Krakow

Krakow travel highlights

Krakow Main Square - cultivatedrambler.comstayed: An air bnb on a bustling street right next to the tram. It was a crazy funky room in a shared apartment. We were only there for one night and had a bit of a shocking wake-up call when our host thought we were gone and attempted to start cleaning up our room :-/ I would recommend staying closer to the main square where most of the action is.

saw: Auschwitz and Birkenau. A sad, but necessary stop in our itinerary. The scale of Birkenau was mind blowing and just sickening. It was just rows and rows of old chimney stacks where the structures used to be. Our guide told us that the amount of visitors they see per day (up to 10,000) were the amount of people that were brought here daily during the war. Shudder.

Auschwitz, Poland - cultivatedrambler.comWe had a brilliant driver for the day though and chatting with him was very insightful. I really enjoyed grilling him about his country, the refugee crisis and his puppy Winston 🙂 He also helped us switch around our tour time so that we had more time in Krakow. Note to travelers – highly recommend this car service. Ask for Bart. He was really, really great.

Wawel Castle. Not much to report here, but walking the grounds were free.

The Main Square. Holy square! Probably the most impressive part of the city.

Wawel Castle, Krakow - cultivatedrambler.comconquered: People watching and dessert in the square. Try Słodki Wentzl, a local favorite I’m told.

Our first night train from Prague. Ugh. Probably the single most horrible way to travel. Sure, it gets you from point A to point B but at the detriment of your health and well-being. I had all sorts of romantic notions of a slowly swaying night train but alas, this was NOT it. The train started, stopped, reversed and slowed down on repeat ALL NIGHT LONG. I was abruptly woken up all night long thinking we were at our destination.

Night train from Prague to Krakow - cultivatedrambler.comOur first laundry wash. Granted, our host started the washer, but we proudly hung everything up on the drying racks. Ahhh, fresh clothes!

A milk bar! We went to this one. Basically a cafeteria concept made popular after World War 1 and carried through to the Soviet era. Now, they’ve become small, inexpensive restaurants that take advantage of welfare state nostalgia. I wouldn’t say this was our best meal, but it was a fun experience. And no, they don’t just serve milk!

Krakow eats: dessert, perogi, Milk Bar - cultivatedrambler.comother travel notes: Residential homes bordered both concentration camps and I wondered how people felt about living next to such horrible places. I suspect home prices reflected these less than stellar locations but still….Also, some people in our tour group took photos of themselves in front of every building in Auschwitz, which seemed very strange to me.

Krakow felt like a college town. Peeps were y-o-u-n-g making this gal feel o-l-d.

We were in Krakow on a Friday night and tons of people were on date night. Most women carried these cute lil bouquets of flowers given to them by their significant others. I found this very romantic.

Perogi = breakfast heaven.

Also, booking trains over the pond was harder than I imagined. I used this site to help me navigate the confusing websites. Also, trust your conductor to let you know when to get off the train. They start and stop a lot and we actually got off at the wrong stop. Luckily, ours waved us back inside before it was too late. My bad.

Krakow art - cultivatedrambler.com

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Decisions, decisions

image1The most common question I got prior to our trip was, “Why did you choose those countries?” When people think of Europe, I suspect London, Paris or any city in Italy comes to mind. Slovenia and Bosnia probably aren’t on most people’s radars and granted, they weren’t on mine either at first.

But in comes my most favorite of all favorite shows, Game of Thrones. Many of the scenes in recent seasons have been filmed in Croatia and that got me thinking…what ABOUT Croatia? I started doing some research and I came across my dear friend Rick Steves Eastern Europe itinerary. After googling a few of the places, we were sold! History, castles, coastline and cheap accommodations? Sign us up.

I basically took his suggested itinerary and adjusted it to the amount of time we were going to be there. Here’s what we ended up with:

Amsterdam, Netherlands – This stop was an add-on more than anything as the cheapest flight was found through here so we added two days to our trip. The flight from Seattle (with a quick stop in Iceland) was really an easy flight. Highly recommended flying into Amsterdam.

Prague, Czech Republic – Seemed only fitting to really start our trip with a visit to the “Paris of the East!” Plus, it’s one of the few cities that was untouched by the war.

Krakow, Poland – Per my hubby’s request. I should have given us a bit more time here, but it’s hard to narrow it down.

Budapest, Hungary – Also seemed to be a “not to miss” place. Like Krakow, another day would have been great here.

Ljubljana, Slovenia – Recommended by a colleague of mine. She said to add a day to this stop and she was SO right. Give this country at least 3 days.

Zagreb, Croatia – The capitol of Croatia. Not a ton to see, but it worked well logistically in our travel plans. It was a good place to reorganize and pick up our rental car for the drive down the coast.

Split, Croatia – Featured on the Game of Thrones. Enough said.

Mostar, Bosnia – A quick side trip that was the biggest unknown. Will it be safe? How’s the drive? What will we do there? All valid questions that were immediately answered as soon as we crossed the border from Croatia. Yes. Easy. Eat, drink and sight see!

Dubrovnik, Croatia – Also a Game of Thrones filming location not to mention a VERY romantic city. A great place to end our journey!

We spent anywhere from 2 to 3 days in each city, which was fine for some and not enough time for others. It was definitely an ambitious itinerary to say the least. As soon as you got semi-comfortable, it was time to pack up and run to the next train. I’m pretty sure we’ll never travel like this again, but it was a memorable learning experience all around!

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