The overnight journey from Bratislava to Krakow was my first time to experience a sleeper train where I was on the top of three beds in our shared cabin. With no idea what was outside it really felt like a rollercoaster at times (in terms of that feeling you get in your stomach) as the train bumped about while speeding along.
There were also lengthy stops at other stations where I was often wondering if it was our destination. Thankfully the conductor woke us up 30 minutes before our arrival in what was a very cold and snowy Polish city.
We eventually checked into Good Bye Lenin hostel for a couple of nights and again I headed off on my own as Hugo just wanted to laze around. Wieliczka salt mines were my destination after a short 30 minute bus journey out of the city. I had to rely on an old local woman to point me in the right direction of the mines as I got off a stop too late and very grateful I was too as she didn’t speak a word of English but must have guessed where I was going.
The mines were 150 metres below ground so I had to walk down about 400 steps to get to see the worlds deepest Chapel where even the chandeliers are made of rock salt albeit grey in colour rather than white. It was more interesting than I thought it would be and the guide was informative with his stories but at the end of the day its still difficult to get over the fact that its all just a load of salt and therefore hard to take too serious. Luckily a lift could take us back up to the surface.
Once back in Krakow I looked around Wawel Hill which had a really beautiful castle and cathedral and in the evening our excellent hostel had a cooking Polish food together type event which was a nice way of meeting a few other guests staying there.
A 90 minute bus trip the following morning took us to Auschwitz which was probably my main reason for wanting to visit Krakow. Overall, it was a thoroughly interesting place to visit and the concentration camps and their rather gruesome stories in the barracks were a fascinating insight into such a horrific piece of history. After such a day we certainly needed a few drinks so went out on a pub crawl with people from the hostel which for some reason only included two places.
The good thing about Krakow is that its small, compact and easy to walk around which I did for my swansong on my final morning taking in Kazimierz Jewish quarter and the Old Town which was nice but difficult given the -10 degrees celsius temperature.