The fortified lakeside village, 2700 years old, is a wonderful place to visit - it has been rebuilt authentically with ramparts, stockade, watchtower and a hundred homes. Found just before the Second World War broke out, there's now an annual Archaeology Festival in September and in May and June, too, lots of ancient crafts etc on display. But we enjoyed exploring it on our own at dawn - very atmospheric. One of Europe's very best sites.
Our legs ached and our heads were full of the fascinating sights and sounds of Poznan. We had seen the mechanical goats fighting with their horns in the old square and had visited the Museum of Music and had marvelled at one of Chopin's pianos but now we needed food and our eyes were drawn to the name of one of Poznan's most entertaining restaurants - 'The Dark Restaurant!'
We were led in complete darkness to our table not knowing what would be put in front of us. The tingle of anticipation remained with us as the eery outlines of the waitresses appeared and disappeared into the shadows. The fun of finding the food on our plates and then trying to guess what each of us was eating produced an evening of great mirth and hilarity. We tried to exchange drinks and sample one another's food but this proved challenging in total darkness.This was an unforgettable evening and a once in a life-time experience!
Poland's third biggest city is a sprawling open-air art gallery where huge murals fill the sides of buildings. Artur Rubinstein plays a grand piano, card players inspect their hands on a street corner and a dark figure fixes a street light; some of the many sculptures that are scattered around the city.
A more formal art gallery can be found at Manufaktura, a factory converted into a plush leisure complex; one of Europe's most impressive urban regeneration projects.
I can’t recommend the city of Krakow highly enough. One of the most enjoyable and informative ways to get acquainted with this beautiful city is take a four hour cycle tour with “the cool tour company”. Our group of four were lucky enough to have a guide to ourselves for the afternoon and he personalised the tour to suit our interests. Matheus was incredibly knowledgeable about his city, taking us round the old town, along the river Vistula, and into Kazimierz - the Jewish district. You don’t have to be fit to do the tour as you make frequent stops, and over lunch Matheus was able to answer any question we put him about the history of Krakow. We enjoyed cycling so much that on another day we hired bikes ourselves and cycled out of the city, along the river and through leafy suburbs to the Koscuiszki mound, a man-made memorial to an 18th century Polish patriot, which commands great views of the city. The company does other trips on foot and further afield which also come highly recommended.
We had an amazing time on this tour. From the moment the Trabant turned up to collect us at our hotel it turned heads. Fellow guests who were due to go on a tour of the city in a coach looked on enviously as we got in our quirky transport. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the tour gives an interesting insight into life under communism. The highlight by far was the car and all its quirks! Would highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Krakow.
ul.Krakusów 1a/31, 30-092 Kraków
+48 5000 91 200
I went to Krakow with my friend to hear her daughter sing in her Leeds choir in a number of wonderful churches in Krakow. We felt - reluctantly - that we should visit Auschwitz and Birkenau camps while we were there. I'm so glad we went. I came away feeling there isn't anyone on the planet who wouldn't benefit from having a closer look at the stark reality of such an event in living history. Sobering, moving and unforgettable.
These were a series of bunkers, tunnels and banks built in the early 1930s on what was then the German border, to resist a Russian invasion. The tunnels were up to 40 metres deep and wide enough to hold a double-track train line. In the event the Russians invaded so quickly that there was no time to fully man the defences, so they were soon overrun. Much of it was subsequently blown up, but enough remains to see the surface ruins free of charge, or to go on tours (in Polish and German only) with caving guides. The area is also a nature reserve, as the bunkers have attracted Europe’s largest bat colony: over 30,000 bats of 12 species.
If you're lucky enough to be in Zakopane during the early summer what could be better than a stroll in the Tatra under the beautiful blue skies.
I recommend an early start and heading straight to the Kuznice cable car (by foot or taxi) for the easiest way up 1987m Mt. Kasprowy Wierch to enjoy the views while saving your limbs! Then follow the blue route down through the flowering mountain meadows surrounding the Five Lakes Valley before heading on to Lake Morskie Oko where you can cool your weary feet in the emerald green waters.
From here you can descend down to Polana Palencia by foot and horse drawn cart before returning to Zakopane by bus. Don't underestimate it, it's a long strenuous day in the mountains but you'll certainly enjoy your well earned beer and golonka in the evening!
The Dunajec river forms some of the border between Slovakia and Poland. It's great fun to raft down the river in Poland, on the traditional punt-like rafts, but it's also possible to raft down the Slovak part from Pieniny and then cross the border on foot. The scenery is stunning and it's an unforgettable way to enter Poland for the first time.
A basic web search will recommend many rafting providers. We just went to the river and found a local rafting guide.
A superb destination for a good value family holiday Sopot has something for everyone. Nestling on the Baltic the 12 mile crescent beach has the softest golden sand, edged by a promenade and cycleway and a wide variety of characterful bars and restaurants. We adored the Pyramid bar in front of the Novotel Marina. We sat on beanbags on the beach wrapped in blankets with candles fluttering and the children paddling a few feet away in the half light. Architecturally Sopot is stunning, with its grand 19th century casino fountains and piers, mock pirate ships. More than anything however it is the atmosphere I would want to bottle - joyous but not rowdy, busy but clean, full of people of all ages having a good time.
Poland’s Hel Peninsula was once mistaken for the Caribbean in my holiday photos – and you can send postcards saying you’re on holiday in Hel – but it gets very crowded in high season, so the Pomeranian/Kashubian coast to the west offers a quieter alternative with the same fantastic beaches. Łeba is a highlight; you can hire bikes cheaply for a forest ride through the Słowiński National Park to an amazing moving sand dune. Ustka is a lively seaside town with a particularly good bakery (Piekarnia-Ciastkarnia Eugeniusz Brzóska, ul. Marynarki Polskiej 40, 76-270 Ustka) and an excellent café specialising in stuffed dumplings which never taste quite as good outside Poland (Stara Pierogarnia, ul. Darłowska 10A, 76-270 Ustka. Tel: 00 48 59 307 03 03 Email: email@example.com). We went there three days in a row. The skansen (open air museum) of Kashubian culture at Wdzydze Kiszewskie is also well worth a day trip (www.muzeum-wdzydze.gda.pl), as is the more famous one at Szymbark, which boasts the world’s longest table and a house which has been built upside down, as well as a range of traditional food options and its own brewery. (www.na-kaszuby.pl/Ciekawe_miejsca/Szymbark.html).
Piekarnia-Ciastkarnia Eugeniusz Brzóska, ul. Marynarki Polskiej 40, 76-270 Ustka
Stara Pierogarnia, ul. Darłowska 10A, 76-270 Ustka. Tel: 00 48 59 307 03 03 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Auschwitz - if you happen to be in Poland, this should be on your itinerary. You'll need a whole day and there are excellent tours operating from out of Krakow. My tip: take a tour but get there early before the crowds arrive to allow you some time for private reflection before thousands of tourists descend to pose (while smiling!) in front of the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign. The tour will take all day (there are two sites to visit - Auschwitz and Birkenau). To gain some minute impression of the unimaginable hardships endured go at the height of summer or deepest winter. End the day reflecting on the infinite courage humans are capable of (there are examples of this which shine out like beacons among the cruelty and horror) in one of the many excellent local restaurants in the old Jewish quarter in Krakow. You may never enjoy the taste of food, the warmth of an open fire or the feeling of how lucky we are to be alive more than now.
Surely the best way to enter a country! We rafted down the Dunajec river in Slovakia (which makes the border between Poland and Slovakia) before taking a brief stroll over the land border into Poland. In this day of high speed travel, it's a wonderful and unforgettable experience to walk slowly over a border. The rafting involves enough excitement to make it interesting and stunning scenery throughout.
Pieniny (Slovakia) is the place to start your raft journey but there are also plenty of companies offering rafting opportunities in Poland itself. A simple web search brings up more details.
Google map: bit.ly/YiEvMp
I first visited the Krakow Christmas Market when I was sixteen with my aunt. It was a lot bigger than I expected, taking up most of the Rynek. For presents, it's perfect! Everything is so unique and majority is handmade. Being outside in the freezing cold with the smells of delicious warm food, sweets and drinks made my Christmas shopping ten times more fun - and a lot cheaper! All the stress of finding the right things fell away thanks to the beauty of the city and the lack of highstreet shops was a breath of fresh air. It's really cheap to get a flight out at this time of year and there are some excellent hostels just off the square. I loved this trip and I am definitely looking to go back again one Christmas soon. I probably spent less on this holiday and all the gifts than I would buying presents in the UK. I can honestly say that the Krakow Christmas market was definitely the highlight of my winter.
Experience a real sand desert on the shores of the Baltic, with high peaks to scale and sloppes to roll down on the other side. These oceans of sand have been shifting for millenia, and also provide an oasis of peace and tranquility from the often-crowded seaside resorts in Poland. Now an UNESCO heritage site, it's an easy 5 mile cycle from Leba (take the slow train from Gdansk for even more of a feel of 'other-worldliness'.)
Imagine a luxury hotel on a white sandy beach with sparkling blue waters, combined with a fabulous spa with spacious treatment rooms overlooking the ocean and flooded with its reflected light. This isn't an island in the Caribbean, it's a stick-thin peninsula jutting out into the Baltic north of Gdynia. The Bryza is its best hotel and is no secret to the smarter Poles, its main customers together with some Germans and Austrians but very few English guests. Baltic waters are pleasantly and surprisingly warm in summer and the hotel boasts a beach club that looks positively tropical and, on the many hot days of July and August, feels just like it too. On the other side of the peninsula, literally a few minutes walk away, windsurfing and sailing are excellent and the whole family can cycle the trails through the woods that run its length. Fierce battles raged here at the very start and end of WWII but this has been a holiday resort area since between the wars. It has a strange, northern beauty but with (in summer) a balmy southern climate. Delightful.
Bierbza is one of the last remaining ancient woodlands and wetlands in Europe. It is home to European bison and elk, beavers and birds like aquatic warbler and great snipe. A great place for wildlife lovers, walkers, canoeists and horse riders. A lovely place to stay is Zagroda Kuwasy on the edge of Woznawies and alongside the forest. The evening `frog chorus', numerous bats and a wonderful view of the Milky Way was complemented by good food and a welcoming staff. The pancakes are particularly good!
A bus trip out of Zakopane followed by a yomp up to Morski Oto lakes snuggled among some of the highest peaks in the Tatra mountains.
Took the horse and trap down, which included a "pit stop" for the driver to find a butterfly net - activity from the horses - and lets just say it was good for the garden.
Missed the last bus so for a few zlotys joined a workmans van to the hotel to rejoin our week long vodka tasting.
Take the ordinary bus from Zakopane.
Google map: bit.ly/13VcsmH
Head for the heart of the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. At Plac Nowy you’ll find the original Rotunda market selling local produce but at the weekends the market expands with antiques and junk on Saturdays and second hand clothes on Sundays but you need to get there early – it starts at 5.30am.
Then follow the old city wall encircling the Old Town, now a 4km park segmented with tree lined avenues and Art Nouveau and Romantic architecture. Explore the cobbled streets and relax with the locals on the grass by the river at the base of Wawel Castle.
Look out for the dragon sculpture at the entrance to the cave beside the western slope and wait patiently for a few minutes to witness it breathing fire.
Google map: bit.ly/T8ggyZ
I stayed at the Hotel Hetman in October 2012, when I transited via Warsaw. I spent only one night there, but overall I was impressed by the level of service. Although the room was small, it was comfortable and very quiet. The buffet breakfast was amazing, with everything from Polish pastries to slices of Spanish omelette. The hotel has good connections to the city centre and is handy for Warsaw East railway station (Warszawa Wschodnia), where you can catch many intercity and international trains.
It was an interesting experience as I stayed in the Hotel Wilenski as it was then in November 1999, and even stayed in the same room. At that time it was a very basic hotel that appeared to have changed little since 1989. I would definitely stay at the Hotel Hetman the next time I'm in Warsaw.
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