Ian and I were so lucky to be invited to Warsaw by the Wasiak’s (the polish side of my family, through my sister’s husband). Of course, we dropped everything and skipped our plans to go to Croatia + Bosnia-Herzegovina (hopefully we will find another time to go back to Eastern Europe!). As the date for our visit came closer, my brother-in-law kept reminding us that preparations for polish herring, bigos and pierogies were underway. So it was hard not to be excited (or hungry).
You can’t visit Warsaw and not visit the old city center. The interesting thing is that Warsaw was completely demolished by the Nazi’s in 1944 after an underground uprising against the regime. Completely flattened – there were no buildings left standing! It’s so incredible to me that the city could have re-built itself, but that’s literally what happened. The buildings have been re-built exactly like they were pre-1944, so they are new buildings that look like the originals! One thing I would recommend doing is visiting the Warsaw Uprising Museum. This museum has extensive information on the uprising, and is a part of WWII history that I don’t think is included in Canadian history classes.
Simply put, Krakow is a gem. Unlike Warsaw, Krakow is genuinely old. There is so much to do and see: the old buildings, Wawel castles and history, the massive underground salt mines which basically forms an entire city under the Krakow metropolitan, the jewish quarters, and the gentrification of the area which has added a new wave of hipster restaurants, bars and cafe throughout the city. And then there is the Auschwitz concentration camp not far away (but I will get into that experience in a subsequent blog post)…
Krakow Old Town
Wieliczka salt mines
New bar scene in an old tobacco factory in Krakow
We are really thankful to the Wasiek’s and our friend Wirginia for their hospitality and showing us around their cities. It has given us a perspective of Poland that we will not forget!