Getting around on foot is best for most of Krakow – it’s a fairly compact city. The buses and trams are good options too, as Krakow’s public transportation is excellent – buy a ticket in advance, punch it in the little orange box, and keep the stub for inspectors to see. If you take taxis, it’s up to 30% less to order by phone. Expect to see people with mobiles ringing whilst standing next to the taxi they wish to take. Taxis can’t be hailed from the street whilst they are moving – if you do this, expect to be ignored.
Once upon a time, at the foot of Wawel hill in Poland there lived a terrible fire-breathing dragon. This dragon caused all sorts of nasty, dragon-y problems for the King, as dragons do, but none of the knights in the realm could kill him before they got turned into baked beans themselves. The king even offered his daughter’s hand in marriage for whoever killed the dragon, which was the standard rate in ye olden days, but no luck. One day a shoemaker’s apprentice – called Krak – asked the king if he could slay the dragon. The king, noting that the kid had no dragon slaying equipment, was a bit dubious, but he said ‘sure, go for it’ anyway. It turns out that shoemaking equipment + a fake sheep + sulphur + water = an exploding dragon, (our maths has always been bad, but it seems to check out), and Krak gets the girl, the kingdom, and to name the city that springs up after himself. If you head to the Wawel Cathedral, you can see ‘dragon bones’ (cynics suggest they might just be whale) outside, as well as the caves in which the dragon lived, and a sculpture commemorating him.
The second world war, and the atrocities committed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, are a big part of Krakow’s history and cultural identity. A stag do isn’t the time to dwell on the past, but if you’re interested in this period of history or would like to pay your respects, there are a few places to visit.
The Ghetto Wall – commemorating the area the Jews were imprisoned.
Plac Bohaterow Getta – another relic of the Krakow Ghetto, and a symbol of its liquidation.
Schindler’s Factory – now a museum not only of the factory, but of Jews living in Krakow under the Naxi regime.
For more modern cultural, musical or film events and attractions, try: http://www.krakowpost.com/
It may not be the capital, but Krakow is a major cultural centre in Poland none the less, with festivals and celebrations occurring across the city throughout the year.
January – New Years is celebrated with fireworks, like most places, and with a lot of music.
February – The International Shanty Festival is basically an excuse to don an eyepatch.
May – the Krakow Marathon is more fun to watch than run, and the International Film Festival shows international films. Juwenalia is like a massive student led party, with some of the biggest Polish music artists playing – none are leaping to mind, but we’ll get back to you.
June – the International Festival of Military Bands is for those who prefer marching to a very regular beat.
July – The Jewish Culture Festival isn’t just lectures – there’s food, film, and music to enjoy. The Summer Jazz Festival is Poland’s biggest jazz festival.
August – The Pierogi Festival, which isn’t even a subtle excuse to gorge yourself on pierogies. The Off Festival is the closest thing to an alternative rock festival Krakow has, with a strong indie vibe. The Coke Live Music Festival is a sugary alternative.
October – The Unsound Festival is the sort of thing you’d expect to find in Berlin, with electronic, blippy and beepy music.
November – If you missed the Summer Jazz Festival, the Zaduszki Festival is an excellent choice instead – it’s the oldest running jazz festival in Europe.
You’ll find a lot of English speakers around Krakow, but let’s face it – you’re not going to find win over any Ola Jordan’s without making at least an effort to learn the language. Ola Jordan? The hot one from Strictly Come Dancing? Don’t try and tell us you haven’t seen it.
Toilets: Triangle for men, circle for women