Saturday, 4 April 2015

My Krakow Adventure: Part Two

In the first half of my amazing break to Krakow, which if you haven't stumbled across yet is here, I spoke about my initial venture around the city itself and learning more about the harrowing history of the city that comes from its time during occupation in the second world war. The rest of our trip was more about exploring the beautiful city itself and taking in the relaxed vibe which the city is seeped in. It was also when I got to celebrate my year anniversary with my handsome boyfriend James which made it even more special. We took in the rest of the sights the city had to offer while also finding some hidden gems too. Krakow was such a wonderful city and the most perfect place for a city break. Take me back pretty please.

After returning from a heavy morning at Auschwitz we wanted to take a more relaxed afternoon in the city so we decided it would be the perfect time to explore Wawel Castle, the gothic castle in the centre of the city. The walk to the castle allowed us to take in some views of the city from new heights as we climbed towards the courtyard area, the view across the river in the sunshine was just perfect. We then viewed the  exhibits on Pope John Paul II, seeing his cardinal robes was especially awesome even though I'm not a very religious person it was is still pretty cool. We then went inside the cathedral which was just awe inspiring, like every other church in Krakow, I lit a little candle for my Father and then we flashed our tickets to a guard who ushered us through a small doorway. At first we thought we were going the wrong way then we realised we were climbing the bell tower. We ventured up these tiny but very steep wooden staircases and saw the giant bells, I literally felt like Quasimodo in Notre Dame. We reached the top and had the most amazing view of Krakow and the bell, which was literally ginormous, we couldn't even get it the frame for a photo because it was sooooooo huge.

Afterwards we did some shopping around the city, fair to say once I stumbled across Sephora I was in there for a while. James wasn't best pleased but Sephora is love, Sephora is life. We then found the city market place within the building in the centre of the square which was amazing. It was full of stalls with local polish goods like handcrafted amber eatings to handmade music boxes to traditional Polish outfits and moccasins. The place was alive with shoppers haggling down prices. We then grabbed some gelato, James went for the cookies and cream flavour while I had to get the raspberry and the tropical, mmm. My favourites. We then stumbled across a little sweet shop, I saw some delicious treats in the window and dragged James inside and I'm so glad I did. Inside at the back was an open kitchen where to girls were making all the sweets for inside the shop. They were making a hard candy like rock or a candy cane kind of texture, they'd pull the sugar and colour it until in the end they made these little sweets with a cherry sort of printed onto the centre of the rock however it wasn't even printed? When building the candy the girls had actually made the shape from sugars which they then covered and once rolled out it produced the cherry shape. We then got to taste test and bought enough of these sweets to last a life time. Literally best sweeties ever.

That evening we went to a restaurant called Padre, which was located underground just out of the main square. The restaurant was so romantic, it felt like we were in a little secret outdoor courtyard. We were the only people in our section of the restaurant though were were others in the adjacent stone rooms. Our waiter came and told us the history of the restaurant, how it was building underneath one of the old churches of Krakow and how the interior dated back over three hundred years. We started with the usual wine, beer and the most amazing homemade garlic herb butter and tapenade with bread while we tried to decided what to eat. James started with the brushetta primavera, followed by the tagliatelle with pepper, garlic, chicken and spinach in parmesean and gorgonzola sauce. I opted for the gamberi de Catalunya, a fried prawns with chorizo starter with crispy herbal croutons and wine-butter sauce, it was so delicious and I followed it up with the pear, spinach, chicken and walnut risotto in a gorgonzola sauce. After dinner I had a very boozy piña colada while James had a scotch or two, fair to say we were a little tipsy but it was only fair to wash desert down with something after all. We both went for the crème brûlée for dessert which came with a raspberry coulis and a spun sugar topping and it was just as delicious as it looked.

The next morning was mine and James one year anniversary, how times flies. We treated ourselves to a little lie in and then as I got ready for the day James popped out to grab us some breakfast since we missed the hotels one and also to try find us a padlock for the love-lock bridge. When he returned he surprised me with a beautiful selection of roses from the market and the most delicious rosemary and garlic handmade bread, he knows how to make me smile. Sadly no padlock to be found but who needs a padlock to symbolise a relationship after all. We had other perfect ways to remember this day.
Freshly baked bread all day, every day, mmmm

We took a nice leisurely stroll through the city, over the bride (rubbing salt in the wounds a bit there) and back into the old ghetto area. We wanted to visit The Eagle Pharmacy, a hands-on museum opposite the main deportation square of the ghetto. The stories here weren't the most cheery, as you'd expect considering the atrocities which happened just outside but the museum itself was amazing. After being bombed the pharmacy had been rebuilt as closely as possible so it looked like an old pharmacy. The shelves were stacked with bottle of medicines and liquids which you were encourage to pick up and smell. The lovely lady in the museum even grabbed us some lab coats for a great photo opt. Outside of the pharmacy was the square itself, where many Jews had been killed as well being shipped off to the extermination camps such as Auschwitz. Within the square now stands a memorial of iron chairs which stand at the edge of the square and at the tram stops. The chairs being used by the public while they wait for public transport represents how anyone can be a victim while also reflecting an absence in the 'ghetto'.

We then head back to the main square and due to it being such a lovely day we decided to grab a little  bite in one of the restaurants there. There was plenty out cafe/restaurants looking out onto the square many with blankets and heaters for if it got a little chilly. Being such a nice day we didn't want to pass up on having a nice lunch in the middle of everything so we tried out a restraint called Vintage. Just a little homemade pesto pasta dish with some ice-tea for a light lunch but the best part was the numerous street performers playing to us. There was everything from buskers to street dancers, it was like one of those dinner shows you get in Disney.

As the sun started to set on Krakow in the early evening we thought it would be the perfect time to go on a horse drawn carriage ride around the city. I'd been eyeing up the horses all week and I thought what more of a romantic way to see Krakow. I'd already decided which horses I wanted to go with, these two beautifully marked dalmatian like horses had to be the one we got. Luckily we managed to grab that carriage and go on a lovely ride around the city.

That evening we headed to Cyrano de Begerac, a Michelin rated restaurant set within a five-hundred year old wine cellar. We wandered down the many stairs and finally reached this amazing dinning room. Fortunately when they asked if we had booked, we hadn't, they were so lovely and still managed to find us a table. We were taken back up another staircase to a balcony level in the cellar which was filled candlelight and delicious smelling food. We shared a lovely bottle of Montes Cherub, a delicious rose with an oh so fitting name considering the romance factor that night. James started with the goats cheese salad with roasted sunflower seeds while I opted for the quail confit with chickpeas... oh wow, from here on in we knew this was going to be a really good meal. We sank through the bottle of wine as our mains arrived and oh my god, they were so good. James opted for the châteabriand with roasted pepper and a cognac sauce while I had the fillet of john dory with black rice and capers. I think we both died and went to heaven during that meal. We were so full of our delicious food we didn't even had room to dry dessert, which was a real shame considering how good everything else was, saying that I don't think we could ever eat again and be happier than we were with that meal. So with our stomaches full and our heads a little merry we went back to the hotel for a cuddle, perfect way to end an amazing day celebrating our relationship.

Our final full day in Poland meant our trip to the Wieliczka salt mine. We jumped on the bus and headed to the town of Wieliczka, about twenty minutes out of Krakow where we met our lovely tour guide and saw the outside of the mine knowing the real magic was deep below our feet. We climbed down the stairs, all 350 of them to reach the first floor and saw the salt landed walls. It looked like giant crystals growing all around you. As we ventured deeper into the mine we learned the history of the mine and how men and horses used to spend their lives deep underground digging for something that is now so readily available. While in the mine our guide asked if anyone wanted to lick the walls  to taste the salt, James did and his face was priceless so I licked my finger and gave the walls a rub ,but that was enough for me. We saw the amazing statues miners had carved as protectors of the mines and small churches where they could pray all made out of salt, tilted flooring too. But the real wow monument came when we entered the Chapel of St. Kinga, more commonly know as the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland. Four hundred and forty three meters underground stand the most amazing cathedral you'll ever see, completely carved of salt. Everything from the floor tiles, to the chandeliers, to the altar to the statues of Jesus, Pope John Paul II and a recreation of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. This place was so beautiful and just completely awe worthy. The cathedral was carved by three men, never at the same time and has been constantly worked on over the last seventy years to create this monumental cathedral. Our guide informed us how the cathedral is used constantly, not only for tourists but as a real church every Sunday for mass and for weddings too, how awesome is that? Then it was time to grab the elevator back to earth which literally scared the crap out of me. Imagine being locked in a dark small space, about the size of a public toilet cubical with five other people and hearing this lift that dates back to the 13th century, bouncing around off the rock walls as you climb back from five hundred feet below the ground. Fair to say I was a little scared.

Once arriving back in Krakow we did a little more shopping in the market grabbing presents for loved ones before deciding to grab a bite to eat in the sunshine again so we did this time at The Rouge Piano. Being a little later on it was slightly chillier but nothing the blankets couldn't fix. I warmed myself up with a nice warm mulled wine too as we watched the performance art out on the street. We grabbed some bruschetta as standard and both opted for some garlic loaded pasta dishes. I had a delicious garlic oil soaked prawn pasta with fresh berries on top while James had a roasted courgette and pasta dish with grilled chicken. We treated ourselves to a scrummy hot fudge cake and ice-cream to finish off. We watched the sun start to go down on our last day on Krakow as we sipped our hot mulled wine and looked out over the beautiful old town square.

As it was our final night we wanted to try find the bar we had been searching for all week long, Wodka. After a while on google maps and trip advisor we found it, literally the best hidden gem ever. The bar instead was tiny but it was packed full of cheery groups tasting all the delicious vodkas on offer. We asked for a tasting tray and let the barman surprise us. He soon appeared at our table with a selection of vodkas, with a range of different and usual flavours. We first had watermelon, passionfruit, pineapple, raspberry, pear and hazelnut which tasted just like Nutella. They had some bite, after all they were vodka but boy did they taste good. We then asked for a few more flavours, this time we got cucumber, honey, blackcurrant and plum. The plum vodka was literally the most amazing thing! This tiny bar had over a hundred different vodka flavours to try, all home infused to give the flavour, it was so much fun. I really want to steal this idea and open a vodka tasting bar back home because it was just so cool!

Clearly I'm a little bit, no a lot a bit in love with Krakow. I know I say this about every place I travel to but I have left a part of my heart there. When I went to Poland I didn't know really what to expect but the laid back relaxed atmosphere, gorgeous weather and stunning architecture made it a city I'll always want to return to. Filled with history and culture Krakow was the most perfect city break and I had the best time while there, hopefully James did too after all it was his Birthday present. Spending my year anniversary in such a special city made it even more memorable. Now please who's coming back with me because writing this blog has given me serious Krakow blues.

Have you ever been to Poland? Would you like to go? Where was the best city break you've been on?
Let me know in the comments below. 

1 comment

  1. The fact you couldn't find a padlock was/is a sign 😕


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