Krakow. In the Footsteps of the Jewish People

with 11 Comments

We spent the 3rd day of our InterRail month through Europe in Krakow.

Quirky statue in Krakow’s Main Square
Much like Poznan, Krakow is a surprising city. First thing we did was visit the Wawel Castle. As it was Monday, only the gorgeous Wawel Cathedral was open. Too bad they have a ‘no photos’ policy I will never understand. The cathedral is heavily decorated in a mixture of styles. It’s like every generation put their 2 cents in here.

Wawel Castle
As we wandered through the castles premises, we found this guy in the middle of a group of people, advertising ‘free Krakow walking tours’ and inviting everyone to join, which we did, for like the last 5 minutes of the Royal Krakow tour. He advised us to take the Jewish tour in the afternoon with one of his colleagues. And since we were eager to join one of the Krakow tours anyways, in order to learn more about this fascinating city in situ, we didn’t hesitate to do so.

Meet Alice, the sweetest guide ever
The free Krakow walking tours has an amazing idea behind it. You can join and leave the group whenever you want, and if you stay all the way till the end of the tour, you can tip the guide as much or as little as you want, if you feel like it.

So at 3pm we joined Alice’s group in the Main Square, right in front of the St Mary’s Church. Alice is a native Polish girl who speaks perfect English. She’s the kind of person I would like to have as a friend. She is fun. She is energetic. She is soooo nice. And she was the coolest guide we’ve ever had. OK, I have to say that we met two more of her colleagues and they were really cool people too, so it’s not only that Alice has a great personality, they all are nice people, therefore I think we would have been in good hands with any of them.

Quirky cafe in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. All tables have a sewing machine on them that you can actually use
Alice took us on a tour of the Jewish Quarter, with it’s sinagogues, quirky cafes, one decadent market and one huge satirical graffiti. She recommended us traditional Polish food, talked about the local drinking customs and she even showed us the house where Helena Rubenstin was born.

Market in the Jewish Quarter
Graffiti criticizing the masses who blindly listen to whatever the Church has to say

We also passed by movie sets used in Shindler’s List.

One amazingly looking restaurant in Krakow. It was a movie set in ‘Schindler’s List’

More often than not, a bridge is more than just a simple bridge. The new pedestrian bridge opened only a couple of years ago over Vistula River also opened new horizons on both its sides. The love lock culture so in vogue all over Europe these days, can also be found in Krakow. Alice got engaged on this bridge. This and other personal details made her a delightful guide.

However by now the storm was upon us. On the other side of the river, there was a saddder story to be told. We visited the getto where the Jews were kept during the WWII. I know we wouldn’t have looked for this horrifing place on our own. But we are glad we took this walking tour and found out so much about the history of this city. It gave us a different perspective over Krakow, one we wouldn’t have gotten from just walking around the Main Square on ourselves.

Now the getto is a memorial site and all that’s left to remind us of the terrifieng faith thousands of people had here seven decated ago are some empty chairs.

The tour ended at Schindler’s factory. Not much of a site to see, but a powerful story to tell for sure.

The free walking tour lasted 3 hours. And we were very happy we took it. We hope we’ll manage to go on the free walking tours they organize in Wroclaw and Warsaw too.
And when everything was said and done, Alice showed us ‘back to civilization’.

Water for the horses
We return to the Main Square to admire more of its UNESCO Heritage Sites…

Sukiennice, part of Krakow’s UNESCO Heritage List
… and the beautiful horse pulled carriages.

You can also see our month long Interrail itinerary and read our tips for traveling Europe with an Interrail pass. Have you used an Interrail pass before or are you planning an Interrail trip in the near future? Please leave us your feedback. It means the world to us.

Though we used the Interrail Global Pass for our journey, it’s worth noting that single country passes are also available.

11 Responses

  1. Kerri
    | Reply

    I visited Krakow in 2009 randomly with friends and also really loved the city. We didn't do the walking tour but instead decided to explore on our own and whilst we did see more than just the Market Square, it would have been great to learn more about the history of the city. Lovely photos and a great post as always Laura!

  2. Jade -
    | Reply

    What an awesome concept!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      It is a great idea. I think it is a win-win situation.

  3. Emily in Chile
    | Reply

    This tour sounds awesome – I love getting this kind of look at a city.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      It was AWESOME! We learned so much about Krakow and it's past in only 3 hours!

  4. Steve
    | Reply

    Absolutely LOVE the shot of the green statue guy…

    • Laura
      | Reply

      :)) It's a beautiful statue, isn't it?

  5. Andrea
    | Reply

    We only went into the Jewish quarter at night to eat but I wish we'd had the chance to check it out in the daytime. Lovely photos!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thanks, Andrea! The Jewish Quarter is a really interesting place. We, on the other hand didn't get the chance to go back and grab a bite 🙂

  6. Wow, beautiful pictures and a very nice story. I have been to Krakow on a business trip and we were able to take a walk on and around the main square. I can see from your great set of pictures that you were really shown some special places. That free tour guide idea is very nice. Next time I do have to try to spend a bit more time!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Krakow is beautiful, it just needs a little time to explore. I believe the city is much more than just the Market Square.

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