A Krakow Christmas Cracker

Stephen Bellingham on 30 January 2019
I went to Krakow for Christmas, as a white Christmas is what I had hoped for, but it seemed it was not meant to be. With the world’s climate changing the temperature went up from minus 7 to plus 7 degrees in the time that the delightful drones over Gatwick were causing chaos, resulting in my flight being cancelled.

Luckily, I know a good travel agent (!) who was able to book me a new flight the next day, so I only lost one night of my holiday. Sadly, however, in that 24 hours it rained, and the snow disappeared.

All that said I had the most amazing time in this historic and beautiful city. It was very quiet, which suited me fine. Cars must have a permit to drive in the city and there is only one main road to cross. All you will be avoiding is a fairy-tale horse and carriage, Pope-mobile-style electric vehicles, trams or electric police cars.

The Christmas Market was relatively small (I have most recently been to Berlin when you can’t move for them) but idyllic with local food and Gluhwein - but do avoid the hot beer!

With Christmas trees and larger-than-life ornaments decorating each street corner it is delightful. Then the icing on the cake – on Christmas day we had the snow flurries I had craved which made it all just magical.

You will never be hungry in Krakow as portions are always generous and the food delicious, from ham hock to local sausages and you just have to try one of the huge and glorious fruit-filled doughnuts!

With various museums, and towers to climb, there is plenty to fill your days. I also visited the Wieliczka salt mines - who would think you could spend 3 hours below ground and not get bored! It was a fascinating trip, learning about the centuries of history behind the mines, and seeing the creative work of the miners who fashioned amazing statues and chandeliers in any free time they had. Don’t worry, there are lifts if you need them, and plenty of comfort stops and, of course, shops.

Perhaps the most fascinating trip was to Auschwitz Birkenau. Not for the faint-hearted, but as my amazing guide said on the day of my visit: ‘this is not a tourist attraction, it is a memorial.’ For me, as someone who had lived only 15 minutes from Belsen for 6 years, it was an emotional and important reminder of the need to keep these memories alive and to ensure that the younger generations do not forget.