Krakowย 

Over the Easter Weekend I popped off to Krakow, Poland with 2 friends to explore the city and take in the nearby WW2 sites.

After arriving late Thursday and settling into our AirBnB, we were up early on Friday for a trip to the Salt Mines. These mines were huge and impressive, and exploring them required descending hundreds of steps, down as low as 300m below ground. The mines are full of sculptures and carvings all created by the miners in their own time. After the salt mines we made our way back into Krakow and to the Jewish Quarter for world famous pizza sticks for lunch which were delicious. Next up was Schindler’s factory museum. Good thing we booked as the line was massive! This museum was so much more than just the history of the factory made famous by the film. It also provided an incredible, in depth experience covering the majority of Krakow’s modern history. It has to be the one of, if not the best museum I have visited. Incredibly well laid out, and informative. Post museum it was time for beers in the spring sun in the main square of the Jewish Quarter, followed by a traditional polish dinner.Saturday saw us up at the crack of dawn and on a bus to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. We all learn about the history of WW2 and the horrors of the Holocaust, however seeing with your own eyes is completely different. I firmly believe this is an experience everyone should try to have at least once in their lifetime.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana

After returning to Krakow and having a quick nap, it was back to beers in the sun, this time in Old Town Square where we were treated to come Polish Eurotrash break dancing against our will. This was followed by Vodka tasting and a healthy (non-Polish) dinner.

Easter Sunday we joined a free walking tour of Old Town Krakow. We had a great guide and the tour was very informative. We learnt all about Krakow’s history from the glory days to the downfall. Our tour wound it’s way through Old Town, finishing up at Wawel Castle. After the walking tour, we had planned to attend an Eataway. This is a platform which enables everyday people to host meals in their homes. The couple who hosted this Eataway were Americans living in Poland, who were lovely and hospitable and the food was delicious. However, it was a very interesting group of people who attended the lunch. The blind couple from Sweden, the American Director, the loud Australian guy, the Polish girls who’s family were all in Ireland, and many other interesting characters. The hosts also had pet rats in cagesโ€ฆ. So overall a very different and interesting experience, however unsure it’s something I want to repeat. After escaping the Eataway we explored more of the Jewish Quarter, had a drink and then headed back to our AirBnB for an early night.

Monday I had time for a quick breakfast, and then I was off to the airport and back home to London. 

Old Town Square by Night

Descending the many stairs to the Salt Mines

Church within the Salt Mines

Jewish Quarter street art 

Pizza Stick

Beers in the sun

Main Square, Jewish Quarter

The most delicious perogis 

Auschwitz 

Birkenau 

Old Town Square

Old Town market building in the square 

Vodka tasting! 

Krakow city gate 

The rotunda 

Old Town 

One of the worlds oldest universities

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Castle

Castle Selfies

The Citadel

The Citadel

Secret Churches

The Vistula River


Krakow sunsets 

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Eastern Bloc: Latvia and Lithuania

I recently made the trip to Latvia and Lithuania to explore the old towns of these former Soviet countries. My first observation of both, particularly Lithuania, is that they were what I expected Russia to be like. I suspect they are actually what Russia is like, except while I was in Russia what we saw was very much controlled by our guide and not ‘the real’ Russia.

Riga in Latvia is famous for it’s old town and party until dawn clubs. I unfortunately (or not) was there to relax and explore old town before meeting Jess in Vilnius, Lithuania. I spent my morning wandering the beautiful lanes of old town, enjoying the beautiful mixed architecture and navigating between sites with the help of google maps. Later I joined a free walking tour which took me out of the old town to the site of the old WW2 ghetto, Moscow suburbs as they are known and some other spots in the city less visited by tourists. This tour was a great introduction to Latvian History, as all I really knew about before I went was the Soviet/Nazi history and Independence. I didn’t realise the Baltics were the last Pagan nations, nor did I realise Latvia has a very high Russian population, something like 30-40%. After the tour I made my way to the Central Markets to have a wander. I even bought myself a snack of cheese and gherkins from younger stall operators (to ensure they spoke English) and my Russian ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ came in handy since most of the market stall owners are Russian. This was a bit of a surprise to them I think since based on appearance, they were definitely expecting me to say Hello, rather than Privete (no Russian characters available haha).

6.30am Saturday morning I made my way to the bus station to go to Vilnius to meet Jess, while everyone else was making there way home from the clubs. The 4 hour bus trip was relaxing and a good opportunity to look out the window at the Baltic countryside. Honestly it was pretty grim. Run down cottage type houses, surrounded by a frozen swamp and bits of snow didn’t really make it look that much fun. Once we got across the boarder and further south it became green fields and paddocks being prepared for crops, but still the homes were a bit rundown and depressing.

After meeting Jess, we made our way to lunch. This turned out to be somewhat difficult as unbeknown to us, it was Latvian Independence day. This explained the flags everywhere and all the closed shops and restaurants. We did eventually find an open restaurant, and after lunch went for a wander and explore. We checked out xxx, and the KGB museum. After a relaxing break at the hostel we headed out for dinner and wine, key aim being to try some local food. My advice on this if you ever visit Lithuaniaโ€ฆ potato pancakes are great, flag everything else. Unless stodgy potato dumplings and pigs ears are your thing.

Sunday morning we managed to fin ourselves a hipster coffee shop in old town, complete good flat whites and Avo toast. After breakfast and some wandering to explore the Presidential palace and other parts of old town we joined a free walking tour which was great to learn all about Vilnius and Lithuanian history, before making tracks to the airport.

Cold snowy mornings in Riga

Lovers bridge

Old City Gate

Three Brothers

Old Town Alleys

Buildings similar to what they have in Russia, but turns out they’re actually German

Rigas Streets

Town musicians of Bremen… in Riga


Central Markets

Run down Riga

Site of the Riga ghetto in WW2

24/7 flower markets


Enjoying the Sun

Riga’s frozen city canal

Kiwi Bar! Free drink if you can prove you’re a kiwi.

Frozen road to Vilnius


Vilnius street art

Old town streets

St Nicholas’ Church

Free town!

Uzupis… Vilnius’ free town

Uzupis Constitution


Church of St Bernard’s and St Francis

Off to the Museum

Avo toast and flat whites

Lithuanian Streets

Presidential Palace

I have this theory that the former soviet countries paint their buildings so colourfully to cheer themselves up during the bitterly cold winters

#laisve #freedom

Another beautiful church

The old city gate

Vilnius City Hall

Free town street art

The Cathedral

Just another church