Wednesday 5th October 2005
Landed approximately 1.30 and caught bus into Krakow. Got off at Philharmonic Hall and wheeled cases to Railway Station looking for the Bus Terminus - which had been demolished and relocated temporarily elsewhere. Could not find it! Advised by Information folk at Station to go to Matejki Square Place for 115 bus to our hotel - situated about 3 miles out of the city. After walking some distance and also enquiring where the square was at the information booth near the Barbican, discovered the bus was not routed there at all.
Returned to the Station and asked again - this time being directed to its furthest side via an underpass. Again could not find the bus despite asking at a ticket office. Finally decided to take a taxi and arrived at the hotel at about 6.00 p.m. That evening we ate at the hotel - good food and inexpensive.
Thursday 6th October
Having been directed to the bus travelling into the city, we duly found the stop and caught the 115 to the rear of the train station - so discovering where the stop was located.
We walked into the Market Square and went to the Cloth Hall where we had read, in the guide book, that tickets were sold for walking tours of the city. At 10.00 a.m. we left with our guide (Jacob) for a 2½ hour walk of the old town - taking in the square, various areas associated with John Paul II who studied in Krakow and was its Bishop, churches, the second oldest university in central Europe (the other being Prague), the Barbican and Wawel Castle. We (with a Canadian man, a couple from San Francisco, and a Native American lady from New York) were directed by Jacob to a Georgian Restaurant where the food was good, plentiful and cheap. He then collected us from there for our second tour where he lead us to the Jewish Quarter. We were also joined by a young German couple.
This tour took in various buildings associated with famous Jewish former inhabitants - the cinema attended by Roman Polanski and the house where Helena Rubenstein lived. We went also to the Jewish market place and to the synagogues not destroyed by the Nazis. We also visited a Jewish cemetery before returning to the Krakus Hotel by bus where we had a light meal at the restaurant (I had Borsch).
That evening we had little sleep (for the second night running) because of the antics of a group of German School children - aged about 14. In the end Adie rang Reception asking whether they could do something to quieten them and at about 1.00 a.m. they finally settled down.
Friday 7th October
Adie went first thing to enquire whether the German group were leaving and was told they were - but that four other groups would be arriving! However the hotel offered us a new room - in a suite far away from the lift that we had previously been next to (and at no extra cost!)
We caught the bus into the city and spent the morning visiting the State Rooms at the Wawel castle. We lunched at the same place as yesterday because we had enjoyed it and knew the price was cheap. In the afternoon we walked to a History Museum located, in part, in the cells used by the German Gestapo during the War
We then walked to the Market Place where we ordered apple pie and tiramisu at a pavement cafe - sitting in the sunshine for about an hour and enjoying our desserts with coffee.
We bought our supper from the local supermarket - a baguette and some apple juice to enjoy back at our suite - where we were also able to watch BBC World (the television in our previous room had not received any English speaking channels).
We went to bed early and had a wonderful undisturbed night!
Saturday 8th October
We left the hotel at 7.40 a.m. and went to catch our bus to seek to discover the illusive bus station (temporarily relocated somewhere - whilst the original was being demolished and rebuilt). This time we found it! We boarded a bus for the 2 hour journey to Oswiecim where Auschwitz is situated
Once there, we waited for the English language film to commence at 11.00 and got talking to an Australian girl called Rachel who is living in Bath but touring Eastern Europe by herself. We picked her brains not just about travelling here but also about visiting Australia.
After the film, we joined the English language group with a guide called Thomaz who took us round both Auschwitz and Birkenau. We left Oswiecim on the 3.30 p.m. bus arriving back in Krackow at around 5.00 p.m. We spoke with a young Canadian couple as well as with Rachel from Australia whilst we were waiting for the bus and then when we got off near the railway station, showed them how to get to the front of it - by now being "old hands" at getting ourselves around.
We said goodbye to our new friends and walked through the gardens near the station finding a restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet nearby. There we enjoyed a leisurely meal for a couple of hours before buying tomorrow's lunch from the adjacent supermarket. We then easily found our way to the bus stop and caught the bus which arrived virtually immediately - reaching the Krakus Hotel at around 8.00 p.m.
Sunday 9th October
We left Hotel Krakus at about 8.00 a.m. and walked with our wheeled flight bags to wait for the 115 to the station. As it was
Sunday we were unsure of exacly when the buses ran (the timetable had been removed from the bus stop) and we waited about twenty minutes - one arriving before we could get too worried!
We had over an hour to wait at Krakow Station - discovering that our train was to leave from a slightly different platform from what we had been told. We had elected to pay for 1st class seats on the train although we are unsure whether this was worthwhile. The journey took almost three hours and as well as our baguettes, bounties (!) and cartons of drink brought with us, we also bought some coffees from the trolley.
We decided to leave our cases in a left luggage locker at Warsaw Central. Then we purchased some 24 hr bus tickets and headed off to the Old Town. This is impressive although 90% has been rebuilt as authentically as possible and faithful to the mediaeval original bombed and burned down by the Germans during the war. We explored on foot and then sat in the main square in bright sunshine for a drink and a snack.
Following our break, we set off by bus and on foot for the Palace on the Water in the Lazienkowski Park. We caught several buses back to the Central Railway Station where we retrieved our luggage and then took a tram to our hotel - the Premiere Classe. This was in a complex with 2 others in the same group - sharing restaurant facilities. We ate at the Hotel Camomile where we met an Australian couple from Perth who gave us their contact details.