This fall tour of Poland didn't cost a lot of cabbage


This fall tour of Poland didn't cost a lot of cabbage

By: Maureen Holtz

By: Maureen Holtz

By: Maureen Holtz

By: Maureen Holtz

I fell in love with Krakow (not to mention its wonderful cabbage dishes) last year. A fall trip to Poland gave my husband and me the opportunity to enjoy fabulous weather and few crowds, along with great food at low prices.

An arranged ride from the airport brought us to Cracowdays B&B after 30 minutes for about 70 zloty ($25). You can't beat its location in the heart of Krakow, its cost of about $112 a night, and proximity to a large grocery store (only two blocks away). Public transportation or walking are the best ways to see the city. Use the kiosks near the bus and trolley stops to obtain tickets.

The 700-year-old wall and tower on the north side of the city center is a major attraction. The rest of Krakow's city walls were demolished 200 years ago, but a ring of parks soon filled the area. Now called the Planty, and it's scattered with lovely statues and benches.

Major sights include Wawel Castle and Cathedral located nearby. Other visits should include Cloth Hall, the world's oldest shopping mall (700 years old), where you can buy nesting dolls and other souvenirs.

Another popular site is St. Francis Basilica, opposite the Archbishops' Palace (home to Pope John Paul II when he was archbishop). The church contains several exceptional stained-glass windows, but the one by Stanislaw Wyspianski is the big draw. Many people flock to this church to see the pew (marked by a silver plaque) where the pope prayed.

A fun, free show is to find yourself in the Planty between St. Francis Basilica and Wawel Castle about 8:45 a.m. and watch the horde of priests and monks hurry by, their black or brown robes fluttering in the wind.

As you wander, be prepared to slobber over the slew of shoe stores and bakeries, with one every few blocks. The shoes and boots are unique, though you might have a problem finding one that fits the American foot! The bakeries, sidewalk pastries and pretzels offer delicious treats; the city's specialty is poppyseed cakes.

A 10-minute walk from Cracowdays took us to Chimera, our favorite restaurant-cafeteria with tons of traditional foods, salads and veggie dishes, and desserts. For 16 zloty ($6), order a large plate of six different dishes. We would take it all back to the B&B's kitchen and enjoy it with whatever wine or beer we had bought that day. The Polish wine isn't as wonderful as French or Californian, but it's not bad. The beer is great.

The factory where Otto Schindler shielded more than 1,100 Jews is south of the center plaza, just a short trolley ride away. But no site is more intense or important than Auschwitz-Birkenau. Choose from tours, buses, trains or a car and guide, but go.

Every Polish teenager is required to visit the concentration camp, and it was crammed with children from seemingly every country, near and far. Even with crowds, a respectful silence filled each of the brick barracks. Overpowering can't begin to describe the effect of seeing an entire room packed from floor to ceiling with just eyeglasses, suitcases or artificial limbs.

When you need a break, retreat across the road to a restaurant for a much-needed respite.

For a trip that will stay in your memory forever, go to Krakow.

Maureen Holtz lives in Monticello and is a freelance writer and frequent traveler.

If you go

— Cracowdays B&B (, Ambrozego Grabowskiego 7, Krakow: Four standard rooms and four superior rooms, with bathrooms and use of kitchen.

Between 62 and 98 euros per night, not including optional breakfast. Cash only, no credit cards other than a deposit to hold the room.

— Chimera (, 3 Sw. Anny St., Krakow: This offers both a sit-down restaurant and a salad bar with easy takeouts. Considered one of the best salad bars in town, it offers food that is incredibly inexpensive and very tasty.

The restaurant itself contains warrens of vaulted cellar rooms and space upstairs and in a garden courtyard. Right down the street from the western side of the center, near the Planty.


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