I managed to fly to Krakow for a week despite the storms and ongoing pandemic. Unlike the UK, Poland’s population stubbornly rejects the vaccines and as a result they are really lagging behind. Masks are still worn indoors, a lot of people are stuck in long quarantines (this has recently changed to 5 days for the jabbed), and the death toll is one of the worst in Europe. Self inflicted misery, no less. I had to show a vaccination proof and a negative test result on arrival and I thought, how ironic that they still requre it from anyone travelling from outside Schengen. UK and Ireland are, for all intents and purposes, pandemic free and much safer for visitors than Poland, where people don’t have free tests, never stopped visiting (and infecting) each other during the lockdowns and have a very careless attitude towards the whole Covid situation.
Enough about it. I wasn’t very excited about going there in late February, but, actually, it turned out a pretty decent trip, with weather changing four times in an hour (great for photography of course), lots of good light, some awesome sunsets and even a couple of glorious, sunny and warm-ish days. Not much happening in terms of culture, as many events got postponed until the autumn, but I still visited the Oscar Schindler Museum (booked tickets directly here), an exhibition in the National Museum dedicated to a Romantic painter Jacek Malczewski and, best of all, Rynek Underground – archaeological excavations right underneath the Market Square. There’s even a horse skeleton from the XIIIth century, plus lots of multimedia available in several languages. I watched all the short films, subtitled in English, about Krakow’s history and I have to admit I I had no idea that Krakow once belonged to the Hanseatic League, or that one of the first mentions of Krakow was apparently by King Alfred of Wessex, who referred to it as ‘Whisla land’, or the land by the Wisla river. It’s impressive how the local traders travelled far and wide, even reaching the British Isles. The exhibition was already rammed around 11:30 am, so I’d recommend going there as early as possible. The Oscar Schindler Factory also got quite busy with guided groups towards the afternoon. There’s not a lot of exhibits as such, but there’s still loads of information to take in, and again, I was quite unaware of many facts from the occupation times. It felt even more sad learning about it all when the war in Ukraine was just about to begin.
Podgorze and Kazimierz, once poor, dangerous and neglected parts of Krakow are now very trendy and retain that special atmosphere the touristy Market Square perhaps lacks. Lots of great spots to photograph: a neogothic church, a cyclist friendly bridge, the rainbow stairs and of course annoying pigeons everywhere 🙂 I was dying to try a famous zapiekanka from Plac Nowy stall and it was OK but didn’t wow me…Maybe I’m too spoilt by Camden street food!
One of the best kept secrets in Krakow is this modest little restaurant called Pod Temida…It looks like an old fashioned school canteen but in fact it serves good, honest, traditional food, that costs 3 times more elsewhere. If you don’t care much about fancy surroundings, go for it!
Krakow was awfully sad in Xmas 2020. Everything shut, nowhere to buy coffee even. It couldn’t be different now, and although there are still restrictions in place it is slowly but surely getting busier. More so than the photographs seem to show!
It was getting colder and darker around 5 pm, which meant I didn’t have wait too long for interesting evening light. The seasons are so messed up now than instead of minus temperatures we had extremely changeable weather typical for Easter. Much more fun though, blue skies are so boring aren’t they 😉
Poland, and especially Krakow is no longer a cheap destination, judging from things like a price of takeaway coffee, which seems have gone up 100% since winter 2020. Businesses are making up for the pandemic losses, and the rate of inflation is close to 10 %. I wouldn’t normally recommend going there in February but as the prices and visitor numbers inevitably go up, it might be the best time after all!
Last but not least, some pics from my old neighbourhood of Nowa Huta, where I stay during my trips. An otherwise mundane landscape transformed by incredible light: