My whole reason for going to Kraków was to see an Andre Rieu concert.

I had bought tickets to see him in December of 2012, but we decided to embark on a Mediterranean cruise instead which meant I couldn’t see him. I was glad we went on the cruise, but also always a little bit sad that I didn’t get to go to his concert in London.

I also chose Kraków as this is somewhere I had never been and I heard it was a really nice city and one worth visiting (I was right in visiting – it is a beautiful city, and everything I had heard about it was right).

When Jamie and I were in Warsaw, we wanted to drive down to Auschwitz but we decided not to as the distance was far greater than the map had originally said (It said it was just under 2 hours – turns out the distance was double). This was another reason I wanted to go to Kraków – so I could visit Auschwitz.

My journey from home to the hostel was pretty uneventful (until I had to rush off the plane and through security in Warsaw so as to avoid missing the bus and train).

It was about £30 cheaper to fly from Stansted – Warsaw and then the bus from Modlin airport to the city centre and then the train to Kraków (and back again) than it was to fly direct from Stansted to Kraków.

The trains were really nice. 2nd class in Poland was way better than 2nd class in England. It was a nice comfortable ride. I got to Kraków and went the wrong way out of the station. I walked for about 10 minutes before I had realised it. I finally went the right way and got to the hostel.

How sad was I to see reception was on the 2nd floor and there was no lift. I was even more sad when I realised my room was on the 4th floor with only one bathroom. Oh well, at least I had somewhere to sleep, poop and shower.

See below for what I did during my time here

Sunday Sightseeing
After I had a good nights sleep, I decided to hop on the tram and head for the city sightseeing bus so I could scout out where I would like to visit during the rest of my trip.

Tram Tip
Tram maps are hard to come by. Download or screenshot a map from Google before you go – comes in really handy! It was my lifesaver!

I got on the bus and went round once and then decided to stay on to go to Kopiec Kościuszko. I decided I would be adventurous and walk up the mound. It was a pleasant walk up and an awesome view of the city and then a nice pleasant walk down (albeit a tad scary).

I had an issue with the bus timings and sat here for another 95 minutes before another bus turned up.

City Sightseeing Tip
I would avoid this company. Horrible service, different timings, agents calling you a liar. Avoid this at all costs!

Once I got back to the first stop, I decided I didn’t want to use this company anymore and promptly hopped on a tram and had a look at real Kraków.

I then went back to the hostel for a bit of a break before heading out to the concert.

As I mentioned above, I had wanted to go to his December 2012 concert but the cruise won the battle. (You can read that here)

It was so awesome to see him in person. I have only ever seen him behind a TV or computer screen. There is just something so magical about being at a live concert. Truly awesome.

Below are some of the videos I took whilst there. You can view the rest on my YouTube channel here

You can view the pictures from the concert here

Sightseeing & Kazimierz
I decided that I would have a lie in today as I didn’t have anything planned. I got up about 9am and left around 10am and headed off on to the Tram. The weather was lovely and perfect for exploring.

I hopped on the tram and headed to where the Schindler Factory was located. I decided not to go in as I didn’t have much money left and wanted to save it for the last couple of days of the trip. I do regret not going through.

After I was done at the factory, I headed back to the hostel for a bit of a nap as I had a headache. I wanted to sleep it off before I headed out to he walking tour.

After I woke up, I hopped on the tram and went to the meeting point for the free walking tour. I stopped off for a bit of lunch beforehand (I was starving). I then headed to the meeting point outside Bazylika Mariacka. The company I used is Good Cracow Tours. I highly recommend this company. The guides are really knowledgable and take you to the most important parts.

This trip was to the Kazimierz district (The Jewish Quarter). Our guide was Bartek and he was friendly, inclusive and funny.

Our route took us to the Synagogues in the district – of which there are 7. They are: Izaaka, Kupa, Poppera, Remu, Stara, Tempel, & Wysoka. We then went to see the Jewish Cemetery, a filming location of Schindler’s List, we then crossed the river to the Podgórze district, the remnants of the ghetto wall and then to Plac Bohaterów Getta and the Pharmacy Under the Eagle.

Bartek was very informative about the locations. It was quite sad to hear the stories of what happened during the war to the Jews in this region.

Before the war, there were 68,000 Jews in Kazimierz. After the war, there were only 3,000. They liquidated 65,000 Jews from this region.

You can view all of my Kazimierz pictures here

I was up early today as I had to be at the tour point by 8am. The tour left shortly after and it was a 90 minute drive to Auschwitz Camp 1.

It was really surreal to be here. I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz to see what it was like. We had a tour guide that took around about 30 of us. They took us to what they thought were the most important aspects of the camp. Security here is tight (airport style). We also got headsets so we could hear the guide.

The guide took us through the gate with the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign. We then went to see some of the blocks. Some of the blocks contained information about the camp. Some contained artefacts. One of the eeriest blocks was the block that contained 2 tonnes of human hair that was found left at the site. You weren’t allowed to take pictures here – I suspect to preserve the hair.

Another block we went through contained shoes, glasses, dishes and suitcases.

Another of the eerie blocks (Block 11) was the one that contained portable gallows and standing cells. They would put 4 or more in a standing cell and keep them there – often for several weeks with no food or water. It was intended as a punishment via torture block.

To the side of this block was the death wall.

On the lower ground floor of this block is a cell dedicated to Maximilian Kolbe. A prisoner had gone missing and 10 men were chosen to be punished. The Nazi’s punished everyone in the same company if one escaped. Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a stranger to be sent to the torture block. After being in the block for 3 weeks and not succumbing to death, the Nazi’s injected him with acid in order to kill him.

You can read more about Block 11 here. You can read more about Maximilian Kolbe here. He was later canonised and declared a martyr of charity.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Tip
If you decide to visit here (and you MUST), do the camps on your own.

The tour of Camp 1 lasted just under 2 hours and the tour of Camp 2 lasted about an hour. This is not enough time at all. Whilst you may not get a guide, you will get to see everything you want.

We then headed out to Birkenau. The ride there was a little under 10 minutes. We were again rushed as we were limited on time.

It would have been good to wander around for as long as was needed.

Birkenau was the extermination camp with the constantly working gas chambers. There is not much left here as the Nazi’s had ordered it destroyed when the Allie’s were liberating the camps.

You can view all of my Auschwitz-Birkenau pictures here

Stare Miasto & Sightseeing
Today was my last full day in Kraków. I decided that I would do the Old Town walking tour today.

I got to the meeting point a little bit too early (like 30 minutes). I saw one of the guides from Good Cracow Tours and waited around with them until the tour guide for this tour was ready. It was really strange to speak to one of the guides. He was telling me that he has a friend in Peterborough and what he visited. I never thought i’d find somebody on holiday that had been here.

Our guide – Eugene – turned up and he took us on the tour of the Old Town. He was very informative, inclusive and funny. He pointed out everything that would be of interest to us.

We saw the following: Bazylika Mariacka, Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego, Barbakan Krakowski, Sukiennice, Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa, Wieża Ratuszowa, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Katedra Wawel

Eugene also told us a couple of stories of the Old Town and Wawel. Apparently the Polish have a folklore and real story for things.

The first one he told us was of the two different towers on the Basilica. Apparently they were constructed by two brothers. One brother had completed a tower. The other brother decided he wanted his tower to be different and so built it in a different style and shape and made it bigger. The brother wasn’t happy with this and so killed his brother with the knife that hangs in the Cloth Hall.

The real difference for the height is that one is used as a watchtower.

The other story Eugene told us was of the dragon that sat in Wawel Castle. The dragon liked to eat cattle and if these were not offered then he would eat the townsfolk. The version told by Eugene was that the king offered his daughters hand in marriage to anyone who could kill the dragon.

An apprentice cobbler named Skuba took up the challenge and filled a lambs belly with fiery sulphur and left it at the dragon’s door. The dragon saw this and ate the lamb. Afterwards, he became so thirsty that he jumped in the Wisła and drank and drank and drank until he burst. Some of the remains were taken and turned into pouches.

Eugene also told us of the communist side of Kraków and the communist town of Nowa Huta. I asked him for directions and he took me to where it was. He also said that we should stop at Nowa Huta Bar Mlechny. It was a cheap place to eat. I bought 2 meals for about £5. I tried Żurek (A soup with a boiled egg and sausage) and Pierogi (a filled dumpling – I had cheese and potato).

After we were done eating, Eugene pointed out a couple of places to see around Nowa Huta and then we parted ways. I spent around 3 hours just walking around Nowa Huta. It was a typical Communist layout – wide roads, high buildings, symmetry.

You can view all my pictures from Stare Miasto here

You can view all my pictures from Kraków here