A trip down memory lane and beyond - Krakow

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

26th February 2021

By Elle Summers

This last year or so has been a travel free zone and we're really missing the feeling of that warm air when you get off a plane or the first ice cream of a trip in the sunshine more than ever. So we bring you our travel series, 'A trip down memory lane and beyond'! Here we reminisce about our favourite holiday spots until we can go travelling for real! Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Suffering with the feeling of being stuck in one place as the pandemic rolls on, with little hope of going abroad this year has got us reflecting on our previous travels and all the great stories that come with those memories. Whilst we may have to hunker down for the time being, it’s memories of my old travelling experiences that are keeping me going and making me excited for all the adventures that are to come once it is safe out there in the world. As I become nostalgic for past experiences, let me take you with me on a trip down memory lane to hopefully spark your interest and get you excited for things to come.

In the summer of 2018, I had just got through the most harrowing experience of my life – A Levels! With prom been and gone, but the care-free feeling propelling us on, some friends from sixth form and I decided to head to the airport for a short trip over to Kraków, Poland. Going with a group with mixed interests led to a packed 5 days of fun, sightseeing, and of course plenty of drinking! From waterparks to salt mines to historical sights, we really did have a varied experience of what Kraków as a city has to offer.

Having used the first day to explore the area, try some of the local cuisine and work out how the trams worked, we soon settled into our busy itinerary. Luckily, the weather was on our side, and so armed with sun cream, we explored some of the classic sightseeing locations including Wawel, Kraków's Royal Castle Complex, which you can walk round the stunning grounds for free! Staying not far from the Rynek Główny, we were able to spend our time wandering around the old market buildings, eating at the restaurants, and scouting out the local pubs. Being British tourists is was vital that we could find somewhere in order to watch the World Cup! On our first night, we found a lovely little bar equipped with a pool table and an attractive bar tender! However, ordering the Kamikaze shots was a big mistake for the barman set them on fire, and for the life of us we couldn’t blow it out! Balancing in the courtyard, will all of us standing round this tray at once, the flames finally dissipated – leaving a sea of broken glass and drink everywhere!

Loving a bit of organisation, we’d planned ahead and purchased Kraków cards, which provide easy museum and travel passes, allowing us to travel on the tram wherever we needed to go and take in a few extra sights when we had a spare moment. One piece of advice, you have to go and pick these cards up, so make sure you know where you’re going! Or like us, you may end up having to stop for a cheeky McDonald’s en route – how very authentic!

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

Whilst here, we had the opportunity to have a guided tour of Auschwitz. Having bought a ticket that gave us transport both ways and a guided tour, we were all set. The history and the location speak for itself and having friends with family history connected to these camps, the whole experience was very sobering. Top tips from our experience - make sure you know where your tour is meeting. This was not clear to us and so we missed the departure. After initially having to negotiate as we were told we would have to re-pay for a tour, we were sorted out and our lovely tour guide Bertha took us round. With headphones synced up to her mic it was easy to walk at our own pace within the group and still hear everything she had to say. My strongest memory is walking into the chamber at Auschwitz 1, and although not even a third of the room was full, feeling a real sense of claustrophobia and the need to get out. The whole experience was really moving and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go and pay my respects.

On day four we headed to the Wieliczka Salt Mine for a guided tour that encompasses 800 steps unground all told taking you down 462 feet. For the claustrophobic of you, have no fear, for once you’re down there, the space is enormous! It is not a strenuous walk down, but for those of you clumsy like me, watch your footing or you will end up falling into the poor tourist in front of you! The tour allows you to experience one of the world’s oldest salt-mines, navigate through a maze of underground chambers and enjoy the structures made entirely from salt. To continue our historic theme to this part of our holiday, we also visited Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, which is now home to an exhibition entitled Kraków under Nazi occupation 1939-1945. Said to be one of the most important exhibitions to visit in Kraków, the museum added to our overall understanding of the varied history of the city we were staying in.

We finished our trip with a 6:30am train out of Kraków to Warsaw from where we’d fly home. Here, we had the opportunity to go up to the top of the Palace of Culture and Science to get a wonderful view of the city below! After taking the chance to stock up on food, we took the shuttlebus to the airport to head home.

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

Thank you for accompanying me on my trip down memory lane, I hope I have inspired the travelling spark within you to think of where your first post-pandemic trip might be! Let us know in the comments below if you have been to any of the locations mentioned in this article and have any experiences to share.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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