolate obsession over the holiday for me. We also ordered a couple of macarons, because, well, when in a chocolate shop, really, abstinence is futile. The pistachio variety was great but the gingerbread one pretty flavourless.
After such an exhausting morning I had to go back to the hotel for a rest. I’m not joking, I felt like I was going to fall over. I think it was a delayed response to Christmas and the anxiety over the children having their first Christmas between two homes which I may or may not write about another time. I asked to be left to sleep, despite knowing I probably wasn’t going to do that. I wanted to read and be alone and think. And so Scott went off with his camera and took beautiful photos and I read my book. And I cried. Yes reader, I sat and had a cry. And I felt a lot better for it. Sometimes that’s all you need.
We ate out that evening at Miod Malina after a little G & T at a local bar.
Well, let me tell you about the wonder of eating at Miod! Oh am I glad I booked (and I think you do need to book as it was super busy about 10 minutes after we were seated). The restaurant is old school – it has white linen table cloths and waiters who smile and treat you like royalty despite the fact you’re wearing a ski jacket, ski boots and no make up. The décor is hand painted and the food oh so pretty and really delicious. We had to be rolled out of there. This was an expensive restaurant for Krakow. The wine was what put it up the most but we paid about £50 for two courses, one pudding, a bottle of wine and fizzy water. My attempts to order tap water fell on deaf ears.
The steak tartare was loved by my raw meat eating man. It had tuna in it too. He said it was excellent.
I enjoyed prawns with very large slices of garlic.
Then more seafood for me with this squid linguine. With more huge pieces of garlic.
And goulash and pancakes and meatiness for my man.
And a peak into the kid’s menu and the puddings.
The next day we were on a pre booked trip to the Salt Mines. We took a 20 minute train (delayed by 35 minutes though) or you could take a 40 minute bus too. Oddly it was cheaper to take the train. We hurriedly slurped mushroom soup at a local and very cute restaurant (served in a loaf of bread no less) and just made the tour in time.
We queued up, popped our headsets on and started our descent. Now we had paid for a pre booked English language tour (please note taking photos is not included in this – you need to pay another £2 or so per person), but as we started to descend down a lot of wooden steps nothing was explained. We all just started walking. It felt badly organised. Then again, I am a little claustrophobic. Okay, not just a little. I had to really make myself go on this tour because I believe in pushing yourself. I was worried though that I’d freak out.
Well I need not have worried; it wasn’t me who had a little moment, it was a poor hungover German student who had a panic attack and had to be returned to the surface. I really felt for her. It was hard going and the tour was over 2.5 hours so it was probably better she left as early as she did.
My verdict on it? It was beautiful and the information from the guide was interesting but for me it was about an hour too long and the guide simply wasn’t engaging enough. Gosh I am being harsh today aren’t I? But there you go.
We took the bus back to Krakow (as there were no trains – it seems they have a very bad reputation in Krakow after chatting to a local guy!) and ended up feeling so famished that we stopped off at a super cool little place called Mo-ja. Now it doesn’t have the highest Trip Advisor reviews (but hey, we ALL know you need to be careful of those reviews) but it was so calm and welcoming. I am pretty sure we were served by the owner and she was incredibly kind to us. We liked it so much we went back later in the week for lunch. And breakfast.
Check out the décor.
The menu is mostly virtuous, think smoothies and rye bread and eggs and granola. Oh and rum soaked cherries in hot chocolate. That well known low calorie option.
We visited three times in the next two days. We had eggs there (though I felt the ones at the Milkbar were superior).
And croissants with cherry jam. (More cherries).
And open rye bread sandwiches with sunflower seeds and rocket and homemade onion jam with slithers of goat’s cheese. The textures! Oh the textures!
And the Polish apple cake there was A1. The apple was grated and tossed in cinnamon. Now I don’t even like apple cake much but this made me feel quite territorial.
And good coffee.
We also enjoyed a dinner at The Black Duck which is just down a cute little street near Miod (from earlier).
Now again I pre booked but this time the experience was different. There was a definite feeling that us having not worn dresses and heels (just me mind) and Scott not being in a suit jacket was an issue. We noticed that other folks were getting very overly attentive service and we weren’t, despite us having ordered the most expensive item on the menu (a whole duck stuffed with liver). I hadn’t notice a dress code when we booked. We were not scruffy by any means but we were not looking chic and I think chic is what they wanted. A couple from Milan next to us were being given a lot of love. I did consider telling the owner about how stylish Leicester was but decided against it…
All in all the food was above average, if a little pricey for Poland (which we were on board with) but the two tier service situation is not for me. I hate that kind of thing. So a big thumbs down for the Black Duck. We may have ordered some vodka to console ourselves. I took this photo as it amused me to portray Scott having been served Borrower sized measures.
Now I am going to tell you a very small amount about the tour we took of Auschwitz and Birkenau. You don’t need to take a ‘tour’ as such of either site, but we felt we wanted to understand more about the history than visiting alone might give. We used this company here and it cost about £50 each including travel, and I have to say, they were amazing. Their admin was a little lacking on the morning (we had agreed a 9am pick up time and they changed it at 9am to 10am, but hey, it meant we got to visit our favourite café). The driver though was lovely (it’s about 40 minutes in a car from Krakow), and the tour guide was informative, emotional and eloquent. It’s obviously a distressing tour. The site is almost silent despite the huge volumes of people making a pilgrimage. You will see people who are clearly very personally connected to the site. Older people in tears, people laying flowers and leaving candles.
I am not going to tell you what I saw in the camps, not the detail. Instead what I will say is that I feel every person should visit. Every single person. It’s a priority. It should be a compulsory part of education. Yes, it is a reminder of the greatest sins against humankind, but it is also a reminder of how some people will sacrifice themselves for others, that spirit cannot always be quashed that we live our lives as privileged souls. Our guide finished the tour by saying that everyone should visit Auschwitz Birkenau once and that everyone should tell people about it; so that we never forget.
Now I do feel I need to address something I saw there. I spent a lot of time trying to ignore people photographing their tour. I tried to feel charitably about it – perhaps these people had relatives at home who were too old or ill to travel and maybe this was the next best thing? Hmmm. All of them? It’s quite a stretch to believe that. More than just this, I saw vast numbers of people taking selfies. I felt angry. I wanted to police the situation and remind them of where they were and the suffering this soil had seen. But nobody made me the boss of everyone. I am just another visitor. I don’t have to like it though. I took one photo at both sites. Here it is.
A little reminder about respect and dignity. Maybe the selfie takers just didn’t see it. Though what a shame they needed a reminder.
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Great post, thank you! The selfie thing really gets to me too. I was at ground zero in the summer and could not get over the amount of people posing and taking selfies. Just makes me feel sad and ashamed on behalf of mankind. When did we turn into this and how can we get some respect and living in the moment back?!
I visited ground zero too back in 2006 and saw the same poor behaviour. It makes me realise how ingratiated I am in my own tribe. When I see behaviour from other ‘tribes’ I can often find it hard to stomach. I wonder if they think others are disrespectful for not taking photos? Who knows.
Thanks for such an informative and honest post about your trip. It’s a place I feel I need to visit and I hope it’s not too long until I do. I teach History and believe that it is compulsory to cover the holocaust, which we do in a sensitive, in-depth way. It’s crucial that people talk about it and visit sites like you did to ensure people never forget.
It’s well worth it and not an expensive trip as flights so cheap and also the price of living in Poland is very cheap. Very harrowing but it made me understand so much about the history and also humankind – good and bad elements of.
A very interesting post. I know a couple of people who have been to Krakow and again, their reviews were pretty mixed. One of them, around 25 at the time of travel, was a bit fed up with the lack of nightlife and like you, found the food a bit hit and miss, but generally did like it. She said the same thing about Auschwitz, actually – that people were taking selfies and it was incredibly disrespectful. I can’t find space in my head to understand how a site of such atrocity can be a ‘selfie’ moment. Anywhere but there, surely???
If you ever want to try a truly magical food experience, try Rome if you’ve not been. Trastevere to be exact. We’re going back for the third time since our wedding in 2010 later this year and I cannot wait. I ate my way round there 2 years ago and fully intend to repeat the experience! Also, you can get very affordable apartments on HomeAway.com (it’s how we always find ourselves somewhere to stay, as I’m coeliac and it’s easier to go self-catering).
Anyway, glad there were some very positive aspects to your trip and I hope it was a success with you and your other half!
The selfie thing just leaves me (almost) speechless. I found myself regularly having to stop the urge to say something. I just find it so completely and utterly disrespectful. I don’t see how it can in any way be a good thing. But then maybe I am getting old. I don’t know.
And yes – Rome! I have been twice and hope to go again. I visited whilst inter-railing as a teen and didn’t get to see much due to budget but then two years ago (I think) my ex husband and I went and I loved the place. We stayed in a wonderful apartment and had such great food and enjoyed a tour of the Vatican and also the Coliseum. I think I blogged about it. I do hope to re-visit.
I agree with you about the photos in Auschwitz, I was disgusted by people on our tour, who when clearly told ‘no photos at all’ in the room with the hair, proceeded to take selfies, grinning like lunatics.
The sadness of that place really spoke to me and I was moved to tears more than once at the cruelty that man can show to their fellows and I was angered by the seeming lack of respect shown by some other visitors.
I don’t think I will ever return to that place – as you say it’s somewhere everyone should visit once in their lives and then tell others about.
It really is an odd part of modern life that nothing seems to exist unless it’s documented with a photo on one’s phone.
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