Kraków, Poland

Day trip to Auschwitz

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Getting there: Bus tickets

Leave aside 1 day for the Auschwitz concentration camp because it takes about 1-1.5 hours to get there. It would be best to get your bus tickets beforehand at the bus station so that you would know well in advance what time to be at the bus station. I think buses depart every half an hour if I’m not wrong.

We didn’t and it was a mad rush catching the bus because the bus was going to leave soon, and you could only buy tickets on the bus itself with cash. So we were running around trying to find an ATM machine to withdraw cash and the bus actually left but luckily, the bus driver was kind enough to stop and let us board again. The bus ride is 14 zlotys one-way.

Make sure you have enough money for your bus ride back as well! And it’s better to buy 2 one-way tickets so that you have the flexibility of choosing when to leave.

Between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau), there is a free shuttle bus that runs every half an hour. There are some restaurants there, so you can have lunch after Auschwitz I before taking the bus to Auschwitz II!

Get a guided tour

We regretted not booking for the audio guides because we didn’t know that they changed their policy. Previously, you could rent the audio guides for 5 zlotys in English to go around but now, all audio guides are literally guided by a guide who speaks into the device and it transmits into the headsets.

We didn’t know better and went into Auschwitz without a guide, which I think defeats the purpose because we didn’t know what was going on most of the time. Luckily, we found guides who were speaking in English and stuck as close to the group as possible so that we could at least hear some description and explanation.

Guided tours are only available after 10am, and you have to book in advance online because slots get snapped up really fast!

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We didn’t spend a long time in Auschwitz though, because the weather was just way too terrible to be outside.

However, one of the descriptions read, “The Jews were stripped naked and forced to work in winter. Occasionally, they will be doused in water. Many of them froze to death”.

Being in Auschwitz on a cold, wintry day where the rain was pouring, it kind of put us in their shoes. If we were already miserable whilst being wrapped out in scarves and coats, can you imagine how they felt? Being out in the cold with no protection from the external elements and then being doused with water.

Some of the exhibits really tugged at your heartstrings as well, because it was really visual, like you see rooms full of shoes, and luggages, with people thinking that they will get it back when they arrive, but they never did, and most of them never survived either.

Birkenau is completely outdoors, where you can see the train tracks that brought the people to the gas chambers, and you can see the ruins and remnants left of the gas chambers where thousands of people were gassed to death.

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Definitely worth a visit to realize the gravity of war and its’ atrocities.

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Kraków, Poland

Kraków

Recommended days: 3 days

We were really unlucky in the sense that our time in Krakow coincided with the storm in Europe. So we were besieged by strong winds and heavy snow (yes, even snow, in April!) and didn’t really get to sightsee much.

I would recommend 3 days, not because there are a lot of things to do or see in Krakow but because the museums/attractions close at 4pm. Thus, even if you were to start in the morning, there wouldn’t be enough time to cover both the Old Town as well as the Jewish Quarter Kazimierz.

As we only had 2 days in Krakow (excluding Auschwitz), it was a bit of a bummer because by the time we got to the Jewish quarter, everything was closed and we just saw synagogues everywhere but didn’t know the meaning or the significance behind it. The cemetery closes at 4pm as well. The free Jewish walking tour would be good because there are barely any signposts so a guide is really needed to explain the sights.

The Old Town is really pretty, and in my opinion, has more to see as compared to Warsaw because there are not only churches, but castles as well as towers. I liked the food market just right outside of the Cloth Hall, where there were many shops selling traditional Polish food like dumplings, sausages, cena (cheese) as well as various knick knacks and souvenirs!

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Wawel Castle was really pretty as well (perhaps aided by the fact that there was brilliant weather for the 2 hours that we were there), and you’ll spend quite a long time there because there’s just so much to see! Inside the castle, there is the cathedral, which is pretty worth going to.

I stayed at Greg & Tom Hostel, which was good because it just opposite the shopping mall (where the train and bus station is located at). However, to get to Old Town, you would have to walk for about 10-15 minutes. But it was amazing because you get free breakfast and free dinner!! And the food was actually decent, and could fill you up. So I thought it was value for money, especially for poor, broke students like us. There was also free alcohol as well as pub-crawls everyday yay!

If you know me, you would know that I love serendipitous moments and on our way to Auschwitz, I actually met 2 of my friends on the very same bus! Like what are the odds of meeting someone you know on the bus? They were on exchange from Netherlands, and it was purely by coincidence that we happened to be at the same place, at the same time and it was really lovely catching up, and walking around Auschwitz together before heading for dinner.

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We had a really nice (read: cheap and good) dinner at Coco, near the Old Town and the Cloth Hall. It was SO much value for money – everyone should go there! They have a pretty extensive menu, pork, chicken, duck and beef where you can pick a side – potatoes/fries/rice. On top of that, you get a soup of the day and a salad!! And guess how much was it for?? Only 14 zlotys, at first we couldn’t believe our eyes, that’s like 4 euros, for a 3-course meal. The food was really good too! It would have to be my most satisfying meal in Poland 🙂

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** This picture does not do the food justice!

The rest of the food I ate in Krakow was pretty meh, and not really worth mentioning.

I have to say though; the shopping is soo cheap! Especially for beauty products, they were having such massive discounts; I had to double check. I bought Nuxe’s Huile Prodigeuse (50ml) for like $17 SGD? In Singapore, it’s definitely way more expensive. At the counter, I saw that Bioderma’s eye cream was going on sale for $5, I was like wtf, even if I’m too lazy to use eye cream most of the time, $5 eye cream?? No way I’m passing that up.

I also bought a pretty nude lipstick from Essence for about $4! Would have bought more if we had more time hehe #whereallmymoneygoesto

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Poland, Warsaw

Warsaw

Recommended days: 1

***Never ever visit Warsaw on a Tuesday! All the museums are closed 😦 We didn’t know till we got there, and it was really such a bummer because we only had half a day in Warsaw to spend, and that day had to be a Tuesday, damn.

Otherwise, we wanted to go to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is supposedly really interactive and interesting to visit!

Getting around:

If you’re flying in to Warsaw, you have to get an airport bus transfer, because the airport is about 45 minutes away from Centrum!

Book in advance online (Modlin Bus) just in case the bus is full and you don’t get a seat! Being stranded at the airport certainly isn’t fun at all. When we were boarding the bus, some people wanted to buy tickets from the driver itself, but the driver curtly brushed them off and told them it was full and that they had to wait for the next one. Worse is that the bus only comes once per hour, so it’s much safer to book ahead!

If in a large group, a taxi may be cheaper because then you can split the cost by 4 and then directly arrive at your place.

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It was a pity that we only had half a day to cover Warsaw; I would have liked 1 full day because there were certain landmarks we didn’t get to see. I would have wanted to visit the Marie Curie museum as well as Frederick Chopin’s museum! I didn’t know they were polish! I also really wanted to go up to the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture, you can’t miss it, and it’s probably the biggest and most iconic landmark in Warsaw. I would have loved strolling along Lazienki Park too! But the weather didn’t allow for it 😦

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I’m so proud of myself though; I walked more than 10km all over the city! But of course I had aching legs the next day. We walked along the different embassies, onto the main shopping street and then into Old Town.

Keep your eyes peeled out on the left as well as on the right, because there are so many pretty buildings around! However, after awhile it got a little bit boring for me because there were just soooo many churches, it was just church after church after church. Especially for me, because I wasn’t a Catholic, I couldn’t really grasp the significance or appreciate it.

Our airbnb host was really lovely as well, because she had this file that recommended us all the good places to eat, and what to do. It was about a 10-minute walk to Centrum so not too shabby!

Food to eat:

Bobby Burger: This was the lifesaver at night. Because we arrived really late, at like 12.30 due to a delayed flight, it was amazing that it was still open past midnight! It’s a franchise chain, so perfect for when hunger pangs strike. It’s about 14 PLN ($6 SGD) I think?

Charlotte cafe:

This was in our host’s recommended places to eat, and came in highly recommended by tripadvisor as well! It’s more of a breakfast place, selling breads and jams and croissants, and is a French bakery. I really liked the croissants; it was crispy yet soft, and you have to try the butter!! It has a vanilla-ish taste to it, and doesn’t taste like your typical butter. It opens at 7am so it’s really great if you have a long day ahead.

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Other recommendations my airbnb host gave but we had no time to try are:

Butchery and wine: Really good steak

Beirut: Music bar/Mediterranean food (sells seafood/hummus)

Nolita: Fine dining

Signature: Fine dining

Sofra: Mediterranean/Turkish

Miedzy nami: Hipster café

My friend also recommended me to try Cukiernia Pawlowicz, which supposedly sells the best donuts everrr but I didn’t have time to go find it! The reviews sounded absolutely amazing though, rose almond and chocolate filled donuts wowww. It’s like the Krispy Kreme of Poland, go try and tell me how it is!

Traditional Polish food that is really popular and can be found all around are:

  • Pierogi: dumplings (not sure if I went to a bad restaurant, but I didn’t really like it, it tastes kind of soggy)
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