I spent this past weekend exploring Krakow with my family before their departure to London and then back to the state as my little sister can only play hooky for so long! We decided to visit Krakow over Warsaw due to its more walkable size and proximity to Auschwitz, a site we’ve all felt would be important to visit, but never knew when we’d make it close enough to go.
I arrived on Thursday night and was met by my family at the airport complete with my sister holding a “Roya Moussapour” sign along with all the drivers (though it said more embarrassing things, so I’ll leave those out here). My parents shuttled us off to our Airbnb on the edge of the Kazimierz, the Jewish neighborhood of Krakow. We walked around a bit to find food, and even though I was stuffed from my host mom’s generous picnic lunch of sandwiches, mostly with jamón, I managed to fit in a plate of gefilte fish AND some pierogi at a restaurant nearby.
We were met with rainy weather on Friday and decided to do a more indoor-style activity before actually exploring Krakow, so we headed down to the nearby salt mines, no longer truly functional but a hot tourism spot in the area. The salt mines have existed for hundreds of years and consist of large cavernous spaces, often different religious or historical sites, connected by passages. We saw unbelievable sculptures made entirely out of salt including a MASSIVE chapel more than 60m underground with all of its religious figures carved directly out of salt and rock by not artists, but regular miners.
The largest chapel in the salt mines.
We rounded out the day by paying a visit to the number two rated restaurant in Krakow (according to Tripadvisor), a small sushi spot called Youmiko Sushi with no more than 16 or so seats including the bar. We were met by one of the most amazing meal experiences we’ve ever had. My sister was able to be accommodated with creative but safe food for her (she has many food allergies) and my dad and I even split a tasting menu of 15 pieces of sushi each including our favorite, a salmon wrapped piece with spicy salmon tartare on top. As native New Yorkers, we’re always excited to find excellent food at a bargain, and our 90$ meal for four including drink, appetizers, and specialty sushi for all did not disappoint! I promise they didn’t pay me to write all of this, but I will definitely go back if I’m ever in Krakow again.
Salmon, salmon, and more salmon.
On Saturday, we went exploring the old town of Krakow including the large town square complete with artisan market in the central. After walking around quite a bit, we surprised my sister by taking her to a cat café, a generally new café concept my mom hadn’t heard about before but wanted to visit. The cats there weren’t mean, but weren’t quite friendly, so it was a little bit of a disappointing experience. Luckily, we were able to go play a Star Wars themed escape room right after. That quickly lifted my sister’s spirits!
Krakow's town square.
My sister is only nine years old and we (intelligently) decided that she should not visit Auschwitz until she’s much older. Because of this, we all split up for our visits. My mom visited on Sunday while my dad and I entertained my sister with a trip to Wawel Castle, the most famous landmark of Krakow proper followed by a second escape game. We were successful in both games, so either they’re a lot easier in Europe or somehow we’ve improved in our sleuthing skills.
My dad and I visited Auschwitz on Monday during the day. The tour of Auschwitz includes a visit to Auschwitz I, what most consider as Auschwitz, and Birkenau, a massive complex that can’t even be seen with the eye from one end to the other. It was a haunting experience as visitors are presented with hundreds of items taken from Jews and prisoners by Nazis as well as walkthroughs through one of the gas chambers used and lots (almost too much) information about the monstrosities that occurred at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex.
Birkenau's front gate.
After our visit, we headed back to our favorite little sushi spot to fill up on rice and fish before our flights. I arrived back in Madrid late Monday night excited to get back into the swing of things with two weekends in Madrid before more travel!