Sunday, 1 April 2018

11D8N Eastern Europe Tour with Chan Brothers Day 5 - Krakow, Poland

This is way overdue but, once again, better late than never.

2016's Christmas Eve in Krakow, Poland. We started the day at Auschwitz with our local guide Greg. Greg was definitely the best local guide we had on this trip. He was dedicated, responsible, and really passionate about sharing his knowledge about the Second World War. Some local guides just spoke the bare minimum and hustled us along, but not Greg. Greg was one of those who clearly enjoyed his job, even if it was Christmas Eve, and even if it meant braving the cold with a bunch of Asians in the empty streets of Krakow, when he could be enjoying Christmas Eve with his family. When we parted at the Main Square in Krakow in the late afternoon, Greg took the time to tell us the cafes which could be open in the area on Christmas Eve.

Auschwitz - I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz and really glad I have the opportunity to come by one year after its 70th anniversary. I remember reading about the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in the papers in 2015 and thinking that Auschwitz was a place that I should definitely visit.

A place which saw horrors and atrocities beyond what a human mind could imagine, a place that felt so cold and sad on that grey wintry morning, and a place that should never be forgotten.


Lunch with the tour group at Galicja Restauracja where we had golabki which is a traditional Polish cabbage roll with minced meat. I felt that it was the first nice meal on the trip that was part of the tour package!

After lunch we started our stroll with Greg around the old Jewish Quarter before heading to the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill.

Wawel Hill has a folklore about a fire-breathing dragon. The King had promised the hand of his daughter and his crown to the man who could defeat this dragon. Many knights tried their luck but none of them succeeded. One day, a shoemaker came and brought with him lambskin and sulphur. He constructed a lamb-looking bait stuffed with sulphur and fed it to the dragon. The dragon ate it and exploded. A statue of the dragon stands at the foot of Wawel Hill to commemorate this folklore.

Walking around the grounds of the Royal Castle.

Horse-drawn carriage along an empty street.

After strolling through the beautiful grounds of the Royal Castle, we walked to the Main Square where the St Mary Church was located.

Some stores of the Christmas market in the square were still open but the large shops around the square were all closed for the Christmas holidays. In fact, we soon found out that everything was closed because of the Christmas holidays. There was absolutely nothing open. Even Macs was closed. We had an hour of free time to explore the Main Square on our own but there was absolutely nothing to explore. We could not even find a place indoors to keep warm. Thankfully, Greg told us about this kebab place (Mr Kebab) which was a short walk from the Main Square so we tried our luck. It was open! Words cannot describe how happy I was to see the lights coming out of Mr Kebab because the prospect of wandering around aimlessly for an hour was making me feel very sad. Most of us ended up inside, drinking hot tea and munching on kebabs until it was time to meet at the Main Square.

St Mary's Church at the Main Square. I will always remember the church as the place where we huddled outside in the cold while Eva sang Christmas carols, waiting for others to return from wherever they were so that we could head back to the warmth of the coach bus.

And then, it started to snow! OMG. It was really going to be a white Christmas! I have never experienced a white Christmas, but it always sounded so magical. And it really was. There was something amazing about watching the snow flakes fall, knowing that it was Christmas eve and families in all those little windows dotting the streets were bending over dinner together, perhaps saying grace, and enjoying the warmth of family.  Snow flakes in my hair!

Returned to the hotel where we were free to go anywhere or do anything we wanted. But it was so cold and everything in the area was closed (we walked to the nearby Macs in the snow to try our luck but it was also closed) so we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Ordered baked salmon and mulled wine. Good hearty Christmas eve meal!

Check out my post on Day 1 ,  Day 2 , Day 3Day 4Day 6Day 7.

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