To get to Krakow, we took the night train from Budapest. We got a sleeper car and thought it would be great because we got accommodation and transportation in one. Turns out you don’t sleep much on a sleeper train, especially one that makes frequent stops. I slept better on the turbulent ferry from Italy to Croatia! Needless to say, we were exhausted when we got to Krakow.
We made our way to Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow where we would be staying the next three nights. After a mishap with our Airbnb and subsequent upgrade to a really awesome place, we settled in. I took a nap and Shawn worked on taxes. We had booked a food tour for that first afternoon in Krakow to introduce us to Polish food and to see some of the sights of the city, so headed out for that.
We met up with our guide in the Old City and met the other couple on the trip – a Scottish couple who had some great recommendations for that part of our trip. The food tour started with a “Polish bagel”, which is called obwarzanek. Similar to a bagel, but much bigger and slightly drier, we tried the sesame and the cheese kind (they were all out of the traditional salt kind).
We then headed to the market, where we tried squeaky smoked cheese, pressed into a pretty pattern. We also tried some sausage, as well as some pickles and pickled cabbage. Yum!
We then walked through the old city, where we found the Easter markets going on. Shawn and I made a note to come back to try the food (namely the soup station, which had about 10 different kinds of soup).
We found our way to a traditional restaurant where we tried schmaltz (animal fat spread), Polish sour rye soup (my new favorite), and three types of pierogis (potato and cheese, meat, and cabbage). We somehow didn’t take a photo of the pierogis. All was delicious!
We then went for dessert – in Krakow this cake is called “Pope John Paul II cake” because I guess he covered up his youth drinking transgressions by saying, “we went to eat cake” instead of, “we went to drink vodka”. The cake was okay – it had a sort of custard-y filling with flaky pastry and powdered sugar.
We ended the food tour with vodka! We went to a place that seemed almost like a mad scientist’s shop. It was full of giant glass orbs with colored liquid in them. All were different kinds of infused vodkas and we got to choose the flavor we desired. I tried the traditional cherry (tasted like Robitussin -surprise, surprise) and Shawn had the honey lemon.
Our tour was okay, but to be honest, our guide seemed like he was calling it in. He didn’t give much history on Krakow, areas we were walking through, or Polish history. We enjoyed Polish food immensely, but it probably would have been a better experience with a different guide. We were glad to have a cool Scottish couple to socialize with, though. We were so tired and stuffed by the end of the tour, we went home and went to bed by 7:30pm!
The following day, we got up early to head to Auschwitz. You can read about our time at Auschwitz here.
After our day at Auschwitz, we were mentally and physically exhausted, so we went for an early dinner around 5:30pm. We went to a local spot we had heard about called Klezmer Hois, which is “Jewish style” food and they have Klezmer music later in the evenings. At that point we weren’t really interested in the music, we just wanted to eat and go home to rest. We had a lovely dinner of herring and a knish, as well as some beers, and liked it enough to make a reservation for the following night with the klezmer music.
The following day, we headed out early to meet the Krakow Free Walking Tour of the Jewish Quarter and WWII history. We really enjoyed this tour, where we explored a bunch of synagogues and different areas of Kazimierz, as well as saw many places featured in Schindler’s List.
We walked across a beautiful bridge, Kładka Bernatka, which has lots of statues hanging and balanced in ways that are pretty interesting. It leads into where the Krakow Ghetto was located.
We then explored parts of the ghetto and got a bit more history on what went down there during WWII. There is a beautiful memorial in the plaza with a smattering of chairs symbolizing the furniture of people who lived in the ghetto, and who would never return to their furniture after the war.
We also swung by the last remaining “wall” of the ghetto, which was really more like a symbol for those living in the ghetto, representing that the Jews were “separate” from everyone else.
We ended the walking tour by stopping by Schindler’s Factory, which is much different now than it was, and is also different from the movie. We didn’t go in, mainly because we were very hungry and tired from walking all morning. We tipped our fantastic guide and headed out to find lunch.
We ended up back at the Easter market to try some local delicacies. It was Palm Sunday, so it was packed with people. We had some sour rye soup from the soup station (excellent!!) and a traditional dish that everyone in the market seemed to be eating – rye bread with schmaltz, sausage, and grilled onions. It was delicious!
That evening, we had made reservations back at Klezmer Hois to enjoy the klezmer band and eat some more yummy food. We had the best evening that night! We had salad with pickled pumpkin (OMG!), more herring, roasted goose (tastiest dish ever), and cholent. The klezmer band was fantastic and we had front row seats right near the violinist, who was the best one we’d seen all weekend (there are klezmer bands performing all over Kazimierz). It was great to have a dinner show.
Thoroughly in love with Krakow, we were very sad to be leaving after such a short stay. We wish we had had a couple more days to continue exploring this fantastic city, but now we’re positive we will be back to visit Poland. The following day, we packed up our bags and headed to Wrocław, another Polish city, which Shawn will tell you about soon!