Secrets of Poland – Exploring Warsaw and Krakow

After Warsaw, we then went on to visit Krakow in the south. There we went to the Historical center, the Christmas markets, Oscar Schindler’s enamel factory, and the Jewish districts that were once the infamous ghettos. We took a day trip to the Wielicksa salt mine and to Auschwitz Berkenau labor camps to learn about the WWII atrocities in person. The trip was truly unforgettable and made Poland one of our favorite countries to visit yet!

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is often overlooked by most tourists and that a real shame as the city is bursting with serious history, great mix of eclectic food, wonderful people, fine art and shopping opportunities. Krakow also has an amazing Christmas market and is home to one of the most beloved Popes of all time, John Paul the Second. Krakow is also a home to the y Schindler factory and nearby the famous salt mines of Wielicksa where they have some amazing underground cathedrals and meeting halls that literally carved entirely out of the salt!  We walked the Jewish quarter, Schindler’s factory, Christmas markets in the old town square, and the produce markets just outside of the old town on our visit to the city of dragons.  We also visited Auschwitz and Burkenau labor camps and the Wielicksa salt mines on a day trip…

Oscar Schindler’s Enamel Factory – Krakow

Schindler’s factory gives you an interesting perspective of the daily lives of the Jewish workers who were saved by working at the factory.  Schindler used his personality and business skills to obtain the factory and its laborers from the occupied city.  After witnessing the atrocities and the turning of the tide of the war efforts Schindler famously used the factory to employ as many workers as possible in efforts to save as many lives as he could.  He spent most of his ill gotten gains in bribes in a last minute attempt to save as many people as he could before fleeing to South America, where he would eventually die a bankrupt businessman.  The factory is interesting to tour and more a museum with a tour guide snaking…

Milk Bars – Poland

Hearkening back to its communist days under soviet rule milk bars continue to serve traditional dishes at incredible rates. These are indeed relics from a different era and here you can find the heart of Polish cuisine to find out why they haven’t disappeared.  Perogies, dumplings, cabbage dishes, pickled sides of everything imaginable.  They even serve some meat dishes and typical Polish meals. The milk bars were established by the government as subsidized restaurants for people to afford to get a meal out on occasion without breaking the bank.  They seem to be a communist version of social security of sorts.  That said, the prices are very low and much can be had for very little money.  It is worth getting a bunch of items and sharing with the table to experience the cuisine of the people and get a feel for how your gramma might have cooked it at home, as most of the establishments are run by no nonsense, older ladies who expect a quick order and prompt payment. They have no qualms about running out of items or rushing your order.  They are there to cook, not for the ambiance, and its kinda charming in its own way. 

Tomb of the Unknown Solider – Warsaw

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Warsaw, Poland is the only surviving piece of what used to be the Saxon Palace. Among many structures the Germans blew up, Saxon Palace was destroyed in retaliation of the Warsaw uprising in effort to COMPLETELY demolish the city. Another structure worth noting in this square is a monument commemorating the victims of the 2010 tragic plane crash in which a large portion of the Polish Government died, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and more than 90 others. They were on their way to a memorial service to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre at Katyn Forest (that’s a whole other story) when the plane crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk.

Christmas Markets – Krakow, Poland

Krakow has one of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. This is in part because they happen to have the largest mid-eval main square in Europe, and because its popular with tourists. They remain open for months instead of just the typical weeks leading up to the holiday. And Krakow doesn’t skimp on the decorations either!

Perogies

In a mixing bowl add the flour and salt and mix to combine
Pour the hot liquid into the flour and mix together with a fork taking care adding the egg once the mixture is cool enough not to scramble. Bring together and cover with a towel to keep dough moist while you prepare the fillings. The dough will be needed after resting.
Fillings
Potato cheese

2 russet potatoes

1 small onion minced

1 T butter

1/3 lb cheddar, american, or cheese of choice

3 pinches Peppery Karlozy spice mix

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the russets in a pot and caramelize the onion in the butter until golden brown. Set aside to cool
Cut the cheese into small cubes and add to a mixing bowl.
Pierce the potatoes to test doneness and once fully cooked

Wielicksa Salt Mine, Poland

They quickly found salt at Wielicksa and began extracting it to use and export abroad. This sale of salt eventually consisted of 1/3 of the total revenue made in Poland at the time and became a key part of the country’s stability over the next 3 hundred years continuing operations through 2007. Today the mine is a tourist stop filled with stunning carvings of salt made into the most beautiful and inspiring sculptures,

Tchorek Plaques – Warsaw

Named for the sculptor who designed them, Karol Tchorek, they memorialize places of mass executions during German occupation. More than 200 are scattered throughout

Unstoppable Spirit of Polish Resistance – Warsaw Uprising

In an effort to take back their city after 5 years of German occupation, struggling Poles rebelled in what is known as the Warsaw Uprising. Barely armed (it is said 1 in every 10 Poles had a rifle) and with the Germans brutality (going door to door, shooting every inhabitant including elderly, sick, women, and children), it was a losing battle from the start. Remnants can be seen throughout the city, especially in the concrete.