A holiday in Kraków, Poland

In May, my Grandad boldly announced that we were going to Poland.

For the past couple of years, me, my grandparents, and auntie have been going on holiday as the prices are cheaper inside term time and I’ve had a lot of free time whilst being at Sixth Form and University. Grandad found a good price for Kraków and he booked the tickets. It worked out at just over £250 per person on the EasyJet website.

Day 1 – Travelling

We left on Sunday 30th June. We stopped off in the new Caffè Nero outside the Grand Arcade in Cambridge. Me and Cam suggested that we might need a proper lunch as the plane was landing late and we didn’t think there would be anywhere open by the time we got to Poland but the grandparents didn’t take any notice. I had a chicken and cheese toastie and diet coke. Grandad a Tuna sandwich, Grandma a Bacon Roll and Cam didn’t have anything.

We got the 2:05 pm National Express coach from Parkside, Cambridge. I watched a bit of TV on the coach and it got to Luton quite swiftly.

The first order of business was security. We got our liquids out and headed on through. There was a fairly large queue but it was okay.

Once inside, we sat down at the Hawker Bar where I ordered Spanish Rarebit Bites for £7.50 and a Diet Coke for £3.00!

Grandma ordered the Padang King Prawn Skewers for £7.50 and truffle potato wedges for £4.00.

The Rarebit was very tasty. I got 4 bites. Each was just big enough for a mouthful. The Chorizo complemented the strong taste of the cheese well. The Hawker slaw was unappetizing having been coated with a special sauce. However, after eating a morsel, it did bring out the flavour of the wedges.

The wedges weren’t anything spectacular and you couldn’t taste the truffles. You could achieve the same flavour from frozen ones from Tesco.

The Diet Coke was extremely pricey at £3.00. And by the time the food arrived the large ice cubes had diluted the coke so much that it was almost undrinkable.

Overall, it was a nice experience. They even had plug sockets to charge my laptop within the establishment. But things were just a bit too pricey for what they were. And the Diet Coke should be served in a bottle, not a glass with ice.

Our gate was then called and we boarded the plane. The flight was uneventful apart from the lovely sunset as we came into land at Kraków Airport.

The taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport with Grandad’s name on a bit of paper. I was very excited as it was like we were in the movies.

It was a short 20-minute drive to the Hotel we were staying at; Vienna House Easy.

Once there, we checked in, and as me and Cam predicted they had stopped serving food. We went to the bar and had a cup of tea though. We then went into our rooms to relax for the night, which is where I’m writing this now.

My room was very posh. It had twin beds, cushions for decor, a desk for working on my blog, and lamps all over the place. I decided that I must try the shower and it was wonderful. No fear of running out of hot water, or somebody else waiting to use it. I think by the end of the week this will be the cleanest I’ve ever been.

Day 2 – Exploring the Town

We met at 9 for Breakfast which was on the ground floor of the hotel. The decor was very nice with plush seats. It was a buffet style with a range of juices, breads, cheeses, ham, and a selection of hot stuff such as two different kinds of sausages, bacon, and scrambled egg.

As we hadn’t eaten the day before I decided to try most of it. I had a mixed juice, but it was very watered down and didn’t taste great. The sausages, bacon, and egg were all very nice but nothing can beat Searles in Hunstanton.

We decided we were going to explore the town today. I went back upstairs and got my camera and after a bit of faffing about with everyone going off and coming back again and just missing each other we set off.

The heat was sweltering upon exiting the hotel through the revolving doors. It started at about 28 degrees and rose to 36 by midday.

It was a short walk to the tram stop. It was a very busy stop with a lot of different trams going to different places. Luckily, they had a ticket office so Cam and Grandad could purchase our tickets. If caught without one it can land you a hefty fine: 250Zl.

We had a bit of confusion on where to get off but we got there eventually. We crossed the road into the old town which was surrounded by trees and a green. We meandered down the road further into the heart of the old town where we saw St Mary’s Basilica. On the hour a man with a trumpet stands in one of the very tall windows and plays a tune. We were very impressed, but would be too scared of being up that high to do it ourselves!

I was impressed with just how many birds there were. Hundreds of pigeons flying low around the square and even more starlings flitting in between the roofs of the old buildings.

We’d pretty much boiled alive by this point so we went for a walk to find somewhere to have a drink and a sit-down. We ended up in Goralski Praliny where I had a gigantic Ice Cream. And it was only £5!

We then decided to have another wander through the old town. Me and Cam had both done a lot of research beforehand to find places to go and things to do. One of these was a tour of the city on a golf buggy. Seeing as it was so hot and Grandma can’t walk very far we decided to go on one. It took one hour and a half and cost 400Zl, around £80. There was a nice breeze on the buggy which cooled us all down.

The golf buggy was electric. It seems that Poland is quite conscious of their effect on the environment. When we entered our rooms there was a little bag that said if you put it on the door it signifies that you don’t want your room cleaning the next day and as a reward for helping the environment they’ll give you a treat. We all put our bag out but only Cam and Grandma and Grandad got a treat.

We had a tour of the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter of Kraków. It was quite hard to take photos but I managed. We stopped off halfway at an old synagogue and we had a look in there and then got a drink and ice cream.

The buggy’s max speed was about 25 mph and it was open on all sides. It was quite exhilarating driving along on some of the busier roads.

We asked the driver where the tour would stop and he was kind enough to drop us back at our hotel. That saved our legs and from sweltering too much.

Grandma and Grandad both needed another sit-down drink so we stopped in the hotel cafe and had a beer, water, and tea before heading up to our rooms for a siesta which is where I’m writing this now.

We met up again at 6 pm for dinner. We got a taxi to the Galeria Krakowska Shopping Centre. It was huge! Probably the same size as WestQuay in Southampton if not bigger. I took my camera in case we had an interesting meal but we ended up at Burger King (I wasn’t complaining). It did take us a long while to find it though as there was no food court and the place was massive. We went up and down 3 floors before finally finding most of the cafes and restaurants in the basement.

Day 3 – Polish Aviation Museum, Chata, Exploring Town

We rose at normal time and had an uneventful breakfast. After discussing where to go we decided upon the Polish Aviation Museum as it was free on Tuesdays. We got day tickets on the tram this time and over 70s can go free with a valid form of identification, which meant a really cheap day out!

It was a short walk through a forest from the tram stop to Museum Lotnictwa. It was clearly signposted too.

The visitor centre at the Polish Aviation Museum

It was quite deceiving in size from the front; a large visitor centre. But once we walked through the building we realized just how large the museum was. Behind the visitor centre, there was a huge field with what must have been over 100 different planes. Me and grandad spent a good couple of hours wandering around looking at them, with me taking lots of photos. Cam and Grandma sat in the shop and waited for us.

I tried a different style of editing on these photos, opting for a film-style look with a heavy vignette, emphasizing the deep greens and blues, with added grain.

I also took some photos of the exhibits inside the visitor centre.

The MIG-29 was my favourite plane so I edited that photo a bit differently, and there being so many spitfires in the world I opted to use a low angle view to capture the propeller and nose against the bright blue sky.

After we had finished looking at all the planes we went to the shop and bought an ice cream. And I got most of my presents from there, including a couple of magnets, a coin, a couple of model kits, and my postcards.

It would be interesting to go back in a few years time as they are building a brand new hangar and seem to be expanding quite quickly. There were also quite a few planes in storage that looked like they had been delivered recently.

We got the tram back into town to find somewhere for lunch. Cam had found a place called Chata online so we went there. On the way, we saw a sex shop which made everyone laugh.

There was real fur on the seats, and with it being so hot it smelt a little, but we got used to it.

Grandad had a Ginger Beer, and I had a raspberry Beer. We tried each others’ but we liked our own, which was good. Grandad had a pork chop with potatoes, I had fish and chips, Cam had pierogi dumplings, and Grandma had Goulash in a bowl made out of bread. Grandma liked the look of the sugar bowl and asked the waitress if she could buy it but the waitress said they had a set amount and you could buy one everywhere anyway. We never did find one though.

It was really cheap and came up to just over 120Zl in total the equivalent of about £25 for 4 people!

We then walked towards Rynek Glowny (Main Square) where we needed another sit down so we went to a cafe which was attached to a book shop (Kurant. Księgarnia Muzyczna). We enjoyed the atmosphere of sitting right on the square with the tourists walking about and the birds flying high between the roofs. We also got to watch the horse and carriages go by.

After we had rested up we crossed the square and saw the Eros Bendato Sculpture which looked like a big bronze head.

Came then wanted to visit Collegium Maius which was an old part of the university from the 14th century. Copernicus, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the centre of the universe, studied there. There was a mechanical music clock where a parade of wooden figures came out the doors. It turned out that it only happened every other hour and we were there on the wrong hour, 4 pm!

We then went to the Gorace Paczki doughnut shop. We bought Cherry, Strawberry, and Surprise flavour doughnuts.

Went to a Vodka bar called Pjalnia Wodki I Piwa that cam had found on Trip Advisor. To get there we went on a really long walk through Planty Park. On our walk, we saw the Barbacan, and a Jay flitting about in the trees.

When we got to the Vodka Bar we found that they only high stools which wasn’t good for Grandma, there were a couple of tables outside though which we sat at but there were only two seats. Me and Grandad had a Sex on the Beach vodka shot and then Grandad got the taste for it so he went up and ordered the Long Island shot.

We found that the Sex on the Beach shot was better as the barman mixed different stuff together whereas with the Long Island shot he just poured it out of a container. Grandma ordered a coke and the barman poured it into a glass but kept the bottle himself. Needless to say, we didn’t go back again.

We were then feeling a bit peckish so we went to Milkbar Tomasza which is a workers cafe from the communist era. it served cheap and cheerful comfort food. I had a Pannini, Grandad an omelette, and Grandma had chicken livers which she exclaimed were as good as her own ( high praise indeed).

We then went back to the hotel, much to Cam’s dismay and turned in for the night.

I had put my little bag out for cleaning, but I never got it returned, so I couldn’t put it out to say I didn’t want my room cleaned and I didn’t get a treat. It wasn’t the end of the world though.

Day 4 – Wawel Castle and Obwarzanek Krakowski making

We got the tram intending to go to Wawel Castle. It was about a 15-minute walk from the tram stop.

The castle was situated on quite a steep hill, which wasn’t great for Grandma, so they ended up sitting in a cafe once we got to the top.

Me and Cam had a wander around the gardens and then went down a lot of steps and into a cave. We emerged and there before us was a dragon. It cost 5Zl to go down the caves, but the dragon was free. The dragon even breathed fire every 5 minutes!

The Legend of Wawel Dragon: King Krakus promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to any man who could defeat the dragon. A cobbler stuffed a lamb with sulphur and left it as bait near the dragon’s cave. The dragon devoured it and then had an unbearable thirst and drank so much of the river he exploded. The daughter then weds the cobbler.

On the way back me and Grandad got an ice cream for 4zl each. I had a Kinder Bueno flavoured one and Grandad had a blackcurrant one.

We then got the tram to the other side of town where we went to a veggie restaurant called Glonojad. Me and Grandad had a beer but it wasn’t chilled, so it didn’t taste the best. A lady behind us had a massive portion of potatoes with her meal which Grandad was envious of. Grandma had falafel with salad and pitta bread which Grandad and Cam then tucked into.

After our pitstop, we went to the Bagel Museum for our workshop where we learnt about the history of Obwarzanki bagels. They are a regional food with a protected geographical indication. The word Obwarzanki means “to part boil”, as they are boiled before baking, but at only 90 degrees Celsius, not 100.

Obwarzanki bagels have been made in Kraków since 1496 by a special bakers guild. There are over 200 blue stalls all around the city which sell the bagels. Over 18,000 are made per night, all of which are sold the next day. They are consumed for a variety of purposes including breakfast for locals and as an interest for tourists. Their ingredients consist of flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water, and butter/lard. They are then sprinkled with either poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or salt.

There were no seats in the kitchen which meant we had to stand for just over an hour. We were fatigued when we came out, to say the least. The room was small with two tables running down the length of it. The class was full up so it was very crowded in the room. We got to wear special aprons which you can see in the photographs.

We received a dough ball which we then split into two. We were instructed to roll out each dough ball and then plait the two of them together to form a ring. Grandma grabbed Grandad’s dough ball to “help” however she ended up sabotaging his creation by ripping it apart.

Whilst the bagels were cooking we watched a video about the origins of the Obwarzanek. When the bagels were about halfway through cooking everyone noticed that two children hadn’t put theirs in the oven, so the instructor had to quickly do theirs whilst we watched the video.

The bagels took about 10 minutes to cook. At the end, the instructor gave us our bagel and a certificate and we shook his hand.

I was really hungry after the bagel making as I hadn’t had lunch. So we walked over to McDonald’s. It was just the same as in England really.

After filling ourselves up on Polish McDonalds we walked over to Wodka Bar to give some Vodka shots another go. We managed to get six in a row like Cam had wanted us to in the first place. Grandad got the taste for it again and ordered us another 6 after we downed the first lot.

They had many different flavours including: cherry, raspberry, lemon, walnut, chilli, chocolate, hazelnut, plum, caramel, blackberry, mint, apple, ginger, quince, orange, honey, grapefruit, apricot, blackcurrant, elderberry, Mirabelle, rose, pear, fig, and sloe.

After having 6 shots of Vodka each we built up quite the appetite so we head to Fabryka Pizzy for dinner. It was next to the Ice Cream parlour which we had on the first day. Grandma had some prawns with garlic. Grandad had pizza with salami tomatoes olives and jalapenos which he exclaimed was the best pizza he has ever had, although he may have been slightly drunk. Me and cam bombers which were like calzones but long and thin. We had 3 each, but there was the option to chose 5 each. I’m glad I only had the 3. They were very filling. I had bacon and ham and chicken. Cam had bacon, spinach and garlic, and broccoli and cheese.

Day 5 – Our Last Full Day in Kraków

We had planned on having a day trip to the Zakopane mountains all week, and this was our last day, but Grandad had wanted to go to the Pinball museum all week too, so we had to go there for him.

After breakfast, we got the tram but it didn’t stop where we wanted it to. We got off in the Jewish Quarter, just past the river, next to an art installation of chairs which we saw whilst on the Golf Buggy tour. They’re supposed to represent those who lost their lives in the square during WWII.

We would have had to get the tram back again but Grandad thought that whilst we were there we could check out Schindlers Factory. It was a long way from the tram stop and unfortunately, there was not a closer stop.

Once we got there, we realised that you had to pre-book. So we left again and made the long walk back to the tram stop.

Cam wanted to see the Francis Basilica so I took us on the tram there. We’d already been to quite a few churches this holiday, so I sat outside. They all went in whilst I waited and listened in on a tour group and then they convinced me to go in. It was really dark in the church so it was quite challenging to take photographs. Grandma and Cam got all excited about a garment that Jesus supposedly wore.

We then walked to the Pinball Museum, stopping in a cupcake cafe on the way. I knew we wouldn’t get lunch until much later, so I had an ice cream and cupcake. I asked cam to surprise me as I was flagging a bit. She got me a chocolate brownie ice cream and Oreo cupcake, just what the doctor ordered. I gave Grandma the Oreo off the top of my cupcake but it had one in the middle of it which I was happy about.

The road outside the pinball museum is currently closed for redevelopment which is why we couldn’t get a tram there.

Grandad had been after a post office to post our postcards in as he was convinced they’d get there quicker if we posted them in a post office rather than a post box. It was just our luck that there was one just next to the Pinball Museum.

Me and Grandad went in and had a go on all the machines and tried to beat each others’ scores. I found a driving game which was a lot better than the current ones as it wasn’t laggy. It had worse graphics but the machine could run it at a consistent frame rate which was good.

It cost me 30zl and Grandad 40zl even though he tried to chat up the cashier to get a reduced seniors rate.

Grandma and Cam sat in a cafe with lots of nice cakes but convinced themselves that lunch would be coming soon.

We met up again after about an hour of pinballing and went to one of Cam’s suggestions for lunch. Grandad had a spend up with 3 side orders. Grandma didn’t like hers because it was cold. She had rice wrapped in cabbage leaves. I just had fries as I was still full up from my ice cream. Whoops!

We then went to a beer garden that I had researched. It was a short walk from the restaurant and we saw that the whole area was being redeveloped, not just the road outside the pinball museum.

Once we got there I had a beer and Grandad had a cherry lemonade even though I took him to a beer garden! Grandma had a tea with hot and cold milk which we found most peculiar. Grandma and Cam ordered a cheese sharer and it came with olives and tomatoes, which Grandad loves, so he ended up eating most of it even though he didn’t want to order it in the first place. The beer garden had a shop too, with toilets which we were all most relieved about.

We then went to a market down the road. Grandad was looking for a present for Ness, but didn’t find anything. They had lots of records but we had run out of money, so I couldn’t buy any.

All of the tourist attractions were closed or closing as it was 4:30. But it was too early for dinner, so we went back to the hotel, much to Cam’s disgust.

Once we were back at the hotel I had my cake and Cam went to the corner shop and got me these Polish Callippo Shots which were really nice.

After having a relax in our rooms we met up again at 7 to have dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Grandad ordered a schnitzel and confused the poor waitress by asking for boiled potatoes rather than mashed. The chef then didn’t know how to cook boiled potatoes and they came out raw. Grandma ordered a schnitzel too but it was too big for her so she didn’t like it. Cam had a falafel burger and she gave it a 1 star out of 10 as it turns out falafel is only nice in small quantities. I had a burger, my first of the holiday (Burger King and McDonald’s don’t count) and I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of veg in it though which I gave to Grandma. It had an egg inside the bun too, which was nice and was a contrast in flavour with the beef burger.

Grandad also ordered us vodka shots. Grandad had a hazelnut shot and I a raspberry. They were really big glasses compared to our previous encounters.

We then went back to the room and did some packing before having an early night.

Throughout the holiday I had been taking some street photos using the shoot from the hip method which I learnt about at Long Road Sixth Form College. I found this fun and I think I got some interesting images. I edited them in a film style in Lightroom.

Day 6 – Travelling home

It was a fairly uneventful trip to the airport via taxi and I was going to not write about today at all. That is until we got to passport control just before boarding the plane, where grandma exclaimed that she had lost her boarding pass! We held the whole queue up whilst Grandma and Grandad stopped and looked for it, which me and cam did not like at all as we felt very in the way. She then went and found a member of the airport staff and went back to the shop to find it. Luckily she did find it and we just made it on to the plane. There was an American family with us that were also running a bit late as they had queued up at an EU Passport kiosk rather than an international Passport kiosk.

I find it most peculiar that they have to check your passport three times upon entering England. It’s not like we’re shapeshifters and have changed on the plane. And when boarding a flight in England you don’t have to go through passport control, but abroad you do. Very strange. When we landed we used the E-Passport gates at Luton and this was the first time that they had ever worked for me. It’s not like they’re any quicker than people, and they probably cause more problems than they’re worth. They also put people out of jobs. And again, it’s only a UK thing. I definitely think we should scrap the whole idea.

Overall it was a good holiday. There was plenty to do in Kraków and everyone spoke in English. There were a lot of religious buildings as is common in Europe. They seemed to be quite affluent and had a huge shopping centre, however, the average wage is significantly less than in the UK. I look forward to my next adventure.