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Cracovia. Pasado y presente.

Krakow is the most touristic and historic city in Poland. In fact, the historic centre was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site because even the city was destroyed by the German army during the World War II, since the reconstruction of the historic quarter -known as Stare Miaso – started in 1950, trying to reconstruct it as close as possible to what it was originally.

The hearth of the city is Rynek Glówny, one of the biggest squares in Europe, always cheerful because of the street musicians and the tourists. By night, the gas lamps still light this place, projecting shadows on the walls of the buildings surrounding the square, from 14th and 15th century, giving this location an atmosphere both gloomy and romantic.

Nowadays, Krakow is a great destination for tourists but still remains all its past in order to have a promising future.

The old Jewish ghetto

It was not located in the current Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, but a bit further, in the Podgórze district. From the original, only parts of the wall remain, some of the streets and a memorial square to the heroes of the ghetto (Plac Bohaterów Getta) with big metal chairs that represent their stolen belongings when they arrived to the ghetto.

Krakow’s ghetto was founded in 1941 and as the Nazi genocide intensified, it began to be overpopulated and people died of hunger or diseases or, even worst, they were killed in the streets.

Aguila pharmacy

Nevertheless, stores were allowed to remain operative. Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the owner of the pharmacy Aquila (Apteka pod Orlem), had a significant role for the Jewish. The pharmacy was a valuable meeting point to smuggle with food, medicines and other valuable objects.

Because of that, Tadeusz Pankiewicz received a honourable mention from the state of Israel. In 2004, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg managed the restoration of the pharmacy, which is now part of the city History Museum, showing the murder of Jewish in the ghetto and what an important role the pharmacy had. Polanski, who escaped from the ghetto when he was a child, dedicated his Oscar award for The Pianist to Pankiewicz.

Schindler factory

Another awarded movie made a factory near the ghetto very famous. The history of Oscar Schindler’s factory – which is now also a museum – appeared in the known movie by Steven Spielberg.

The exhibition at this factory, titled “Nazi occupation (1939-1945)” includes an exhibition, reconstructions, images, objects from that period and sounds that make the visit a vivid experience, experiencing what Polish experienced during the Nazi occupation.

Krakow Jewish neighbourhood

The Jewish neighbourhood Kazimierz, formed by one of the biggest Jewish communities in Europe before the World War II, is nowadays a charming and bohemian neighbourhood, with cheerful streets, odd stores and craft workshops, also with a great variety of restaurants serving Hebrew cuisine.

Here you can visit the Old Synagogue (the oldest in Poland), the Remuh Synagogue, next to the Jewish cemetery, or the spectacular Catholic churches of Saint Catherine or the c he Crypt at Skałka. As a curiosity, you should know that this is the place where Spielberg filmed his movie Schindler's List.


About 60 kilometres away of Krakow there is the sadly famous concentration camps Auschwitz I – first to be built - and Auschwitz II (or Birkenau), built after as an extermination camp.

You can get here easily by train or bus, leaving from the central station for trains and buses at Kraków Główny, it takes about one hour and a half to get there.

The shameful significance of this place is because it is the largest concentration camp built during the Nazi regime and the largest extermination in history, over one million people where killed here. Nowadays, it remains as a memorial to prevent this atrocities to happen again and to not forget the atrocities that took place here.

Cracovia by FotoCavallo Auschwitz by Gigatel Cyf Ltd. | Fábrica de Schindler by Noa Cafri | Barrio judio de Cracovia by Jakub Hałun

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.


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Wieliczka – Journey to the Bowels of the Earth

Have you ever wondered where such a common condiment as salt comes from? A visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine could be the perfect opportunity to learn how this coveted commodity is mined. You would also discover a stunning underground precinct. Located in the Kraków metropolitan area, some 15 kilometres from the city, the mine has been in continuous operation since the 13th century and up until our times. This is the second oldest salt mine in the world, after the Bochnia Mine, also in Poland. In 1978 it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – yet one more pretext to visit it.

But, what makes the Wieliczka Mine so special? To start with, you have to banish any preconceived ideas of darkness and claustrophobia usually associated with the word “mine”. After descending the long, initial access staircase leading down into the depths, comprising around 350 steps, you come face to face with a statue sculpted by Nicolaus Copernicus which greets visitors on the first level. But, this is not the only salt statue you will see on your visit – there is a wealth of these artefacts, carved by the miners themselves. Themes range from historical figures to work scenes in the mine and even religious subjects. To be sure, there’s even a salt relief reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. I bet you’re surprised!

But, that’s not all. The realm’s jewel in the crown is the Chapel of Saint Kinga, a huge cavity measuring 54 metres deep, by 17m wide and 11m high, all carved in the rock, ornamented with lanterns which – naturally – are also made of rock salt. It is the largest underground church in the world and is well worth visiting, even if just for its sheer size. The work attests to the miners’ devotion to Saint Kinga, who legend has it brought salt to Poland.

The tour ends at a depth of 135 metres, after taking you past some brine lakes, where a sound-and-light performance is laid on to a theme by Chopin. This may sound a bit kitsch, but it is quite something to hear it in a cavern of this kind! Ah! And, don’t worry – the ascent to the surface is made in a lift.

Experiences in the Underground

The Wieliczka mine has been perfectly adapted for sightseers and several options are open to visitors: the “tourist route” is the conventional option, but you can go beyond that if you’re eager to have a more intense experience, in which case you choose the “miner’s route”.This involves experiencing the tour like a miner and learning all the ins-and-outs of salt-mining processes. There is also a “pilgrim’s route” for the more religious-minded, which focuses on the spiritual parts of the mine, notably the Chapels of St Kinga and St John Paul II.

The mine has a healthy microclimate, featuring pollution-free areas where calm prevails. Moreover, the dry atmosphere generated by the salt, and the constant temperature, help to create the perfect environment for those suffering from respiratory ailments. The amenities also include a spa station offering a number of different treatments. And, for those of you who have time on your hand and avidly seek out strong emotions, the complex includes accommodation for the night, set at two levels – 125 metres down, and another at 135 metres. Do you dare?

Preparing Your Visit

Here are a few pointers to consider before visiting the mine:

- There is a bus service from Kraków every 20 minutes.
- You don’t need to book beforehand. All visits are guided, and guides are available in a large number of languages. Here are the timetables.
- The average duration of a guided tour is about three hours.
- The temperature inside the mine is from 14 to 16 degrees, so remember to bring a jacket or some warm clothing if you don’t want to get cold.
- There are a lot of steps to go down – around 800 in all – so make sure you put on comfortable footwear.
- Be careful! If you want to make your friends jealous of the great photos you take, bear in mind you need to pay an extra fee for photographing or filming in the mine.

Don’t pass up the chance to visit this spectacular complex – check out our flights here.

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by Taver, Jennifer Boyer, Alexander Baxevanis and Wieliczka Salt Mine(photos by R. Stachurski)

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Milk Bars and Other Magnets In Cracow

As in the rest of Poland, after World War II, Cracow took on a new lease of life, its past and present both palpable in a city well worth discovering. You should venture into the Old Town (Stare Miasto) and stop over in Rynek Główny, one of the largest squares in the world, descend into the underground museum underneath it to journey back to the Middle Ages, enjoy a beer and some good music in the lively Jewish quarter (Kazimierz), stroll along the banks of the Vistula, go up to Wawel Castle and wander through the city’s markets, streets, memories… And, of course, dive into the local cuisine. A warm, tasty, homemade cuisine, with Slavic, Jewish and Hungarian influences which you can try at affordable prices in dozens of restaurants. We made a thorough tour of the city and let ourselves be charmed by it. Here’s what we learned.

Pod Baranem and Pod Nosem – Enjoying Polish Cuisine

Located very near Wawel Castle is Pod Baranem, a cosy, intimate restaurant with very efficient and friendly service. They serve a good żurek, a soup made of fermented rye flour, with egg, potato and homemade sausage. It is potent and tasty, like many dishes with local DNA. Also worth trying is their cabbage stuffed with meat and mushroom sauce, as well as their good meat dishes. If you’re keen on crockery and table ornaments, you will leave the restaurant wishing you could take everything with you. A classic charmer.

In the restaurant of the boutique hotel at Kanonicza 22, Pod Nosem, they serve up Polish cuisine, but this time with a creative flourish of renewal. A young crew headed by their chef, Przemysław Bilski, perform to perfection in a quaint space and terrace with views of the castle. They have delicious pierogi (typical Polish dumplings with different fillings) and other dishes, including a highly refined cream of asparagus, various meat dishes and even tripe. Their wine list is good and it is difficult to choose from their broad array of cakes.

Eating Cheap in Cracow? Milk Bars and Lunchtime Menus

Cracow is not an expensive city but, if you’re looking for a place with good food at laughable prices, your best option is to head for a “milk bar”. Reminiscent of their Communist past, these milk bars (mleczny, in Polish) are no-frills self-service eateries, their menus chalked up on the walls – an average ticket would cost 5 euros per person. A recommendable venue in the centre is Pod Temida and, if you’d like to see where the concept eventually leads to, be sure to visit Milkbar Tomasza.

Apart from milk bars, another option for cheap meals are the lunchtime menus offered by many restaurants. Highly recommended venues include C.K. Dezerter – where, for just €4.5, they serve, for instance, a scrumptious soup with semolina, and fish with a salad of fermented cabbage, carrot and potato – and the Chimera garden, an incredible salad bar with menus of the day, a large number of veggie recipes, homemade cakes and juices.

Cafés, Bars and Pubs In the Ever-Lively Jewish Quarter

The area around Plac Nowy is packed with bars, restaurants and terrace cafés which are lively all day long. It is an eye-opener to venture inside and see their unusual decor, featuring souvenirs from bygone times. Mleczarnia, and the Mlekowoz terrace café just opposite, as well as Alchemia, with live music, and Wódka Cafe Bar, with dozens of Polish vodka varieties, are some of the most interesting spots in the area.

In Plac Nowy, it is also customary to eat at the food stalls serving zapiekanka (huge panini with loads of ingredients and sauces). If you prefer something less filling, we recommend you go to Szynk, a charming haven of homemade cuisine and good music. We had a delicious soup there – Cracow has so many soup dishes you could have a different variety each day of the year – and chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese. We loved it!

Text and photos by Silvia Artaza of Gastronomistas.com

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