Our tour of Italy (well most of it; we missed Sicily, Sardegna, Venice and a few others of note but we certainly haven't forgotten them) has unfortunately come to an end. However, it isn't all bad news because we hopped on a plane bound for Kraków in Poland and would be picked up by my younger brother that I haven't seen for almost a year! The little talented punk moved to Poland aged 19 on his own to chase his football dream and is currently playing professionally for a team in the town of Bielsko-Biala. Being away for so long does take its toll and the best cure for a bit of homesickness is a visit from the best sister in the world (although I think he was more looking forward to hanging out with Gianni to be honest). I might add though, the weather was supposed to be around a minimum of 15 degrees (Celsius) throughout October; had I known Poland would greet us with a lovely (not) 5 degrees I may have reconsidered my visit! Let it be known, I don't really like the cold, except for the fashion.
Admittedly, after living out of a suitcase for so long it was nice to settle in and have a kitchen to cook in again so for our first evening I had to make my brother his favourite healthy dish (followed by his favourite breakfast the next morning). We stayed in his apartment with him for a week which meant we didn't get to review any hotels in the area but we did end up with a free local tour guide who knew quite a few really good food spots! We started most chilly mornings with a huge hot coffee and slice of delicious cake from a cute little local cafe in the main square of Bielsko-Biala called Kawiarnia Barometr. That was enough to warm me up even after seeing the snow capped mountains from my bedroom window.
Another amazing little local spot just a few doors up was the Dogs Bollocks pub where you can get some seriously delicious and huge burgers with hand cut chips for the equivalent of about $7.00 AUD (that I would have gladly paid $20 for). Ok so it isn't traditional Polish food but they did have some very local flavours in their burgers! For that proper traditional Polish experience my brother took us to a cute little restaurant calledBeksien which the locals all pointed him to as being the best restaurant in town. There we had a 5 course feast of proper home cooking by a husband and wife chef team with a love for organic food including delicious pierogi, mushroom pasta, beef cheek and Beetroot and apple crumble. We headed off to watch my brothers team in action one day at a home game at their 15,000 seater home stadium and soaked up the amazing atmosphere #ProudSister! After seeing all the best sights of the town we then ventured into the closest major city of Kraków which my brother was raving about...
And for good reason! This city is full of history and is very well-preserved and the main square was bustling with life every time we visited despite the cold. The city is gorgeous to visit by night and the streets are filled with cute horse and carriages to give you a grand tour in comfort. We stopped to thaw out and had an amazing dinner at an Argentinian steak house called Pimiento and some beautiful desserts at the popular Wedel chocolate lounge in the main square. There are certainly plenty of things to see in Kraków including theWawel Castle, St Mary's Cathedral and the Cloth Market and I can definitely see myself returning here again in their summer!
About halfway between Bielsko-Biala and Kraków there is another place which I have wanted to visit for some time. Modern history was one of my majors at university before finishing my law degree so I had a keen interest in seeing the Nazi concentration camp ofAuschwitz. Reading and learning about all of the atrocities that occurred there is one thing, but standing there on that same dirt and seeing all of the camps with your own eyes is another. It never really hit home that this was really quite 'modern' history; the huge grounds and the photos in the museum left us all speechless and with a realisation of just how much life was lost in World War II and how much our generation really do take for granted. In fact it leaves me speechless even as I write this now... it is hard to find the words to describe the feelings of being in that place but I will leave you instead with some of our photos and with these words of George Santayana that left a mark in my mind "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Before anybody throws the first stone or punch or warhead I think they should all visit Auschwitz to see the devastation that ignorance and blind hatred can cause.
I know we only scratched the surface, but all in all, Poland proved to be a truly amazing destination that we will most certainly visit again when we have the time no matter what the temperature!