I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2)

Photo of I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2) 1/5 by Sumedha Bharpilania
Photo of I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2) 2/5 by Sumedha Bharpilania
Kazimierz: Picture by migawkowo
Photo of I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2) 3/5 by Sumedha Bharpilania
Schindler's Factory by rudymareelphotography
Photo of I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2) 4/5 by Sumedha Bharpilania
Wieliczka: Picture by ipozdnyakov
Photo of I Found Love In A Hopeless Place : Krakow, Poland (Part 2) 5/5 by Sumedha Bharpilania
Wieliczka by pamlife

Legend has it that when a formidable dragon was defeated, the city of Krakow was born. It witnessed wars and religious conflicts, plagues and incursions and was even demolished by intruders. Yet it rose. It rose like a giant only to crawl back to decline. Its resilience, however, was exemplary because it revived itself all over again only to transform into the multidimensional charming city that it is today.

Krakow is magical and is thoroughly an artistic, academic and cultural centre. It has therefore rightly served as the European Capital of Culture and will deservedly also play host to the next World Youth Day. Every minute here is precious considering the impressive churches, remarkable museums and the largest and the most prosperous market square in Europe with lovely cafes, bars and restaurants. It comes as no surprise that the city’s Old Town is one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yet another intriguing aspect of Krakow is its former Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz which is a lot like a beautiful yet heart-wrenching piece of poetry. The remnants of the synagogue bring to mind some of the most soul-stirring images of the Second World War and how it was particularly brutal to the Jewish community. Krakow also happens to be an extremely popular gateway for day trips to the Wawel Hill, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. God really has been exceptionally kind towards this place.

Getting around Krakow is fairly easy if in case you love walking. For those who don’t, the city has an efficient network of trams and buses and tickets for the same can be bought at street kiosks. A single journey should cost you 2.50PLN. Buying a Krakow Card from your hotel for 50PLN is a wiser idea if in case you are staying for a week or more because it offers free entry into several museums and unlimited public transport. Krakow Glowny train station should be your go-to for international and domestic travel. Munch on as many pretzels as you can and make sure you carry a box of antiques and along with a dozen memories back home. This city will be etched in your heart. Forever and ever.

Picture credits:

Kazimierz by Paulina Orzechowska
You can follow her on Instagram: migawkowo

Schindler’s Factory by Rudy Mareel
You can follow him on Instagram: rudymareelphotography

Wieliczka Salt Mine by Ivan Pozdnyakov
You can follow him on Instagram: ipozdnyakov

Wieliczka Salt Mine by Pam
You can follow Pam on Instagram: pamlife

For more information, read Part 1 of this series here.

Kazimierz, an important historical district of Krakow, located south of the Old Town, was once independent and had a mixed population of Christians and Jews. It was founded by Kazimierz III Wielki in 1335 and saw massive development with the passage of time and some of its iconic synagogues, churches and museums can still be seen today. It also unfortunately witnessed its share of destruction in the form of plagues, floods and fires. During the outbreak of the Second World War, it transformed into a predominantly Jewish district with the quintessential atmosphere of one. While most members of the community were gruesomely murdered during the Holocaust, some 6000 survived and presently, the existence of kosher restaurants and klezmer music in the Jewish Quarter helps in bringing out the essence of its population despite the fact that Kazimierz is basically a run-down area. It must be mentioned that Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s Factory’, although shot mostly in the nearby Podgorze suburb, greatly prevented Kazimierz from turning into a forgotten district. Make sure you see the Galicia Jewish Museum, the Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Old and High Synagogues. Also hop over to Podgorze and visit the (in) famous factory. Kazimierz is a 2 kilometre walk from the Old Town Square. Trust your feet.
Located in the working class suburb of Podgorze where the Nazis took some 15,000 Jews to concentration camps during the Second World War, Schindler's Factory or Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera is now an elaborate museum and is a part of what used to be an enamel factory owned by a certain Oskar Schindler. You might know of him from the book ‘Schindler’s List’ by Thomas Keneally and its successful movie adaptation of the same name. The exhibits here recount the heart-wrenching story of the city, especially that of the Jewish community from 1939 to 1945. Photos, documents and audio-visuals help in illustrating what living in Krakow during WW2 was like. The most prominent of all the displays ranging from tram carriages to ghetto apartments is that of the fate of Oskar Schindler and his workforce. Irrespective of whether or not history interests you, a visit is imperative. The museum is located at 4 Lipowa Street and is around 3 kilometres from Krakow's Old Town. You can hop on to any tram from Starowislna and get down at Plac Bohaterow Getta. Walk along Kącik and turn left for the museum. Schindler’s Factory is open from 10am to 6pm from Tuesdays till Sundays and the ticket comes for 15PLN. On Mondays, the entry is free and it is open from 10am to 2pm.
A shining gem in the UNESCO World Heritage list, this eerie yet fascinating salt mine is located 14 kilometres from the city of Krakow and its rich deposits are well known for their preservative properties and their multiple health benefits. Everything here has been carved by hand by virtue of salt blocks and is of immense material and spiritual value in the country. The length of the many tunnels inside the mine amount to some 300 kilometres and there are as many as 22 chambers. Then there are salt chapels, statues, monuments and even underground lakes for that matter. Heck, even the chandeliers are made of pure salt. There’s also a reception room for private weddings. Yes! There’s the Eram Baracz Chamber with an elaborate salt lake, the Stanislaw Staszic Chamber with a panoramic lift and the beautiful Chapel of St. Kinga. There’s also the Krakow Saltworks Museum to be seen during the 2 hour tour during which you are expected to walk around 2 kilometres and be entirely covered in salt towards the end. Tickets for the mine come for 49PLN inclusive of everything and English language tours depart every 30 minutes between 8:30am to 6pm during July and August. During the rest of the year, there are six to eight daily English tours.It is advisable to buy your tickets online (and a lot in advance) from their official website: http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/ Minibuses to the salt mine originate from the Krakow Glowny train station between 6am till 8pm and a single ride costs around 3PLN. You could even take the suburban public bus but the ride is longer. You could however take this bus 304 on your way back to Krakow.