Hey, it’s the (20M) study abroad student with another trip report, this time to Krakow. Sorry for such a late update, but I told myself that I’d finish my essay for one of my classes (for anyone curious, it was about my plan to tackle water pollution in the San Joaquin River) before writing any trip reports. Originally (when I had first conceptualized traveling around Europe), I’ll admit that I wasn’t really considering Poland. But quite a few people had recommended Krakow, and after learning more about the city, especially its significance to WWII history, I knew that I had to go. This trip report will probably be a bit shorter than usual, just because I covered less ground than I usually do for reasons I’ll explain below. And as always, mile counts added below for reference for the amount of ground covered!
Day 1: Krakow
Because of a slight planning mishap, I accidentally just missed my train to Wieliczka by a handful of minutes, which was a bit of an annoyance since trains ran every hour, but I was able to walk around town for a bit before heading there. I’ll admit that the salt mines are a bit different than what I had expected since I suppose I had too high of expectations since I had expected a fantasy-esque subterranean city and only got brief glimpses of that. Most of the salt mines consist of cute little displays of the mining process, with mannequins acting out the mining process set amongst wooden wheels, ropes, and other tools, as you wander through dimly lit but spacious tunnels supported by wooden logs and blocks of rock salt (if you shine a flashlight close up at the stone, you’ll see that it’s partially transparent). Funnily enough, because of the poor lighting conditions, I accidentally jumped tour groups and somehow ended up in the English tour in front of me, which was quite nice actually since I was getting a bit annoyed with my tour group, which had these very belligerent British guys and too many young children. I did eventually end up re-joining my original group after spending some extra time in the highlight of the mines: a large chamber hall, filled with religious iconography carved into the rock salt with a plain but pretty altar and large chandeliers with clear salt crystals dangling off it. There were other stunners, from a room with gorgeous turquoise brine water that complemented the warm orange glows of the mine lights to a series of descending staircases that zig-zagged down to an impressive mining display.
By the time that I had headed back, it was getting quite dark, much earlier than I had anticipated, especially since I had designed my itinerary for late summer, which is when I had originally planned visiting before changing it up. Luckily, Krakow is very beautiful at night. The central cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica, with interesting asymmetrical towers (one these swooping gothic spires and the other more domed), glowed a warm red-orange. Lots of smaller churches and monuments scattered about in the Old Town were also well lit up along with the Wawel Castle, though it remained dark enough for me to underestimate its sheer size until I visited it on Day 3. While some parts of the Old Town got a bit quiet, especially the pretty pathways running through the green space that used to be the old moat of Krakow, I never felt unsafe. After walking all around the Old Town, from the lively central plaza with its eclectic collection of statues and a pretty central market building with a hanging dagger at the entrance to the last remaining city walls of Krakow, with some cute towers and charming buildings connected to it, I ended my exploration a bit early since I had to wake up quite early tomorrow.