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 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…
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…
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.
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!
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,
Personal belongings were taken upon arrival to a section of the camp referred to as “Canada”. Called “Canada” because people brought valuables (thinking they’d use at their relocation) and the Americas were viewed as prosperous. The Germans took anything of value, burned anything personal. These “Canada Warehouses” were subsequently destroyed by the Germans (along with gas and cremation facilities) to hide evidence of wrongdoing.
Correction, upon arrival they were allowed to keep one item…a belt…because they’d lose weight quickly.
I think guide said initially they’d photograph each inmate, but as cost of film and developing increased, they began using tattoos to save money. Also, as the death toll grew, tattoos were an easier way to identify the bodies.
Each prison uniform had a distinguishable patch so guards could quickly identify the category of prisoner. IE – political prisoners had a red triangle, criminals a green triangle, Jews a yellow star of David, Jehovah witnesses purple triangle, etc.
See bunk pic below, 5-6 people slept on each level.
While Warsaw is home to the oldest confectionery manufacturer in the world there are now many boutique chocolate shops to discover. On our adventure through the country we found a lot of high quality chocolate shops and couldn’t resist sampling a few of the more renown Polish makers. Karmell makes an amazing array of beautiful chocolates filled with every imaginable ganache, caramel, or fruit filling you want! The dark salted caramel chocolates are spectacular, creamy, rich centers with quality couveture
Praga is known for street art. Artistic renderings among dilapidated buildings are concentrated throughout the streets of Ul. Rowna, Stalowa, Strzelecka, and Srodkowa.