Kraków

Our next planned stop after Wrocław was Katowice, an industrial city on the way to Kraków. I’d tried to book a pitch via their website a few days beforehand to check they were open, and didn’t get a response, but we thought we’d try anyway. The satnav took us through the city centre and it really didn’t appeal as a place to visit, so before even reaching the campsite we decided to keep going and head for Kraków, spending a couple of extra days there instead.

The camper stop is at a motorhome dealer about 5km from the city centre. It has all the services we need and costs just 30 PLN (€7) per night – a bargain. There’s a bus stop outside with three buses an hour, so we were well set up. It’s the 200th different place we’ve stopped at since setting off on our travels.

We visited Kraków seven years ago on a mini-break. Like most long weekend visitors we went on daytrips to visit Auschwitz and the salt mines, as well as seeing the main sights of Kraków itself. As it was a flying visit there’s loads we didn’t see properly, such as Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter), or at all (Nowa Huta) so we’ve now had the chance to put that right.

The old town
Inside the city wall
St Mary’s Church – on the hour every hour during the day a bugler plays out of one of the top windows
The main square
Carol at the castle
Fire breathing dragon
Old town street
Top tip if you’re in Kraków: go to the music academy at 43 Sw. Tomasza and take the lift up to the 6th floor – there’s a cafe there with superb panoramic views over Kraków

A week or so ago, we watched Schindler’s List which was set (and filmed) in and around Kazimierz. As well as wandering around the Jewish Quarter, we crossed the River Wisła to where the wartime ghetto and Oscar Schindler’s factory were situated, and whilst there’s nothing left now of the ghetto, the factory is still there. We went round the museum last time and were going to visit again, but when we got there the queue to get in was huge so we decided to give it a miss. Back in Kazimierz we found an excellent Israeli restaurant called Hamsa, where the food was so good that we had dinner there three times. Neither of us had drank Israeli wine before, so we were surprised at just how good it was.

Kazimierz restaurant
Street art in Kazimierz “in memory of the Bozak family, residents of Kazimierz 1633-1941”
More street art
There’s an unusual ’empty chairs’ memorial at Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) with the chairs representing departure and absence
Me posing
After WWII the old cemetery was ‘tidied up’ with many of the intact tombstones being rearranged in straight rows, and fragments of those which could not be restored used to create a ‘wailing wall’
New Jewish cemetery

The town of Nowa Huta (new steel mill) is a half hour tram ride along John Paul II Avenue. It’s one of only two model Soviet towns ever built, the other being Magnitogorsk in Russia. Funded by the Soviet Union, it was built in the officially sanctioned Soviet Realism architectural style, with homes for 100,000 people close to the steel mill, which is still in operation today. The town is almost like a living museum, exhibiting the utopian urban planning of the 1950’s: massive Stalinist apartment blocks, schools, theatres, wide streets and hospitals, all of which have been preserved by the city. Several milk bars and restaurants, with interiors unchanged since socialism, are still open for business.

I was expecting the town to be like a concrete jungle, and whilst there was a lot of concrete, the avenues are wide with lots of trees and green spaces, so it didn’t feel as oppressive as it might have done. It did feel a little strange eating lunch in the Stylowa restaurant, which looked just the same as it did in the photos from the 1950’s.

Nowa Huta main square
Soviet Realist architecture
The Stylowa Restaurant outside…
… and inside
Pierogi (Polish dumplings)
Tree lined avenue
The Nowa Huta cinema…
… and theatre
Stalin-era apartment block…
… and another one
Solidarity monument
Nova Huta statue of Pope John Paul II
Broken down Trabbie
Steel mill entrance
Old steel mill office building

We will be leaving Kraków tomorrow and moving onto a campsite in the middle of nowhere. We’re feeling a little bit knackered now, having visited Budapest, Bratislava, Dresden, Wrocław and Kraków back to back over the past few weeks, so we’ll be having a few days downtime before visiting Warsaw.

Mike

9 thoughts on “Kraków”

  1. See the sun has finally caught up with you. Fascinating how architecture reflects the politics of the time. We did a Mussolini architecture self guided walking your in Rome.

    Reply
    • Yep, Summer’s on its way – I guess it’s pretty warm in Crete now. The Mussolini walk sounds interesting!

  2. Some great photos there. We loved Krakow and hope to return one day to visit the sites we missed last time – but also to sample more of the incredible food!

    Enjoy your downtime, I’m looking forward to reading about Warsaw (somewhere I’d love to visit)

    Reply
    • Cheers Lee, good to hear from you. Yep it’s a great city, just try not to visit during the holidays… it was pretty rammed here this week with it being the end of the Easter break.

  3. We went in April, it wasn’t too busy but it was extremely cold -12°! Glad we didn’t go in Winter
    Keep having fun, hope to see you both soon.

    Reply
  4. Brought back many memories as I saw many of those sights on the Trabi Communism tour that I did with my sister when we were in Krakow last year. That may not have actually been a broken down one as when we did that stop, the guide opened up the bonnet and we were shown what the engine looked like – looked a bit like my old Viva so I wasn’t so shocked as the young couple who were from another car – ha ha. We were taken to a ‘Milk Bar’ near a Tesco for traditional Polish dumplings. We were joined by lots of older Polish people and several younger men from the local tax office who always ate their lunch in there – they demolished the largest plate of dumplings I’ve ever seen!! Thanks for all your bike pics – didn’t reply last night as it was a bit late. Dave says what you’re sending is very interesting for him – always good to see how they run the schemes elsewhere. Luv Lesley xx

    Reply
    • Those dumplings tasted much better than they looked – but I don’t think we’d have managed a larger plateful! We’ll keep up the bike pics 😉

  5. We love Krakow but the cake shops and cafes are so cheap we had to try a lot of them! Haha. How do you find your random stopovers? We weren’t impressed with Warsaw. Too big but OK for a couple of days

    Reply
    • Haha, we know what you mean about the cheap cafés! We use campercontact.com for looking up our camper stops.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.