15 things in 5 days in Krakow

Krakow is definitely a must on your list of places to visit in Europe! What a charming city full of complicated, sad and recent history that captivates almost anyone. I spent 5 days running around this wonderful place with my mother, discovering different things, so here is a list of 15 things you have to do in 5 days in Krakow:

  1. Main Square – We were so lucky to be located right by the square, which is the central point of the entire city. From here you can pretty much go anywhere in the surrounding area so it is a good location to be close by, even just as reference point so you don’t get lost.
  2. Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral – There is so much more to do in this old town area other than just visit the castle and cathedral. With about 9 different tours available, we were only able to do 3 of these and I would highly recommend going there early so you have a choice of tours.
  3. Auschwitz – Such a horrible but fascinating and informative visit. I would advise you book this in advance, even before you land in Krakow. Most hotels will arrange if for you and it will take up the whole day. When you return in the evening make sure you do something fun as well so you don’t feel too sad and overwhelmed by it.
  4. Schindler’s Factory – If you are located near the city centre, I would advise you to get a taxi to the factory and then walk back. Through your walk I would also visit the last fragment of the Ghetto Wall and the walk will take you straight to the city. In terms of booking your ticket, if you go first thing in the morning you will get your ticket quite easily and you can do a combined ticket for other museums in the city and nearby too.
  5. The Jewish Ghetto – When you return from the factory you will go across the ghetto where you will still see ruins of buildings that were victims of the atrocities committed there during WWII.
  6. The Ghetto Wall – You should definitely stop by the last fragment of the Ghetto Wall. It gives you some perspective as to the impossibility of trying to escape the designated area they were given.
  7. The Gestapo Houses – Again another horrible but phenomenal experience. I found it deeply moving to see the cells and all the markings of things that people wrote in the walls. If you read my previous post about the cells (click here) you will be able to see one of the markings. Again really easy to find, it is just North East of the Ring Gardens.
  8. St Mary’s Basilica – Just beautiful and located in the main square, you can’t really go wrong! Just make sure you don’t visit during mass time, as you won’t be allowed to take any photos.
  9. Krakow Cloth Hall – An amazing building but also incredible place for souvenir shopping.
  10. Wieliczka Salt Mine – Again I would advise you to book your tickets for this early, as like Auschwitz it is the most popular place to visit. You can also get disabled tours and these usually run at 8 AM which is fine as the mines will be practically empty and it is great to get around. The tours are led in several languages.
  11. Old Synagogue – If you haven’t ever seen a Synagogue before this is the perfct one to visit. It is located just outside the Jewish Ghetto and you will see several of these around but start with this one for a traditional building.
  12. Saint Peter and Paul Church – It is on the way to the Wawel Castle from the Main Square and it is just a stunning building to go spend some time in or even see for a concert.

  13. Church of St Francis of Assisi – This building is located in the intersection between the Main Square and the road that leads you to the Saint Peter and Paul Church. Its brick exterior should not fool you, the interior is very beautiful. If you doubt my words, go visit.

  14. Planty Park – These are the ring gardens I keep talking about. The Planty Park surrounds the whole centre of town and you can pretty much get anywhere simply by walking it. It was a favourite place of mine in my five day visit, as we got lost looking for alternative routes, admiring the trees and nature and enjoying the fresh breeze and scent that wafted into the city from this huge park.
  15. High Synagogue – Again this one is located near the Jewish Ghetto, and it is in reconstruction at the moment, but it is a beautiful and very peaceful building to visit. You will be asked to keep your modesty, so girls with bear legs will be given a scarf to wrap around their waist.

So here you are: 15 things for you to do in 5 days in Krakow! I hope you book a visit there soon and enjoy it.

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Suicide Squad – film review

 

Everyone that knows me quite well, knows that Comic Book films are my thing. I watch them all, all the TV series and read as many of them as feasible without spending my entire paycheck on them. I am a little bit addicted. So as expected, after a very hyped campaign, I was very excited for the new DC installment of baddies turned good for a film, Suicide Squad. All my dreams were about the come true, DC was going to show off Marvel with a cast of villains that were going to be witty, smart, and ultimately WIN! It was going to revolutionise comic book cinema. It was going to be dark, gritty and epic. It was going to be all these things and it failed, miserably.

** Spoiler alert!** 

Here is where it all went wrong. Firstly, if you have seen the numerous trailers for the movie, Leto’s new portrayal of the iconic villain, the Joker, was pegged to be the most terrifying of all. With news of Leto’s method acting technique getting the best of him and almost driving him insane, audiences were expecting the Joker to play a much more prominent role. And why wouldn’t they? Not only are we looking at the re-introduction to a major DC character since the death of the late Ledger and his incredibly dark and involving interpretation of the Joker, but also he was featured in almost half of the trailer! He was so heavily shown that audiences were led to believe that he would be the villain of the film. How wrong we all were! In fact, all the hype around the character, the fact that Leto apparently drove himself to brink of insanity leaves me feeling incredibly disappointed, because hey ho, he wasn’t that great! Yes he cackled in a creepy way, but actually as far as intimidating goes, he was far from it. This film only introduced his obsession with his partner Harley Quinn, and she in fact was much more creepy than he was! I am so phenomenally devastated with Leto’s flat performance, considering as I said before, he went practically barking mad. Well, it didn’t work, maybe method acting is not his thing after all.

Cara Delevingne! Again with the confusing trailers! Let’s see, in the entirety of the trailer, which struggles to showcase all the characters as there are many to introduce, Delevingne is only seen once – ONCE! Which many audiences were grateful for as she is not an actress, but indeed a model, and really no one expected her to be the villain. As in she was actually the villain of the entire movie, with two plots to follow, two parts to play and yet, I still cannot quite believe she was truly elected for such a demanding role. Delevingne’s performance is by far the most awful in comic book history. What were they thinking? She is meant to be the major villain of the entire film and she simply cannot carry it. The issue is that this is even more evident by the fact that she wasn’t heavily featured in the trailers. Also, they put her side by side with Leto, who not only comes with a background of critically acclaimed performances, but embodied the much loved Joker who historically is worse of the worse of bad guys. Enchantress just would not have had the same weight nor influence in getting those audiences booking tickets. It was all an elaborate marketing ploy to get you through the door, when in fact we saw very little of Leto and too much Delevingne! Big mistake. Finally, who on earth is her brother? The big metal thing that seems to be killing off all of the main characters, who is that monstrosity? And why is he not listed on IMDB? AND WHAT IS HIS NAME?

Okay let’s move on from those two big disasters to talk about the biggest let down of all. I believe I could have loved the Joker in this and I could have even loved Enchantress, if the plot was not a total shambles and the cinematography of this movie was all over the place. Ayre, writer of two of my favourite films The Fast and the Furious and Training Day, left me bitterly infuriated with this movie. I cannot believe how disjointed the film felt, with visible plot holes and cuts. It is a real shame that everyone knows that something was clearly wrong with the original cut of the film as the intended May launch date was postponed to August so that they could record some more scenes. I am curious what the original cut was missing as this second one seems to be missing lots! Do you think there was a re-write? I almost believe there was, as it is clear that some of the original scenes from the first trailer went missing. I honestly do not know where it all went wrong but Ayre had everything, from a strong cast, to incredible story lines that he could have intertwined so beautifully to make the movie a comic book success! I felt the loosely put together plot, the 20 minute introduction to the characters that almost took away from the film, the lackluster and forced chemistry between June/Enchantress and Griggs, this unexplained brother and the lack of any information in general, disappointed DC fans or at least me thoroughly. You had it all and you still could not deliver.

I have to say that amongst the terrible choices made for this film from a written and directorial perspective, some saving graces did exist. I think Margot Robbie stole the show, with most of the witty comments and craziness being given to her. Her delivery if Harley Quinn was impeccable, with a good dose of madness, gumption and simply love for her Joker, Robbie delivered a balanced performance but mostly carried a film which was struggling bringing it to the forefront. Robbie’s Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot were the two characters that in a movie so filled with people and overshadowed by a huge star cast, delivered a full story and arc to their characters, actually developing them in the short amount of scenes and speech they were given. A movie that relies so heavily on CGI and fantastic combat scenes, and yet these two really demonstrated that they are able to take their character and still make it work even if they are not meant to be the focus of the story. Another pleasant surprise was Jai Courtney’s Boomerang. The Aussie villain was hilarious, his one liners perfectly timed in the midst of all the rubble and his commitment to the role and pink fluffy unicorn making for some of my favourite scenes of the film. These 3 I am really looking forward to seeing again in the DC sphere. I think Leto will be able to deliver a good performance if provided with a bigger chance of character development and a stronger script.

All in all, the entertainment values of the film for me did not outweigh the huge disappointment I felt when watching it and it saddens me that DC had everything to give audiences a brilliant movie and really did crawl themselves into the comic book moviesphere with this one. This film that could have delivered and stolen fans from Marvel over the DC, this film that had so much hype and publicity and, perhaps unintentionally, deceived its public. This film that was meant to be the saving grace of DC after the awful movie that was Batman vs Superman. It is a shame but it won’t stop me from watching the next DC installment and probably commenting once more on their epic failure OR on their actual, unlikely success.

3 rotten tomatoes out of 10 for this one.

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Both images featured in this post were found on Google and do not belong to me.

Walking in Krakow

For all you people who believe there is more to life than an underground/subway, you are right! There are so many places that can be discovered by foot and truly appreciated after you have lost yourself in a really quirky and romantic cobbled street to get there. The sights you miss when you simply rush from tourist spot to tourist spot in a subway is deeply saddening, so my mother and I decided to save the pennies and work our leg muscles, and walking Krakow was a treat!

With lots of people and companies harassing you to take their guided tourist train tour, to join their groups and do their thing, it is pleasant to step back from all of that and just do what you think is right. Discover the places you want, get to know a city in your terms and to find the hidden treasures only you will come across in your own path.

Walking the city centre

Krakow’s Main Square hosts a variety of interest. If you walk around the whole square, hidden behind the cafes and all those esplanades you will find some plaques identifying the houses, who they belonged to and their historical importance.

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At the very centre of the Main Square you will be able to see the Cloth Hall. It used to be a building where people would come to trade all sorts of goods, but now it is open every day and showcases the most stunning handicrafts from Poland for you to buy. Great for souvenir shopping.

You will also find in the city centre St Mary’s Basilica. This iconic building is the cover of most postcards of Krakow and though it may seem like a simple brick construction from the exterior, the inside tells a very different story.

You will get a chance to spot some horse and carriages which you can take a lovely tour of the city in. I personally did not take one, but found them all very charming and the horses very sweet. It is a miracle that they keep the city so clean and not smelling of manure with so many horses around.

Make sure you have one of your meals in the Main Square, with so many restaurants available you can enjoy some real treats.

Further afield

Still a short walk away, you can follow a road directly to the Wawel. Here you can enjoy the castle, the cathedral, the Dragon’s cave and so much more. No more than a 10 minute walk from the Main Square it is definitely worth a visit and has so much to offer.

On your way to Wawel, make sure you take a quick peak at the St Peter and Paul Church. Such a beautiful building and it is worth spending a few minutes being mesmerised by its interior. Simple, beautiful and yet haunting. I definitely recommend it.

The Ring Gardens! Surrounding the entire centre of town, a ring garden which is worth walking around to see the city from a different perspective, enjoy the greenery and fresh air as well.

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Krakow is a very easy city to see by foot, so unless you are venturing out to the concentration camps and the salt mine, save your money, save the environment and put your best walking trainers on! I think everyone should feel encouraged to enjoy their cities by walking and discovering some really lovely hidden gems.

 

I want it all! – Travel, Career & Love Life

I have to say in many ways I feel I have become the typical millennial. I seem to be in this weird generation where we all kill ourselves working more and more, we take part in extra activities and build freelance careers next to our full time jobs. My closest friends are all investing in houses, getting married and probably will start sprouting out the most adorable babies in the next few years. Where as I am here, sat in my office lunch time typing this and thinking to myself, selfishly perhaps, but I want it all!

I have always, as far as I can remember, been a busy bee. I can’t help myself and seem to be constantly working and thriving for better. I want to exercise, and write, learn languages, relax, do dance classes and drama society, I want it all! I have yet to crack the magic behind time management/sleeping enough to seem alive at work, without having to give up all of my interests. More so, I have yet to master the art of saving without spending, as at the moment everything I save is because it will be spent in my 3 month long trip. So what, I am only 24 and this will be the trip of a lifetime! And as much as I am keen on boarding a plane and abandoning Europe for 3 months of madness, adventures, Spanish speaking countries, gastronomical discoveries and sunshine, I am not willing to sacrifice my entire life for this.

I really do admire my adventurous friends, who decided to give up the security of a job for the nomad life that is paired with an array of mesmerising experiences that maybe I will never get to live. I also admire those who have been so hell bent in having a successful career that at my age can afford a mortgage and a diamond engagement ring for their partner. That is great! Both of these in my eyes are amazing achievements, but they are not the path I want to pave for myself, because having one without the other for me is downright depressing. So I am really here because I want it all and WILL have it all!

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First of all, having built a career in media, events and marketing for the last three years, I decided that before I move out from my parents’ house, where rent is cheap as chips and I have the love and support of my family, I would take the plunge and take a sabbatical for three months. I realise that this means that for three months of a year, a quarter of the year, I will receive no paycheques, and this is where I have had to quickly perfect the art of saving. However, this does mean that for 3 months I get to gallivant across South and Central America knowing that upon my return to the UK my job is securely waiting for me.

A lot of people have also asked me, ‘what if you don’t want to go back to that career?’ to which I answered, I will always want to go back to something because I am actually a self-assumed workaholic. However, here was the sudden change of plans. Having decided on my three month trip, booking most of it and being almost done with the payments, I also decided to change careers! I no longer will return to a job in media, events and marketing. No. I will return to a job in education, a job which I start in September and will be waiting for me upon my return. I was very lucky that my new role accepted the terms of my previous job regarding the trip, and feel that actually this is a really nice combination. Not only am I going to go off and discover the world, I will return to a job in the field in which I want to pursue a lifelong and stable career.

See, I want it all! Most people feel they cannot pair the two together, but with a bit of determination and downright gumption, anything can be achieved. I feel I had quite big cojones to decide to change career when I am about to leave the country, however I wouldn’t do it any other way. I am excited at the prospect of being able to indulge my adventurous side and then return to a life of incredible work, to such a worthy field as education and feel the daily rewards of seeing young adults reach and surpass their potentials.

I have not yet finished my rant about desires and balancing a lifetime of needs into one thing. I have clearly shown that I can make my working life workout alongside my life long dream of a trip. I have yet to truly testify whether my love life can survive too, but I am willing to give it a valiant shot. When my boyfriend went travelling for 2 and a half months, we did not break up. He went and I stayed and we continued faithful and very much in love. There were times when missing him felt like agony, however, I feel in the long run it has strengthened our relationship and if anything has made me believe that I can take the 3 month trip and we will be fine. Which we will, absolutely! If things are meant to be they will and I just have to believe. I have friends that have separated from their long term partners precisely to go travelling, but I won’t give him up for my 3 month journey of self-discovery. He continues to be very much a part of the person I am discovering and the life I am building for myself. So I truly want it all.

Like I have told you before, and continue to say, I truly believe you can make it all work for you. I postponed my travels for nearly 4 years in order to get to a point in my life where I felt confident enough to do it, and secure enough in my career too. I am proud of the choices I have made so far, and yes they may or may not work in the future, but at the moment they have been difficult choices that have brought me great success. In a roundabout way, people get to the places they want to and this is my long journey to get it to where I want to. I hope it all works out, but this post is only really to ease the minds of those who feel that to travel you have to sacrifice the other life you have built up. You don’t. You just have to re-arrange it a little bit to make it all fit, like a neat puzzle piece.

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Schindler’s Factory and Gestapo Cells

Krakow is such a fascinating place, it is filled with iconic buildings that are sadly coated in so much misery and painful history, but make for an incredible city to visit. The culture that oozes out of every building, as if words were not enough to tell stories, you relive everything as soon as you enter a building. Schindler’s Factory and the Gestapo Houses did just that, invite you in to overwhelm you with the reality of the happenings in these places.

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The names of all the people that Oskar Schindler saved.

First of all, let me commend Schindler’s Factory for its mesmerising use of installations to create a path through the factory and make the museum as immersive as possible. Second of all, it is THE Schindler Factory, the enamel factory that without intending to saved so many lives. I find Oskar Schindler’s story really interesting, because he was just a German business man who bought a factory to make some money, and due to his moral compass and disagreeing with everything that was happening, saved countless lives. He did not agree with the politics and simply did what he could to help, from offering better quality meals, opening his own ‘camp’ behind the factory for his workers to live in and dismissing his workers before the Gestapo found themselves in the factory to call those names for extermination. He was in every way a hero and the museum not only gives you a huge insight to his life, the work at the factory and everything that was done there for the Jews and the Polish, but also pays reference and contextualises the entire setting by rebuilding the Jewish ghetto inside amongst so many other things.

You will find video accounts, diary entries, quotes from survivors and quotes from people who have since passed, it is so incredibly immersive and it consumes you to be inside. It is chilling and in my opinion made me relive the entire history of Krakow and WWII almost more than the tour around Auschwitz. With Auschwitz you are almost alienated from the situation because you have a tour guide who is speaking to you at all times, you have to be in and out of a barrack within a certain amount of time, and yes, even though seeing it is awful and realising the conditions that people lived in is  truly horrific, at the factory you walk alone. You take it all in on your own, you watch the video and audio accounts and feel as if you are being spoken to, you walk the entire space feeling like you’ve basically been in a time lapse and relived Krakow during WWII. It is so well built and almost intimidating in how upfront it is about the horrors that took place in the beautiful city and its surroundings during the time. Schindler’s factory is one of my top picks for you to visit in terms of museums, truly one of my favourites and I have been to quite a few!

I also really recommend visiting the Gestapo Cells. It is in the total opposite side of the city, North West of the central gardens, and although it is small, very much like the factory it makes use of its space to share the histories with visitors in as much detail as possible. Ulica Pomorska, where the cells are situated, is very easy to find, although the cells are extremely inconspicuous. Hidden behind a building, you walk through a path which features a wall with photos of almost everyone who was imprisoned here. You start by visiting a small museum which includes a lot of first person accounts of what happened there, from quotes, videos, audio recordings and items that belonged to individuals. Once you are finished reading all the histories you are guided to a secluded part of the building, a cellar almost. The cells.

I only have the photo below of the cells, of a quote carved onto the walls by one of the prisoners translated into English. Very much like Auschwitz it was all too real, too palpable. The space was so small, the markings on the walls that shouted desperation, the blood stains and the awful things that happened here. Days without food, or water or electricity, people were left alone to drive themselves insane, then above are a set of pipes that sometimes released gases such as tear gas, choking gas, smoke… anything that would make the prisoners suffer even more than they already were was present. Prisoners of war, Jewish people and Polish were all subject to this ill treatment, sometimes even if they did nothing to provoke it.

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These are two sites I definitely recommend if you are at all interested in history or simply want to pay respect to those who lived and suffered through WWII in this area. It is touching, horrible, makes your skin crawl and feel sick with desperation for those who had to endure this, but these places are an ode to the incredible survivors that these people are. I have a lot of love for Poland and the pain it had to go through but it is a truly majestic place and beautiful country, and I cannot wait to explore more of it in the future. I hope you will take the time to explore it too.

Happy reading, writing and travelling.

Click here for more information or to book your tickets to the Oskar Schindler Factory.

Click here for a tripadvisor page on Ulica Pomorska – Gestapo Cells.

Some personal accounts at Schindler’s factory of what happened at that time: