My name is Patrycja and I joined the team of SR Travel three years ago. I was lucky enough to turn my hobby into a career, as I love travelling and reporting about my experiences. I was born in Poland and like to spend my long weekends in my home country. Thanks to a very well-developed infrastructure it is ideal for a short trip.
My last holiday led me and my partner to the historical and cultural heart of Poland: to the royal town on the river Vistula. As the city was spared from destruction, you can see its vibrant history in numerous buildings from Gothic to Modern times.
The main market square in Krakow is one of the largest medieval markets in Europe. It was built in the 13th century and encloses cloth halls, the St. Mary’s Church and the town hall tower. On top of the hill at the southern edge of the old town, lies the imposing Wawel: the former residence of Polish kings and now their final resting place. Together with the Old Town of Krakow the ensemble is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Krakow and its surroundings have much more to offer, especially for nature lovers.
On a rainy day we visited the small but beautiful Ojcowski National Park. The trees, bizarre rocks and caves luckily protected us from all the wind and rain.
The National Park is about 20 kilometres from Krakow, but easily accessible by public transport. From the Malopolski bus station there is a bus every ten minutes that stops at various points along the park. There are also plenty of parking spots if you want to travel there by car. Admission to the National Park is free of charge.
Old legends and tales turn the hike into a real adventure. One of the legends says that when the Krakow Gate closes, the world will end. To prevent this, every hiker jams a stick into the wing of the gate to block it. I also did it, just for safety’s sake.
As the bat is the symbol of the Ojcowski National Park, I wanted to spot at least one and capture the moment with my camera. So, in order to get to the animals, we explored a bat cave. Due to the weather we were lucky enough to be the only hikers that day. We therefore had a private tour and our cave guide gave us all his attention and had the time to answer our questions in detail.
Our guide always had a joke in store, which made our tour especially fun. We learned that the farmers fertilized their fields with natural bat „fertilizer“ and that a Bollywood film was shot in this cave. The guided tour cost us 2.50 Euro per person and the tickets can be bought at the box office about 20 metres away from the Nietoperza cave.
As it turned out, May was already a little too late to observe the bats in the caves, as the animals leave their resting place after hibernation. However we were in luck, as we found one last sleepyhead that hadn’t woken up from hibernation yet. But to protect the animals, photography is not allowed in any of the caves…so I still owe you a photo. .
After an eventful day of hiking a distance of 25 kilometres, a refreshment was dearly needed. In Krakow there are a large number of good but also unusual restaurants that are worth a visit. We opted for a deliciously satisfying burger. In Poland it is not only topped with cheese and bacon, but also refined with traditional regional specialities: for example Krakauer sausage, Oscypek (smoked cheese) and pickled plums. A real treat for burger lovers! We especially loved the burgers at King Burger. You pay about 12 Euros for a menu including chips and a soft drink.
Unfortunately our second day in Krakow was also on the wet side, so we went on a search for a dry alternative. After a short look into the „Top Ten“ sights on TripAdvisor, we decided to take a trip to the salt mine in Wieliczka. You can easily reach it by bus or train from Krakow main station. For drivers there is a huge car park directly in front of the mine. The tickets were quite pricy, as we paid about 24 Euros per person for a guided tour in German. But as it turned out this was well worth the money.
Here we were beautifully protected from the rain, as we descended over 800 stairs 135 metres below the earth’s surface. If you’re now expecting small narrow corridors and cramped rooms you’re in for a surprised. An entire village was built below the earth’s surface in Wieliczka. The salt mine extends over several levels, but the tourist route is „only“ 4.5 kilometres long. It is absolutely extraordinary, especially when you consider the means by which these artistically decorated rooms and statues were built.
The hard work was partly supported by horses. But don’t worry, the guide assured us that the thoroughbreds were always greatly appreciated and treated very well by the miners. The healing effect of the salt also seemed to work on the animals, as they lived a long life in excellent health. As soon as a horse was no longer able to work, it was brought to the surface for retirement. The last animal left the mine in 2002 and carried on living for several years.
The work underground was very dangerous and the protective equipment very basic. Therefore there is at least one small chapel on every level so that the workers could ask God for protection. But one of them surpasses all expectations: The Chapel of Saint Kinga.
Its 101 metres underground, measures 31 x 15 metres and has a usable floor space of 465 square metres. Its magnificence and excellent acoustics make it the perfect place to hold a Holy Mass, a wedding ceremony or a concert. It offers space for up to 400 people and a unique setting for classical and sacred music. The chapel was erected by three miners who had no artistic training and yet the result is so phenomenal. We found it immensely impressive and especially loved the beautiful salt crystal chandeliers that gave the room a unique charm.
My Tip for a Coffee Break after Visiting the Mine: I highly recommend the small café Warzelnia Smakow on the opposite side of the road. The atmosphere is very inviting and the cake is especially delicious. We only paid three euros for a slice of warm apple cake and a cup of coffee.
Krakow is always worth a visit! Even if the weather doesn’t quite play along, there are plenty of exciting alternatives that allow you to discover real gems! I would be delighted if you could leave a comment below and tell me if you’re planning on discovering Krakow for yourself or if you’ve already been. I look forward to your messages.