Poland is a huge country, with a long and fascinating history dating back centuries. It was the seat of power of some of the strongest kings of Poland and used to be even larger than it is today. It got gobbled up by its neighbors in the 19th century, and didn’t reform into the Poland we know now until after the first World War.
When you’re not dealing with taxes or playing your Intertops casino no deposit bonus, if you’re interested in visiting this vast and beautiful country – interested in its lucid history of kings and monsters, there are some must-see destinations to put into your schedule, and, having personally visited all of them, I can absolutely say they’re worth your time!
Have you ever been sitting down, watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and thought, I wish I could BE there? Maybe not in the Game of Thrones setting specifically, because, ya know, the Game of Thrones setting, but I think my point stands. Castles are awesome. And if you have ever wanted to visit the real-life equivalent, Castle Wawel (pronounced “vavel”) is it.
First off, the place is huge. It’s a massive walled complex set atop what feels like the largest hill in all of Krakow. A huge ramp winds its way to the main gatehouse that’ll lead you inside to a series of buildings that the ancient Polish kings of yore used to live in before the capital was moved to Warsaw. I wish I had the architectural know-how to describe the castle properly – about all I know is “machicolations” and I didn’t see any of those.
At any rate, the only way to understand the scale of such a place is to visit it yourself. Castle Wawel is a majestic location, steeped in the history and faith of Poland.
Rynek Glowney Central Square
At the heart of Krakow is the cities largest tourist trap. Even so, it’s still at the center of Krakow’s culture hub for centuries. It features the gothic Town Hall Tower, the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, and the small church of St. Adalbert.
It’s also full of shops. Yay!
That’s more exciting than it sounds. In the summer, the square is full of vendors and salesmen, and the place is packed with happy crowds. Horse-drawn carriages roam the streets offering rides. Of course, the side-streets are where the interesting shops are. I found one that sold smoking pipes, knives, shuriken (that you could pull extra knives out of), and, ahem, pleasure toys. Three doors down from the local Starbucks too. If you’ve got the time, and the dough to splurge, check our Krakow’s central square!
Maybe one of the most famous and horrific places on Earth isn’t one’s usual idea for a vacation location. However, Auschwitz is one of the most frequently visited places in all of Poland and is a huge historical location for both Jews and Poles.
It is THE icon of the holocaust. Auschwitz is actually broken into forty separate camps, but there are really only two that matter.
Auschwitz, the location with the infamous sign, and Birkenau (Auschwitz II), the location with the train tracks seen in Schindlers List. Without seeing them, it can be hard to truly grasp the scale of the Holocaust. As Stalin put it, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”
In fact, I could fill this entire list with worthwhile locations to visit regarding the Holocaust. I won’t because you’re trying to have a good time, but if at some point you’re interested, you can always check out the Krakow Ghetto, the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, and Treblinka. If you’re on a budget, visit Treblinka to truly understand the meaning of “Death Camp”.
Jeez, that was a bit of a downer, huh? Just know that there are positives you can take from even the Holocaust. Stories of love and hardship, success and failure, and war against an indomitable foe.
Of course, the point of any trip is to enjoy yourself – to be immersed in a culture and place far removed from our own. Whether that means seeing awesome feats of engineering and architecture or exploring the best and worst of humanity, or just leisurely riding down the river Vistula.
Whatever is your fancy, Poland’s got it. Safe travels!