Our Polish adventure started with a welcome from a policeman, pulling us over at the border with Lithuania, he checked our licenses before sending us on our way with a somewhat ominous “good luck”.
We weren’t entirely sure what he meant by this, we hoped it was just our first taste of Polish humour.
With the Policeman’s words still clearly in mind we headed towards our first destination, Wolf’s Lair, Hitlers eastern headquarters throughout World War 2.
We spent a good couple of hours exploring and climbing through the old bunkers and ruins. Nature had taken over the majority of buildings, with trees and bushes growing up through the rubble and concrete.
Climbing through the ruins of Wolf’s Lair
After a night at a nearby campsite we drove towards the northern city of Gdansk, we had done little research into Gdansk, in fact we probably wouldn’t have visited if we weren’t flying home from there for a family christening at the weekend. However we were so glad we made the detour north, Gdansk it turns out is an incredibly beautiful city, many eastern European cities we’ve visited have a few rows of colourful houses, but Gdansk it seemed almost only had colourful houses, not to mention the cobbled streets, bustling squares and winding canals.
The beautiful colourful houses of Gdansk
The only downside to our visit here was our choice of parking for the night, we parked in a car park just out of town, right on the canal. Which seemed pretty idyllic to begin with, that was up until around 10pm when the local youths arrived to get drunk and blare out music. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t bother us too much, but after four hours of euro-pop and a couple of the kids running into the back of our van we decided it was best to move elsewhere.
After Gdansk we had a meeting with a mechanic to get the van serviced as we’ve somehow managed to rack up over 10,000 miles in two and a half months!
With a new spring in our step and several hundred euros lighter we rolled on to Malbork Castle, another destination we knew little about until a day or so prior to visiting. Malbork it turns out, is actually the world’s largest brick built castle, we took advantage of the free audio tour provided and wondered through the ancient castle for almost three hours.
Europe’s largest brick built castle, Malbork
A day or so’s driving south from here took us into Poland’s capital Warsaw, we had great difficulty parking here but eventually found an “ok” spot directly outside a fish and tackle shop!
On the upside it was only a 5 minute bike ride to the old town, which is surprisingly quaint and pretty, this came as a shock to us as apparently the majority of it had to be rebuilt after the second world war. It was also a nice experience to visit a town square and actually be able to afford a couple of beers (5.20 Euros for 4 beers and and 2 free shots!).
Warsaw’s remarkable Old Town.
The next morning we visited the incredibly moving Warsaw Uprising Museum, the museum told the story of the ill-fated uprising of the Polish people against the Nazis in August 1944. The tales of heroism and loss were cleverly displayed through the exhibitions and stayed with us for the days to come.
After an interesting morning, it was time for a slightly less exciting afternoon as we had a serious backload of washing to get done. After a couple of funfilled hours in a nearby laundrette we begun the journey to our next destination, Krakow.
We eventually arrived in Krakow in the early afternoon and headed straight for the old town. We didn’t do a huge amount of sightseeing in Krakow, what we did do however was decide to get our ears pierced, neither of us are entirely sure why.
St Mary’s Basilica in Krakow.
Krakow’s a very popular stag destination, with this in mind we were keen to sample some of the legendary nightlife. Before this though we new we had to try some Polish cuisine, eating local food is always something high on our list when visiting a country. So for that evening we gorged ourselves on dumplings, followed by polish sausage, a pigs shoulder and tongue, chicken breast and delicious ribs. We’ve eaten very little meat the past few months so this was an almighty treat.
After dinner we found a cool basement club where a band were playing to a mix of tourists and locals. It turned out to be the drummers birthday, which meant free shots for everyone in the bar! We eventually wobbled home at around 1am after a brilliant and very cheap night out.
First thing the following morning began with a slightly heavy head and a bike ride in search for a nearby ATM, many places in Poland don’t accept card payments, our car park for the previous evening, it turned out was one of them.
After a lazy morning we drove to the Wieliczka salt mines, your entry ticket included a guided tour. The whole experience was quite incredible, the tour took us along miles of corridors and through countless subterranean banquet halls, churches and lakes. The guide even told us that the salt was good for our hangover and to lick the walls!
Wieliczka’s underground salt cathedral
Our plan for later in the day was to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp museum but due to weary legs we decided to visit the following day well rested.
The Auschwitz tour itself was an incredibly humbling experience, the museum does an excellent job in educating people from all over the world of the horrors that occurred here. We would highly recommend paying for a guided tour.
This concludes our time in Poland, we spent a lot longer here than we anticipated but are so glad we got to experience the bustling cities, cheap beer and rich history it has to offer.