Unconventional Destination: Poland in Winter

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Sometimes when a cheap ticket stares you in the face, you just can’t not book. Seeing as I only had 2 weeks of for the winterbreak I sort of wanted to escape the nest of Lund and go on a little adventure somewhere. However, my hard earned pennies where slimming down, so I had to be price-concious. I saw enormously cheap tickets to Warsaw, I mean 18 euro’s return, that’s what you spend on public transportation here! so just had to book it. But a week in Poland in the winter, how is that attractive? Well here’s why:

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Previously I had already been to Wroclaw, the city with little dwarfs everywhere, so I knew the Polish prices, and it is cheap! Much cheaper than Scandinavia (well, isn’t any destination?) and also cheaper than Germany, France or Holland. In the end the trip became a couplestrip, but you can also do it with a friend or by yourself, if you’re brave enough to master the dark streets at night. We booked a ticket for 7 days, as we wanted to visit both Warsaw and Cracow, which is relatively close to the former concentration camps. The lucky thing was that the Ryanair airport, you know those ones that are 80KM outside of your actual destination, was under construction so the flight was set to go straight to Chopin airport, score! 30 minutes by bus and we were at our hostel. We booked private rooms in hostels the entire trip, but it turned out to be more like 3 star hotelrooms each time, with breakky included ^^.

Warsaw
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Warsaw has a lot of historical buildings and areas. We didn’t really go into touristy places, as the city itself is quite nice and easy to walk around in. You have the old town, lots of parks, university buildings, the promenade, churches and so fort. And obviously lots of people watching. It’s got tons of cute little cafes and restaurants to eat, although might I suggest, choose somewhere where they serve a bit more than stew and polish potatoes, it gets old really quickly, haha. The cafes are really nice, and since it’s so cheap, as soon as you get cold you can just go in an warm up with cofee and cake every 2 hours or so. I don’t have any names of nice places to eat, as I personally like to discover those myself anyway, so I guess as a reader, you do too. Pick up a city map at your hostel and find your way through the city.
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The one thing we did really wanted to see tough was the big library. It’s supposed to have amazing views over the city and the industrial architecture inside looked very promising. unfortunately, it’s only open to the public at certain hours, so if you don’t have a studentpass, make sure to be there at the right time. These first 2 days, we stayed at the Hostel Helvetia Plus  for 18 euro’s per person a night. Super clean, fresh coffee and breakfast in the morning and since it was winter, really quiet, kind of nice after long days. At the last day we stayed at the artsy  OkiDoki hostel, where every room is designed by a different artist. It’s got a bit more hostel-feel to it and it’s easier to meet other people. 

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Street-Art
One other thing that I can highly recommend, are the pavilions, the entrance is on one of the main streets named Nowy Swait, number 22-28. This place is rather cool. The pavilions compose of little bars, coffee houses and cafes that are kind of grungy, but very moment-du-jour. Mostly covered by locals and there is street art everywhere! And a lot of it is so well done. At night, certain pavilions have their windows shut, so you don’t even know what type of establishment you enter, it’s just a little surprise. Which in our case ended up at some really (really!) freaky places. It’s kind of strange entering in these bars when the moment you open the door, you notice this isn’t your scene at all, only to realize you’re centerspot and all eyes are on you with the bartender already tapping a beer. Yeah, try and get yourself out of that one.

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Another area with a lot of ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ cafes is Praga, sort of the new area for people to live and work. Very trendy with pop-up stores, organic (yes, here in poland too!) cafes and little boutiques. It used to be the area during pre- and mid wardays where only jews lived, but now this is the place for students, hipsters and the younger crowds to be.

By rail to CracowPoland

Then after 2 nights we went to the railstation and bought ourselves some tickets for the train to Cracow. Who said you either need to fly there or pay excessive amounts for organised tours?! I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it’s around 12 euro’s each way for the 5 hour trainride. Plus side is, no other tourist does it, so it’s a whole experience to wobble on these old steam trains in cabins filled with local people. Crossing snowy landscapes and having a cappucino with it ain’t so bad.
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Cracow, to be honest, we didn’t like extremely much. Mostly because, even in winter, it was super touristic. Everywhere there were promotional people slapping us in the face with discount cards and approaching us in german, french or dutch. So much for authenticity. Yes, it’s a really pretty town, especially with all the snow, and yes it’s got some great alleys and museums, but with that, you’ve pretty much seen the city centre.
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We were lucky there was an Andy Warhol exhibition in one of the governmental buildings. Paying 50 cents for entrance, yeey! This way, we kept the cold at bay and saw something interesting as well. Other than that, the old town of Cracow can pretty much be seen within a day.

But if you want to see at bit more of the city (recommended), be prepared to walk. We walked over to the kazimierz area, also a former Jewish.only borough and then crossed the river to visit the Schindler Factory and the Modern Museum. These were quite impressive and what I actually liked most. Mostly because it in fact wasn’t touristic at all., which we hadn’t anticipated.
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In Cracow, we stayed at the Dizzy Daisy Hostel, for 15 euro’s a person a night, as they weren’t fully booked, we ended up having our own floor consisting of 4 apartments, very nice!

Spooky Birkenau
The main reason we went to Cracow was because of a trip to the former concentration camps, something I was interested in, but also something I kind of dreaded. I think for everyone who’s interested in European history, you kind of have to visit this place. It was very humbling and very ‘scary’ at the same time. We went with a local bus, not an organized tour as then you have to follow a guide and can only been inside for about 3 hours before you pack up.
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I’ve read that visitation numbers go up each year, but when we where there, we maybe spotted 20 other people during the whole day. So different than being there on a hot summer day with 5000 other people. Walking around these relics and having the time to properly read everything and see everything, brave ourselves to enter the old gaschambers and plough through the snow was quite the experience. Having snow and -5 on that day painted a picture of how it could have been during those years in winter time. I think every 10 minutes we got shivers and the whole day (and night) we didn’t eat a thing. I can’t say it was a nice experience, but it was very interesting and I can still highly recommend it.
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So visiting Poland in the winter has several perks; cheaper, far less tourists and romantic snowy scenes. If you dress accordingly, the cold really isn’t bad. I think in total we have spent 250 euro’s for a whole week including tickets, food, hostels, attractions, transportation and lots of shopping.

Anyone’s got nice recommendations for other places to visit in the winter times?
♥ Ellen

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