When I visited Krakow in 2019, I avoided one particular area for a reason my furry blue brain cannot explain. I think it is because of the close links to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and Kraków-Płaszów concentration camps. A visit to the ghetto area within Krakow affected me in a way which is incomprehensible. Maybe it is because of the modern-day buildings which are beginning to remove the effects of the second world war on the city. I was filled with an emptiness because it felt like an important act of history is slowly being erased. My photographer and I have been lucky enough to meet survivors of the holocaust which is an incredible experience. Subconsciously I think I avoided the Jewish district because it would bring their stories to life. I will admit I briefly made a visit to Kazimierz in 2019 to eat at some very delicious restaurants. Since then, I wished I had spent more time exploring.
Kazimierz is a really big area in central Krakow, known for its abundance of eateries. Though there is a small sign announcing where you are. The district gives off a cool eclectic vibe like nowhere else in Krakow. Once the bustling heart of Krakow’s Jewish population, it is slowly reclaiming its identity. I decided to spend the morning in the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University before exploring the streets.
This botanical gardens has to be one of my favourite places in Europe. I could spend days here wandering around the palm houses getting lost in the small paths. The newest glasshouse has opened and I felt tiny wandering among the palm trees. Though my favourite area was the tropical fruit trees outside. Greenery is my favourite as is walking through the peaceful glasshouses. I divided my time with the indoor and outdoor plants. I had timed it perfectly for the flowers, my last visit was later in the year and some of the flowers had finished.
After the busy days I had previously had, a morning of relaxation was very welcome. I even made friends with a few fishes, dragonflies and even found a pumpkin for Halloween. There is a great oak tree near the centre of the botanical gardens. The tree is one of Poland’s last remnants of the primeval forests. I always like to visit the tree because I like to think it was a young tree while the dinosaurs were alive.
I made one last trip through the hibiscus into the glass house filled with interestingly shaped flowers. Realising it was lunchtime and there was nowhere for lunch in the botanical gardens, I decided to visit Kazimierz. It is a really short walk but we can all guess who went the wrong way and ended up taking the scenic route. I headed along grzegórzecka under the train line and down a back road into the Jewish Quarter.
My lack of planning turned out to be a great thing because I went around many streets I would have overlooked on the map. I passed several delicious looking restaurants before settling on Pierwszy Stopieǹ. The decor of the restaurant is green and it is filled with plants. I cannot fault the food or drinks here, the menu is small but incredible. I spent a long time trying to decide which of the delicious veggie options to choose. The tempura battered oyster mushrooms and a baked sweet potato with green pea and mint sauce was like a fancy vegan fish and chips. Homemade mint lemonade paired perfectly. It was so good I returned to the restaurant a second time (not on the same day).
I had to roll out of the restaurant because I ate my lunch and half of my photographer’s salad (I have no regrets). This resulted in me having a post lunch snooze in the handbag of doom whilst my photographer relaxed by the Vistula river. Krakow’s September sunshine was the perfect background for a snooze.
Heading back to Kazimierz, I spent a while simply letting myself get lost. By doing this I found a beautiful old square with a really great feel to it. I loved reading the small plaques which told the story of the area. This led on to Szeroka street which has some ancient and beautiful buildings. I loved seeing all of the quirky antiques in the windows.
Exploring is thirsty work so I allowed my photographer to choose a coffee shop. Cytat cafe was just around the corner and I’m pleased I let my photographer choose. It is a library and oh so instagramable. I enjoyed a slightly more expensive iced coffee with an inspirational message, I only wish I had taken my book.
My final stop was a very famous staircase, well I took another wrong turn and found a beautiful mural behind a synagogue. Shindler’s List passage is hidden through a doorway off Jozefa Street, not far from Starka restaurant. It is a sight worth seeing but I found it underwhelming. There is a cafe in the area which took away from the story of the street.
Prior to hearing back along the river I popped into the beautiful Corpus Christi Basilica. A very ornate church set in grounds which are filled with an air of grace. After this I headed back along the riverside to my hotel as it was time to pack up my suitcase and get ready for my flight home.
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