Kraków | Poland | Guest Blog Post Series

Tell us a little bit about yourself - who are you; how your blog came about; anything else you'd like to add:
My name is Anjori.  I'm a lawyer working in Auckland.

 Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

What is your preferred style of travel?

I quite like travelling alone and doing so with a reasonable amount of money to spend, so I can experience wherever I'm visiting to the fullest.  I also really like the idea of travelling with a purpose - for example for work or volunteering.  The trip I'm referring to in this post was done through the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute, an organisation that sends New Zealand youth to various international conferences - in my case, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Do you get to travel quite often?

As far as travelling outside of New Zealand and Australia goes, not as much as I would like!  However, I plan to do a lot more travelling to further destinations from now on.

For the purposes of this blog - think of a destination where you travelled that you'll give us some hot tips on in this blog and tell us the destination below:

Kraków, Poland - a really beautiful European city that most people don't think about visiting when they go to Europe.

 Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

When was this trip (month and/or year)? Do you recommend this time of year to visit this place?

I was in Kraków in June and July 2017.  I would definitely recommend this time of year because the weather is generally really good.  It can get very hot during the day (ranging between about 22 and 34 degrees), with much cooler nights.  However, the sun doesn't burn you in quite the same way as it does in New Zealand, and it’s usually really nice to walking around outside.  I've also heard Polish winters are very cold, so it’s probably a good idea to visit in summer!

How many days did you stay in this place?

Around two weeks.

What was your choice of accommodation?

Hostel - I wouldn't normally choose a hostel, but I was travelling as part of a group so this was organised for us.

What was the name of your hotel/motel/backpackers (if this applies to you)?

Apart Ginger Hostel

Was this accommodation conveniently located from public transport and/or major tourist spots?

Yes - we were very close to Wawel Castle, a major attraction in Kraków, and within walking distance from the Main Square and the Jewish Quarter, among other things.  The National Museum was also just down the road.  It was also very easy to catch buses and trams from our location.

 Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

What was your experience staying at this accommodation? Highs, lows, what made you choose to stay here - would you recommend staying at this place?

I had never stayed at a hostel before, and this really exceeded my expectations.  Its brand new, very clean and the staff are lovely.  The bathrooms and kitchen also met my very high standards!  Breakfast was included as well, and it wasn't just cereal - there was also meat, cheese and fruit and vegetables.  There were just a few teething problems, like the fact the windows had no curtains and the lift wasn't working yet (which required us to climb several flights of stairs), but I expect these issues will be sorted out quickly!  On the whole, I would recommend staying here if you don't mind either staying in a room with strangers, or if you are travelling with a group big enough to enable you to book out one of the rooms.

If you were to go back to this destination, would you stay here?

Maybe

Did you book (group) tours or see the city by yourself?

Combination of both

Give us a glimpse into some of the sights you saw - (what did the sights entail, how long should they spend there etc.)! How should one plan their day when selecting certain sightseeing options?

The best and easiest spot to visit is the Main Square.  It’s an absolutely beautiful place and you can't go wrong with photos!  I would recommend taking one of the free walking tours from the square, which usually last a few hours.

There are some great museums around Kraków - the National Museum is a good spot to visit if you want to get an idea of how heritage and identity are currently being presented in Poland, or if you just want to see Da Vinci's (incredible) Lady with an Ermine. Wawel castle is another good option as it houses a number of museums, and there is also an incredible cathedral right next to the castle.

A highly publicised tourist spot is the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  It takes about 3-4 hours to visit, and you should be prepared for a very odd experience. Getting down to the salt mine itself is fairly terrifying, as you need to take a tiny, dark metal lift down which stops periodically without warning. The salt mine is part natural wonder, part amusement park and part tourist trap.

There is also, of course, the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, which you need to allocate a full day for.  It’s a difficult place to visit, but I would recommend doing so out of respect for the victims. 

Speaking of sightseeing - What do you recommend an absolute must do?

There's so much to see it hard to pick just one thing - but if you are short of time you should definitely check out the Main Square and have a walk around Wawel Castle.

 Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Depending on your style of travel (i.e. solo, group, family, luxury, budget) is there a tour or an attraction that you would recommend to someone who's looking to travel like you, should do?

Again, that's a hard question to answer because there are so many different things to see.  It may sound strange, but I think visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is really important.  We have a moral duty to pay our respects there. 

If you want to know more, I wrote a blog post on the visit for the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute, which you can read here: http://www.ayli.org.nz/ayli-blog/2017/7/23/anjori-mitra-the-importance-of-visiting

Food - that's the important stuff! What were your favourite restaurants/food joints etc. to go to? Tell us all about where we should and shouldn't go?

You are really spoilt for choice with food in Kraków!  Its hard to go wrong anywhere around the main square.  We discovered a great place called Sissi Organic Bistro that does delicious pasta and meat and cheese boards. 

Burgers are also a popular option in Kraków, and they're usually huge.  There's even a Kiwi burger place, Moa Burger (which was delicious). 

What was the highlight of your trip? Whether it is related to the destination or the way you travel is up to you (maybe both)

Just being surrounded by so much beautiful architecture and history on a regular basis.  It was fantastic to be able to sit outside in the evenings with a glass of wine in such a gorgeous city.

What was an absolute low of your trip? And how can one be prepared to avoid it if they are visiting this destination?

I wouldn't say there were any absolute lows!  An incident that was more funny than anything else was when I signed on for a trip to, and tour of, Warsaw.  This involved taking a train to Warsaw, which I only expected to take 3 hours, but ended up taking over 5 hours due to work being done on the railway and the train breaking down.  My only advice is to just go with the flow when things like that happen - be prepared to see the funny side of what's happening and remember, every experience makes a great travel story!

 Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Copyright: Anjori Mitra 2017

Any hot tips or extra information that you'd like to add before you sign off?

Polish is a really difficult language to learn!  Our walking tour guide told us it takes an English speaker about 16 years to become fluent in Polish.  It pays to try to learn a few phrases in Polish (like please and thank you) as people will be a bit nicer to you.  The amount of English spoken varies drastically - some people speak no English at all, most people speak a decent amount, and a lot of younger people are completely fluent.  If you stay near the Main Square, though, almost everything is written and spoken in English.

Shops also have a strange obsession with exact change - and shop assistants can get angry at you if you don't have exact change.  This isn't a problem if you are in major tourist spots, but be warned if you visit your local grocery store with only 100 PLN notes!

What’s your next destination?

Back to Europe hopefully - I would love to visit the Greek Islands!

What are your social media and/or other links where people can find you?

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/anjori_m