Krakow and WarsawJanuary 31st, 2011
I set off on my trip in the middle of a 2 week European “Big Freeze” , so I knew that the holiday was sure to turn into an adventure. Luckily trains were running across Europe, unlike the airports where thousands of passengers had been stranded the last few days. I boarded the Eurostar at St Pancras which was running a restricted service, and made my way to Brussels for the quick change to Cologne. I was eager to board my Intercity overnight train, as this was to be my first sleeper experience.
Upon embarking the train, I was met by a guard who helped me with my bags and showed me to my cabin for the night. An added bonus on the PKP Intercity trains is the restaurant car, which offers good quality meals and drinks at very decent prices. I tucked into a large serving of breaded pork chops and salad, accompanied by a pint or 2 then back to my room for a kip. With the subzero temperatures outside, I was relieved to settle into a warm spacious cabin for a good night’s sleep. It’s definitely worth the small supplement to upgrade into first class, which includes a private sink and light refreshments, as well as breakfast to your door in the morning.
The next morning I arrived into Warsaw which was heavily pounded by snow overnight. I made it to my hotel (with caution) and headed off to explore the city. As soon as you arrive into the capital, you instantly get a glimpse of its troubled past with imposing grey cemented buildings and soviet era remnants, however beyond this lies a welcoming atmosphere with plenty of hidden gems that I was keen to find. A wander through to the Old Town is worth a visit, which was successfully rebuilt after being totally destroyed during WWII, and it’s here you can find many of the city’s best markets and some lively traditional eateries. It’s hard to understand the city without a great sense of loss, however Warsaw was able to defy all the odds and is now a rapidly developing city looking to the future.
After a few nights in the capital I boarded the train for my short journey to Krakow. As I made my way across the white Polish countryside, the snow was getting worse and I was definitely thankful to be inside a warm cabin sipping on countless hot drinks. As I arrived in the afternoon, I wanted to get amongst it straight away. Krakow was buzzing with activity which I thought a bit strange, as it was minus 20 degrees outside and I hadn’t felt my feet for the past 2 hours. I had only hoped they were still there underneath the 6 pairs of socks I was wearing. Trudging on, I spent the next 2 days roaming the extensive Christmas markets in the large Market Square (or Rynek), exploring the Jewish culture of the Kazimierz district and taking plenty of snaps in the Royal Castle and Cathedral. Krakow also boasts some of Poland’s most lively bars and clubs which I felt my duty to sample, and did so while being offered plenty of Polish vodka which was also good for “internal heating”.
So after a late checkout the next morning, I walked off the internal heating and headed to Krakow Glowny. I needed to get myself to Poznan for a nights stopover where I’d meet my sleeper train back to Cologne, and with all the trains running like clockwork it made life a lot easier and stress free. Then a comfortable journey back and a change in Cologne, I’m speeding off to on route to London all refreshed and ready to go again.