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.
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.
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.
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.