The time has come to wrap up my travels from last summer so I can prepare for the summer ahead! Summer is my favorite time of year, so full of possibilities, sunshine, and opportunity. This summer promises to be no different, but details on that to come. First, let me tell you about how I jam packed my last day in Krakow.
After dropping my bag at the train station, getting coffee & a bagel, I walked across the river to the Jewish Ghetto & Deportation Monument. Krakow has a chilling monument dedicated to the many lives that were lost in this small section of town. Several empty sculpture chairs stand in the middle of a large square, haunting reminders of the deaths that happened in that very spot. After crossing through the square, I visited the Under the Eagle Pharmacy, which was run by a Roman Catholic during the Holocaust and was one of the only sources of medication and aid available to the thousands of ailing Jews confined within the ghetto walls. The owner of the pharmacy was later honored as a hero for many undercover acts which saved lives and helped Jews to escape the ghetto. The Pharmacy serves as a symbol of hope for humanity – amid a large city where most people turned away, there were some who risked their lives to save others.
Another example of a Krakow hero was Oskar Schindler. Many of you may be familiar with him after reading the book or seeing the movie “Schindler’s List.” Schindler employed close to 2,000 Jewish workers and kept them from being deported to the death camps. Towards the end of the Holocaust, Schindler slipped bribes to Nazi officials to keep his workers safe. His heroic efforts saved many lives during a terribly dark time in Krakow’s history. Visiting the multi-media museum brought Schindler’s story alive. Visiting this side of the river would have been worthwhile already, but I also got the opportunity to visit the brand new Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, which you must stop into if you happen to be in the area. The museum showcases a variety of thought provoking exhibits by talented contemporary artists. Definitely one of my favorite contemporary art museums I had the opportunity to visit last summer.
After visiting the museum, I walked back towards the Wawel Castle along the river, pausing to take some pictures of Krakow’s love lock bridge. If you have ever seen photos of the love lock bridge in Paris behind the Notre Dame, this is Krakow’s version. Locks as far as you can see span a pedestrian bridge over the river. Two different bridal parties were there getting pictures made. When I got back to the castle, I ventured down through the Dragon’s Den, the cave where supposedly a dangerous dragon lived in days of old.
I enjoyed the view over the river before heading to Smak Ukrainski, an authentic Ukrainian restaurant in the heart of Krakow, right around the corner from the castle. I had plenty of time before my night train departed, so I indulged in a full 3 course meal, which all in all cost me about $10 – visit Eastern Europe, folks 😉 I sat in the outdoor courtyard and listened to live music, drank beer and relaxed after a full day of sightseeing.
I began my meal with a delicious tasty soup, then had pork and cabbage, and finished up with a coffee and a berry & ice cream parfait. All I have got to say is why the heck are there no Ukrainian food restaurants in the U.S.? The food was incredible and not at all expensive – if you love good, tasty, and flavorful food, you must visit Smak Ukrainski while in Krakow. While I am making recommendations, let me also recommend where you can head after your meal for a night cap. After you take a stroll through the beautiful Rynek square, lit up and full of people and music at night, you can make your way to a small upscale bar called Wodka. I was about to board a night train and sleep in a small bunk, so I had to leave Krakow in style. Wodka offers hundreds of flavors of vodka, so I let the bartender choose a tasting flight for me based on my preference for light & fruity. Polish vodka is all top of the line and my tasting flight did not disappoint. I heard the trumpeter playing from the top of St. Mary’s Basilica as I made my way to the train station and bid farewell to a place that captured my heart in just a few short days. This is definitely a city worth a second visit.