The flight into Kraków was a big deal for me. As some of you may know, I'm a bit of an aviation nerd. A bit is an understatement. Show me a picture of a normal plane and I'll identify it in a second. Is that an A330 200 or 300? I'll know. For me, I'm the kind of person who will book a flight at a certain time because I know that it is a bigger aircraft. Narrow bodies ( those with one aisle) are certainly not my first choice, but I'll take them if I have to. This was different though. We flew to krakow on a bombardier dash 8, often nicknamed the crash eight, due to its tendency to crash. The Dash 8 is a prop jet, meaning a propellor plane but not quite like a cesna. Boarding the crash eight made even someone who flies as much as me and understands how everything works and how safe it is nervous. It's a very small aircraft, by my standards at least. But I must admit, after a relatively bumpy takeoff out of Berlin Tegel, it wasn't really so bad. Flying into Kraków was amazing. Every whether report I could find said that nowhere on my trip would I find snow. But the approach into Kraków immediately contradicted that, with the entire landscape as far as he eye can see covered in it. I was pretty impressed, and wishing I'd booked the window seat. Kraków's airport is tiny, basically just a big massive shed thing that's converted to look like a properly fitted out place. Think like Melbourne's T4 (where Tiger flies out of) but smaller. The plane just stops somewhere on the Tarmac and you hop out, and walk into the building. Passport control involves two lines. One, for EU citizens, completely devoid of any checks at all, and the other with one man checking passports, but these lines are more like little queues leading right outside. Any foreigner wanting to illegally immigrate could very easily just walk through the EU line with no questions asked. As soon as I stepped off the plane however I was slapped in the face by a full on sense of cold that I hadn't experienced in a long time. -5 it was, and you had to watch every step to ensure you didn't fall over. I swear my thigh muscles must have got the best workout ever, every step used every muscle you had in order to stay upright.
I took a cab into the city where I eventually found my flat, 3 Krakowksa (pronounced: Krakovska of course) and had a look around. The flat was actually really nice. It was slightly superficial, in that when scratching bellow the surface you realised some of it was a little unpolished, but for the most part it was pretty great. I'd probably give it a 7.75 out of ten. Not quite an eight but better than a 7.5 in my books. The location though was fantastic. The region I stayed in was about a five minute walk from the main old town, clearly defined by its city walls and massive castle. This spot, just outside was the old Jewish quarter that had existed forever. It was beautiful and packed full of great bars and restaurants, on top of the fact that inside a ten minute walk you could be in the main city square.
Kraków is without a shadow of a doubt the dark horse of Europe. It is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. But if I mentioned it to many people I know back home, a lot wouldn't even recognise the name. Warsaw would even be pushing it. But quite honestly, it's simply stunning. Especially in winter. The afternoon I got there one of their heavier snow falls came, which was amazing to experience as I walked into the town centre to find a late lunch. Not yet knowing how to work the Polish restaurant and bar scene, I took a very touristy approach and grabbed some food at the Hard Rock Cafe. I sat inside upstairs by the window watching the snow grow heavier and it was truly beautiful, as the entire landscape grew white and people rushed from building to building in their jackets. After my lunch I came outside and walked through some of the snow to keep exploring. Around the city walls, there's a park that circles the entire old town, which based on the architecture of other old cities was most likely what used to be some kind of mote. Luckily, it was covered in snow, from the trees to the grass to the walkways, which was really quite wonderful. I would thoroughly recommend this city for a winter destination in Europe.
Admittedly, I came to Kraków for one reason. To visit Auschwitz-Birkeneau. Mentioning this to someone from Poland however is not advised, and in hindsight I should have expected this. Imagine if your country was the victim of unspeakable genocide and someone told you they only visited it to see the place this all happened. My mistake, and I quickly learned and realised. But being honest, Poland wouldn't have peaked my interest otherwise. And I feel genuinely bad for that. Kraków is honestly one of the best European cities I've visited, and I am annoyed at myself for only getting to spend two nights there. The city is amazing. The old town is clearly defined. Circled by city walls (still clearly standing) and wonderful parks on the outside of these, it's a testament to Polish culture and livelihood. I'm going to write a separate post about Auschwitz, which it deserves. I spent the entirety of my last day here so I'll leave this one here. But I have to say again, make Kraków one of your destinations, especially if you're travelling Europe in winter (I'd say there are probably better summer locations).