‘Does he mind flying on his own?’ asked the check in staff.  Erm, ‘can we wait’ I replied, ‘well he’s got 2 minutes’.  ‘Oh’ was all I could muster.  Jacko and Kenny were making their way to the plane so I tried RD’s mobile again.  Where had he disappeared to?  As I punched the call button on my phone RD turned the corner, thank feck.  Minutes later we were in the air and on our way.

A hour or so later and we’d landed safely at Wroclaw airport at silly o’clock in the morning.  Although work mates, this was not a work trip, but more a mates week away.  The plan was to spend 2 nights in Wroclaw and the get the train to Krakow for a further 3 nights, what could go wrong?

Our hostel in Wroclaw did something to our booking that saw us get a 6 bed dorm with an en-suite to ourselves.  No complaints from us.

First order of the day was to sample to local cuisine, so we headed downstairs to KFC.  It wasn’t very adventurous, but it filled a hole.  We soon found ourselves frequenting one of the local public houses, and that pretty much summed up our first day in Wroclaw.  We went from bar to bar, sampling the delightfully cheap yet strong ale that was on offer.

We had done our research and had a few venues on our wishlist.  One of these proved slightly elusive until RD decided to use sign language to communicate with the locals.  Everything he signed looked like a ball, but it worked as the English speaking Pole he accosted simply point to the pub we were looking for, directly behind him.  As it turns out, we’d pass it at least once already, maybe twice.

As you do when you’ve had a wee tipple, we started to take quite a few photos.  The camera came into particular use when we started to notice little gnome statues hidden all over the city.  This became an alcohol fuelled game in which we set out to find as many of the statues as we could.

When we eventually woke and made ourselves presentable the next day, the gnome game continued.  Not in quite the same fashion, but we went for a walk around town and on route found a couple more of the statues.  By the end of our time in Wroclaw I believe we had found 30 odd.

We also took in Pizza hut and a curry house in our time in Wroclaw, typically British I know.  We had a local want to start a fight with us, typically British also.

Wroclaw was a cool little city.  It was massively busy when we were there, which I actually quite liked.  Considering we went in October, the weather was very good with sun most days even if it was a little nippy at times.

Before we left London, we’d pre-booked out train tickets from Wroclaw to Krakow.  It all seemed simple enough, the journey was cheap, with no changes and took just 4 hrs.  We had a bit of trouble finding the right platform, but a station worker kindly showed us to the right place in return for ‘wonga’ as he put it.  So far, none to shabby.  What we didn’t equate for in this journey was the Saturday football.  Now I go to the football in the UK regularly, and yes it gets fairly busy on the trains.  What I don’t see on my way to White City station however is riot police with shields, shotguns and dogs.  The train I get to football isn’t full of balaclava weaning, wider than taller, skin head, tattooed, scary as fu*k Polish hooligans either, who crack off flares and bust into intimidating chorus at every stop on the way to their chosen destination.  Nothing in life will prepare you for letting an old lady off a train only for the next person after her to be balaclava clad and screaming at the police.  At this point I think we all thought we might have made a small mistake in getting the train.  It could be a long 4 hours.

On the train the first hour or so was tense.  We all sat looking out the window or at the ground, basically anywhere but into the eyes of the hooligans who would no doubt start throwing bricks at us any minute.  Then it happened, one of them spoke to me.  I was stupid and looked in their direction and caught his eye, the horror.  ‘Smoke?’, that was all that was said to me.  ‘Sorry’ I said and patted my pockets to signal that they were empty of cigarettes.  They did contain my wallet, passport, ipod and phone, but I wasn’t telling him that.  ‘English’ was the next question, my stomach dropped.  ‘Yep’ I replied, trying to sound vaguely friendly … and that was it, we were in conversation, the guy was travelling from Berlin to some second division Polish game where police would outnumber fans.  He had worked for a year or so in Harrow on the Hill which is about 30 mins train ride from where the 4 of us live, and he followed Chelsea.  In my eyes we had made a friend and were now safe, well I hoped as much.

There was a fella who on occasions sat next to Kenny and almost stared straight through him as if trying to devour his sole for 10 minutes at a time, but he said little and on each occasion eventually went back and sat with his friends.  After 3 hours of so the footy fans got off to change trains and the 4 of us each breathed a huge sigh of relief before bursting into fits of laughter, definitely nervous/relieved laughter.  That story still comes out every time we go for a drink.

It was dark when we pulled into the station at Krakow.  We soon located our hostel, Greg and Tom’s, which didn’t look much from the outside, but once inside was quite decent.  It was split over a few different floors, so our room and another on our floor shared a kitchen and bathroom.  The hostel also provided a free meal each evening.  I believe it won an award at this years HOSCARS.  We dumped our bags and headed out for dinner and drinks.  We found both an English and Irish bar that showed the football, so we would return there at a later date.

Walking around the town sq was quite spectacular, both during the day and at night.  We were again lucky with the weather, and the sun was shining.  The ‘entertainment’ on the square was somewhat questionable though, or maybe Halloween comes early in Krakow?

Over the next day or so we got chatting to some of the other people in our hostel and one evening we all went out for drinks.  It cost a little bit, but the money we paid the hostel took us to 4 different bars where we had all manner of vodka shots, and even a dark beer which we poured ourselves … some more successfully than others.  Our last stop was a nightclub in a building that had seen better days, still this was my kind of place and the drinks flowed.  4am came and we stumbled home … some more successfully than others.

The next morning, both looking and feeling rather green we had our trip to Auschwitz.  That was some day, a great experience, although ‘great’ probably isn’t the best adjective to describe it, in fact I’m not sure if there is a suitable adjective.  Some of the stories our guide told us were fascinating, some horrific.  We saw piles of hair, shoes, bags and other personal items of people killed in the camp, i felt quite sick at points and freeked out a little when we went into one of the gas chambers.  The whole place just felt wrong, but our guide was very informative and I felt like I learnt a lot on the day.   It is a very eerie place, but something everyone should experience, if only to ground them.

On our mini bus back to the hostel our tour operator talked to us about the possibility of ski holidays in Poland, it sounded quite good value and we all nodded when asked if we’d consider it.  Eyes pealed for a future ski related post based in Poland.

And that was it, our mini Polish break was over, the next morning we flew back to Luton.  On the whole it was a great trip with a lot of good laughs.  If you’re looking for a cheap break this could well be what you’re looking for!

Tips:

  • Eat and Drink in local establishments is you’re on a budget.  Expat pubs and mainstream fast food restaurants are more expensive.
  • Research any train journey before getting to the station as the station may be having renovation work done.  This goes for all European train travel.
  • Tom and Gregs hostel in Krakow – it may not look much from the outside, or even on the staircase, but it’s a really good hostel.  Well within budget.
  • Walking – Both Wroclaw and Krakow have beautiful town squares, take a stroll and explore.
  • Auschwitz – I would recommend going as a learning experience, although I could understand peoples reservations about it being a tourist ‘atttraction’.