I can only apologise for having been silent on this blog for nearly a year! To make up for it, I bring you my Poland Photo Diary from this summer! Naturally, I’ve been on the road once again. So far this summer, I’ve visited Valencia to see a friend nearing the end of her Year Abroad, and gone to Italy for a week to visit Florence and Venice with my boyfriend, but right now, I’m keeping to my roots in more ways than one, backpacking solo in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
It’s lovely to be back in a region where I feel so at home, whilst simultaneously being strange to visit family in the Czech Republic without my mother accompanying me. Despite branching out to travelling with friends and my partner, this is still primarily a blog for solo travel, so I’m going to get cracking and tell you all about my month in Central Europe. Well, show you – in this Poland Photo Diary!
Poland was the first leg of this month’s trip, and as always, I saw some amazing stuff, and wish I’d had time to see more! I visited three cities; the contradictory capital, Warsaw, underrated Wroclaw and returned to my all-time favourite, Krakow! Although I’ll hopefully do some more detailed posts on these cities, I wanted to share some of my highlights from each place!
First up is WARSAW! Some might say that you may as well skip the capital and go straight to Krakow, but who needs to follow the hype anyway? I’m glad I spent a few nights in Warsaw to get to know the city, it’s turbulent past, and all it has to offer.
In my opinion, Warsaw is interesting because it can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it is. Is it a modern centre, filled with skyscrapers and luxury business hotels? Is it clinging to the communist era with its Socialist Realist architectural remnants? Add a rebuilt “Old Town”, picture perfect and colourful, and any visitor can tell that Warsaw is a mish-mash of styles and people, waiting to be discovered by everyone who comes to see it.
I stayed at Warsaw Hostel Centrum (a clean, well-equipped and friendly place, highly recommend!) only meters away from the Palace of Culture and Science, a Soviet Behemoth, a “gift of friendship” built in the early 1850s. At 231m, it’s the tallest building in Poland, and the views from the terrace are pretty sweet! Despite the vaguely intimidating way the gloomy-looking structure looms over the modern area of Warsaw, it has a strange charm to it.
When travelling in Europe, I’d also highly recommend Couchsurfing – you can read my guide for beginners here!
I spent most of a whole day cycling around the different areas of Warsaw, and visited the Royal Castle, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, soaked up the sights and the sun (and in some instances the rain!) and took some strolls through the Old Town on the lookout for delicious eats like “pierogi” (stuffed dumplings)! I cycled through the Royal Parks, to the university to check out their impressive roof gardens, and crossed the river to the gritty district of Praga.
My next stop after leaving Warsaw, only a few hours away with a very comfortable “Polskibus”, a coach company not unlike Megabus, was WROCLAW! The capital of the Silesian region has been handed back and forth between countries for centuries, having been Czech, then German, and perhaps better known as Breslau. It’s historic centre, carefully restored after World War II, is beautiful and an underrated gem!
I only spent one full day in Wroclaw after arriving late in the evening, but it was a jam-packed day! I hung out in the Old Town Square, to listen to buskers and admire the beautiful “Stary Ratusz” – Town Hall – and the Museum of Bourgeois Art inside. Next, checking out the views from the nearby churches of St. Elizabeth and St. Mary Magdalene and headed out for a viewing of the amazing Panorama of Raclawice, which depicts a battle for Polish Independence in 1794.
I took a peek in the National Museum and battled the rain to take a look on Cathedral Island before sitting down for a cheap, varied dinner at a “bar mleczny” (milk bar) overlooking the university, called Bar Bazylia – highly recommend! All this with a healthy dose of stopping at cafes for coffee and that amazing hot chocolate!
Note, I stayed at Friends Hostel in Wroclaw, which did the job of being a place to sleep and shower just fine, but for readers or those considering a trip to Wroclaw, I’d say looking around for other places might be a good idea. The receptionist when I arrived was very disorganised, and the place wasn’t particularly secure. The lack of atmosphere and bathroom cleanliness didn’t make for the best stay. The hostel is in the middle of renovations so this may have something to do with the slightly lower standards. The hostel is attached to some apartments of the same name, and it seems the main focus is on those and the hostel comes across as an afterthought.
Next stop, and another coach ride later, was KRAKOW! I make no secret of how much I love this place, and it was my third visit! This time, I stayed at Goodbye Lenin Revolution Hostel, which I’d highly recommend due to the big, clean rooms and bathroom, free breakfast and helpful staff!
This trip to Krakow was particularly exciting because I was meeting an old friend with whom I’ve been communicating online for about 5 years, but we’ve never met in person! My friend is studying in Germany at the moment, and we’re both interested in the history of the region. What better time to meet up? We had a great time, and even though I saw a lot of things I’d already visited in Krakow, it was good to revisit them and soak in the atmosphere of the town.
We spent a full day visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museums, about an hour from Krakow. Though a challenging visit, it’s definitely something people should make time to do it they’re heading to Krakow!
The devastating history and exhibitions of the camps at Oswieciem are, I’d say, only appropriate for older teenagers and adults. It’s important to bear in mind the history of the site when visiting. This means no selfies, or disrespectful behaviour, which unfortunately we saw quite a bit of throughout the day.
Exhausted after the early start (6.20am bus out from Krakow!), it was good to come back to the town. We ate at some of the places I remembered from my previous visits! I’m happy to say that the Camera Cafe is exactly as it was, just off the old town, serving some of the best hot chocolate in Krakow!
We also went on a walk around Krakow to check out some of the filming locations from Schindler’s List, and the real places they were based on. On my last day, after my friend left, I took a quick wander around the town and up to the Wawel Castle. Next up, running to catching my bus (in the nick of time) to stay with my grandmother in Ostrava, Czech Republic!
I can see myself returning to Poland over and over again. It’s definitely a destination I’d recommend to fellow solo budget travellers! I found it to be very safe, cheap and easy to navigate. There’s loads to see and do, and of course, amazing food! Hopefully this Poland Photo Diary has been of some use to anyone considering a trip!
Have you ever been to Poland? Let me know in the comments how you found it, or head over to my Instagram @bea_thechange and check out some of my other pictures and updates from my more recent destinations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia!