Krakow (Poland) by Backpack

13 – 15 August 2010

If I thought it was difficult finding my hostel when I arrived in Warsaw, that was nothing compared to the difficulty I had in finding the train platform to leave Warsaw. To this day I don’t know what went wrong, but I spent a crazy amount of time walking around in circles underground close to the metro system not able to find the national platforms. Trains in Poland don’t run with the steely efficiency of German trains, well this one didn’t; it was about 20 minutes behind schedule when I finally found the platform. The trains are a lot cheaper however, but I didn’t get a seat for the three hour journey to Krakow.

The central train station in Krakow is a five minute walk from central Old Town, I hadn’t booked a hostel but I found a centrally located one without too much difficulty. It was however a little grotty so I would recommend booking the better rated hostels in advance.

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Despite studying Finance at university I somehow managed to get ripped off by an exchange agent. How embarrassing. The places look legitimate and professional but the rates they offer are around 25% worse than a competitive exchange agent would offer. The best way of spotting a ‘rip off’ venue is by the large spread they have between the ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ prices. Unfortunately it is pretty hard to find a place which offers a competitive rate, so you are better off sticking to withdrawing money via card from banks in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The central area around the main square has a number of bars and cafes however they are all pretty similar and nothing really appealed to me as a solo traveler.

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The following morning I met Vahid, a fellow traveller with an interest in blogging and online business. We had a good chat about websites, business, life and the universe. His company makes videos for small to medium sized businesses among other things.

In the afternoon I went on a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp system, the largest of the Nazi camps. During Auschwitz-Birkenau’s horrific history it is estimated that 1.1 million people lost their lives in the camp; you can find my post on this harrowing place here.

The following day (Sunday 15 August) was rainy and rather miserable. I spent a lot of time on the internet in the hostel. But I did get out and find some highlights between showers. I booked my overnight train to Prague for that night, went in search of squash clubs and had an amazing sandwich.

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Later I went and ate some dumplings at the dumpling festival which had been going on over the couple of days I was in Krakow. While I was sitting down eating my delicious dumplings and contemplating the Auschwitz concentration camp horrors I’d been guided through yesterday I noticed an old lady in a wheel chair on my right; the tattoo on her left forearm froze me mid bite. A five digit code of numbers and letters, was she really a Nazi concentration camp survivor? She was very old, unresponsive and in need of the caregiver who was with her. If I estimated her age at 85 to 90 that would have made her 20 to 25 at the end of the war. I wanted to take a photo, to ask her a hundred questions; what was her history, did she live here or was she visiting? Of course I couldn’t take her photo or ask her a hundred questions, her past is her own but I sat in silence for a few moments after she had been pushed on; history has dealt out some real atrocities to people.

People have dealt out some real atrocities to people

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