After battling through the awkwardness of travelling alone, I have just returned from a depressing, yet interesting, trip to Krakow. Whilst not the capital of Poland, Krakow is probably the most popular with the tourists and boasts a medieval vibe, beautiful buildings, and easy access to Auschwitz – Birkenau for a sobering day out. I swept through Krakow at a whirlwind pace, managing to get an unfeasible amount of things done in four days, leaving me feeling totally satisfied, thoroughly educated and with a slightly sore knee.
And for all of you wondering if you should ever travel alone, go for it. As soon as you wise up and realise that nobody is looking at you, it’s possible to have a fantastic time, enjoying the freedom of going where you want and taking your time doing it.
Here are a few of the most interesting things that happened to me while in Krakow.
- Accidentally ordering the Biggest Dessert in the World
I tried to send this back, thinking they had got the wrong table. But in actual fact, the Polish idea of ‘A Brownie With Ice Cream’ was this titanic mountain of ice cream with a brownie hidden ‘somewhere in the bottom’ as the server reassured me. I was alarmed, but secretly very happy. It was a wonderful accident, but one that I couldn’t finish. (P.s. There are rumours that the dish will serve as the swimming pool for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020).
2. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and feeling thoroughly depressed
I don’t know how much I can say about this. The visit was upsetting, and filled me with a sense of pity and despair that, by the end of the day, was so strong that I was feeling very unsettled and wanted to get out of there. However, I was glad I visited, as I think it’s important for people to experience even a tiny portion of the horror that the victims felt, if only to deter people from engaging in prejudice or unkind behaviour towards each other.
3. Admiring the quirky street art and features
Krakow looks like an old European city from the outset, but it’s full of quirky little details if you look closely enough. Street art was frequent, and in Kazimierz (the Jewish area) there are many little Jewish details in railings etc, which are a nice touch.
4. Wandering through a spooky cemetery
This is the New Jewish Cemetery, an enormous, eerie graveyard. The Nazis destroyed many of the graves during the war, but it has been partially restored. Despite this there are still many areas where the graves are in piles or overgrown. Sad, but peaceful.
5. Drinking a kale smoothie and actually enjoying it
I somehow managed to find a vegan burger restaurant in a country whose menus are full of meat, meat and some more meat. I decided to be reckless and also order a kale smoothie, despite their reputation for looking and tasting a bit like pond scum. This one was surprisingly good.
6. Seeing so many churches that I developed Church Fatigue
There are a lot of churches in Krakow, and I visited a hefty portion of them because Poland is a staunchly Catholic country, and their churches are very ornate and awe-inspiring. Unfortunately I had very squeaky shoes, meaning I was wincing with every step; I can only apologise to the locals who were trying to pray.