It’s pretty hard to compete with a New Zealand Christmas….
New Zealand Christmas = Beach, sun, BBQ, cold beer and delicious berries.
London Christmas = Dark by 4pm, raining, amazing fairy light displays if you are willing to push through the tourists and over-priced Winter Wonderland.
I knew that I had to get out of this pessimistic rut. So in order to do so, I needed to experience some proper European Christmas markets. I jumped on Skyscanner, chucked in the dates and looked at the first flight that was both cheap and cold….hello Kraków
HANDY DANDY INFO
Polish Zloty (PLN)
Oh man did I struggle with basic polish phrases. For the life of me I couldn’t get my tongue around even saying hi.
Good day JAYN-DOH-BRY (Formal)
Hi CHES-TCH (Informal)
Thank you GIN-KOO-YEH
Thanks GIN-KEY (yep sounds like you are Velma from Scooby-Doo)
Explore Kraków on foot! (GoogleMaps won’t work out your public transport journey) We stayed in Kazimierz (Jewish District + lot’s of cafes) and it only took 30 mins to get to The Rynek.
S E E K K R A K O W
The Rynek which is the main square in Kraków, sets the scene for the markets. With multiple stalls selling traditional gifts, food and mulled wine, you are sure to have a smile. To add to the festivities there is shit loads of fairy lights and one big Christmas tree too.
Visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp might not be everyone’s cup of tea as it is a very somber and surreal experience.
We opted to do a self-guided tour but there is an option to pay for a guided tour on arrival. If you wish to do the same as us, you can get a bus from the bus station (Dworzec Autobusowy MDA) for around 14PLN each. You can purchase a return ticket from the bus driver on the way back for the same price. It is free entry into Auschwitz I and II but it is recommended to reserve free tickets due to the amount of interest in visiting.
The museum offers a free bus between Auschwitz I and II approx. every 15 mins. Once you arrive at Auschwitz II through the entrance, also known as the ‘gate of death’ you really take in the scale. I was left speechless.
The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow – Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
I arrived on the pretence that part of the factory would have been preserved from when it was owned by Oskar Schindler. Instead the museum focussed on Poland’s role in WWII which is fine because the artefacts and history spread throughout the museum were interesting. Overall the flow between rooms was confusing and the high volume of people made it hard to stop and read sections.
Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow
We happened to go on a Tuesday, only to find out that admission is free on Tuesdays. SCORE! I was impressed with the variety of art MOCAK had to offer, showcasing some brilliant Polish artists. I think I enjoyed it more than Oskar Schindler’s Factory.
E A T K R A K O W
I just wish that I had one Polish relative that could’ve taught me the ways of traditional Polish cooking. The Poles know what they are doing when it comes to cooking.
While we were staying at our airbnb, our host offered us some delicious Kapusniak soup. There are many variations of this soup but her one had pork, potato, sauerkraut and cumin seeds.
There are so many traditional dishes that you could try but here is select few…
Pierogi (Dumpling with either meat, cabbage and cheese or even fruit)
Red Borscht (Beetroot Soup)
Lazanki (Homemade pasta, cabbage and pork)
Piernik (Polish gingerbread cake)
Eataway is this brilliant concept where locals can invite you to their house to enjoy a home cooked meal. Our lovely host, Marianna cooked us a traditional Polish 4 course meal which included the following…
- śledzik (Raw herring fish with olive oil and onion)
- Mushroom soup
- Sauteed liver with apple, roast potatoes and peas.
- Chocolate Budyń (Warm chocolate custard, served with yoghurt and fresh fruit)
We paid 100PLN each for all this plus the experience of sitting down with Marianna and getting to know her.
Our Eataway host, Marianna recommended this place to us. With transparent walls like a glasshouse and the temperature being -5° outside, I was a little apprehensive. But oh was I wrong. Nestled amongst the locals we drank warm honey beer and mad dog shots (Vodka, tabasco and raspberry).
Vodka is a Polish tradition that I highly recommend you give a go. Here are a few tips that Marianna gave us…
- You must drink the Vodka neat – NO mixers just 25ml or 50ml of straight vodka.
- If the sight of any straight liquor makes you wrench, then go for infused vodka such as cherry or raspberry.
- Say na zdrowie (naz-dro-v-yeh) before drinking.
- Don’t sip! Drink all in one go.
- A Pole can easily drink 1/2 a bottle of straight vodka in one sitting, so don’t bother keeping up.
Situated in Kazimierz, this candle lit bar offers a great atmosphere, boasting room after room of people. The only downside is the tourist to local ratio was a bit high. The drunk group of Brits next door is exactly why locals get annoyed with stag-do’s etc. because they abuse the fact of cheap alcohol and become idiots.
In search of a good brunch cafe we stumbled across Kolanko 6. For 22PLN (£5) there was a buffet option which included all sorts of delicious things…meats, cheese, savoury tart and the list could go on.
If you want to try good Polish food for next to nothing, head to Gospoda Koko. It is busy with students but don’t let that put you off. As it is self-service, don’t make the mistake of asking for a table, just head downstairs and order at the till (they do have english menus if you ask nicely). You can get a plate of 10 delicious meat pierogi and a mug of mulled wine all for £3.
Top notch Polish cuisine without the price tag. We had traditional beetroot soup with dumplings, beef tartare and the biggest pork knuckle each all for £25, including beers. Our waitress was so sweet and the food was on point. The only disappointment was the atmosphere…there was none. Only two other groups dined here all night. It broke my heart when the waitress said they have been open for 3 years. Please support their restaurant!