Poland Budget

Goal pp/d: $40 CAD

Number of days in country: 6

Daily average: $32.68

Cheap things: Wine, Beer, Apple Cider, Dumplings, Accomodation, Transport, Groceries

Expensive things: Restaurants, Beer at specialty beer pubs

Overall Poland was VERY affordable.

Auschwitz

I have tried to process all that we were able to see and learn during our visit to Auschwitz over the past day and a half, but I am still struggling. To try to put this experience into words is impossible. The vocabulary I possess is infinitely less than what I would need to describe our visit. It would be unjust for me to try. I would suggest reading the book Night by Elie Wiesel to hear his account of his time at Auschwitz. Both Chris and I read it before visiting which provided a haunting context to what we were seeing.

What I can describe about our experience are concrete things; how to get to and from the museum, the length of the tours, the weather, etc. I will not give facts or statistics, nor will I share photos as we did not take a single one. Our experience is one we will not soon forget, photographs seemed unnecessary and almost offensive.

The bus ride from Krakow to Auschwitz was very easy, we simply turned up at the station and bought a ticket to Oświęcim – which is the Polish name for Auschwitz. It was a 1.5 hour bus ride and cost 12 PLN (4 CAD) and the bus stopped directly by the museum entrance. We were able to watch a 20 minute film before our tour began, which was footage of the liberation of the camp. We then spent 2 hours touring Auschwitz and 1 hour touring Birkenau which is 3 km down the road. A shuttle bus goes between the two sites at very frequent intervals. I did not expect to be able to see as much as we did, I was naive in my expectations of the tour.Only a few of the exhibits we visited were fully reconstructed. As it is January, the weather was cold and grey, with the winds whipping through the grounds. It gave us some perspective on the conditions that would have had to be endured. After our tour a bus again stopped infront of the museum to take us back to Krakow.

In terms of going on an organized tour booked through an agency in Krakow or going on your own, I would suggest going on your own. There were only 20 people in our tour group, vs. Much larger numbers in other groups. The tour was rather rushed, it was often hard to read the plaques in exhibits at the pace we were going. However, the information provided by the guide was priceless. As we went alone after the tour we were free to walk around for as long or little as we wanted. It was incredibly easy to get there and back, so I do think it is worth it to go alone.

We spent around 5 hours between the two sites. It was a profound experience, one that will stay with us forever.

A quote on a plaque at one of the exhibits:

“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.

This quote is an interpretation from George Santayana’s quote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think this is describes why you should visit Auschwitz.

January 27th marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

We are now in Budapest, Hungary. Today is a rest day after a long day of travel, catching up on laundry, budgeting, getting groceries etc.

We spent 6.5 days in Poland and averaged $32.68 each a day which is $7.32 daily under budget.(Woohoo!)

Thanks for reading,
Kathleen

End of Prague, Start of Poland

Hi Everyone,

Our last few days in Prague were spent in much the same manner as the first, wandering the historic old town enjoying all the beauty the city had to offer. We did a 10 km walk along a ridge that rises over the city, providing stellar views of the city. The walk ended at the iconic Prague Castle, which we walked the grounds for free and enjoyed the incredible views of the castle and city. We then continued to climb the hill to the monestary, where monks brewed beers for hundreds of years, but in recent time has been taken over by a third party. The inside of the pub was very well preserved, with a beautiful wooden bar that had copper pipes that piped the beer from the mash tuns to the bar. As mentioned in Chris’s Corner we tried several unfiltered beers which were fantastic. That evening we splurged on supper and went to the restaurant Anthony Bourdain visited on his show “No Reservations.” We had the roasted pork knee (I didn’t know you could order such a thing) as it was his recommendation of what to eat. I am not a huge fan of pork, but this was definitely the best pork I have ever had as it was tender and not at all dry, which are usually my two biggest complaints about pork.

Our final day in Prague we spent getting ourselves organized for the coming days. It is comical to us how much planning and booking is required in Europe vs. South America. In SA if we wanted to go anywhere we just had to turn up at the bus station and wait for a random guy to yell the name of the city we were going to know where to buy tickets. “Bogota, Bogota, Bogota,” will forever be etched in our minds as the soundtrack of South American bus terminals. In Europe you must purchase everything in advance, or risk not getting tickets or paying much more by turning up at the station. There is also massive discrepancies between prices of transportation between given places. For example, an overnight train from Krakow, Poland to Budapest, Hungary would have been $140 CAD each, and the bus is $25 CAD each and is actually quicker than the train. A Eurorail pass would not be practical for us as we are spending 2.5 months in Europe, in mostly Eastern Europe, and travel much slower and off the beaten path than the usual (20 year olds) whirlwind Europe tour. Therefore, it is necessary for us to spend the time researching the different modes of transportation.

I am going to share our average daily expenditures in each country as I think people have an interest in that, as well as to encourage others to realize their dreams of traveling. We had paid for our round-the-world plane tickets in advance, so they are not included in the daily averages. We still have a few dates to move around and 1 additional flight to add in, so we do not have a final number. When we do I will share that number. With all that being said, our average daily expenditure in Prague, Czech Republic was $31 CAD. That is $9 dollars each under budget. Off-season travel is crucial! We looked at some hostels with peak season dates, and they were double the price we are paying!

We headed from Prague to Wroclaw Poland via Polski bus which is an excellent company. (Tip:You can only book tickets with them via their online website) We arrived to Wroclaw around supper time and had a quick bite to eat, bought a few groceries, and then turned in early. The next day we did 2 free walking tours, one of the old town and one of the Jewish District. The walking tours allow you to cover so much ground and see the majority of the cities, and are incredibly informative and interesting. Also, the guides usually point out their favorite restaurants and pubs, which are infinitely better and cheaper than any of the guide book recommendations. We have been trying to go on tours that only employ locals, as some tour companys will hire anyone meaning you could be led around a Polish city by a British guy. My favorite part of the tour was learning about the 302 gnomes located around the city, which started as sign of rebellion but turned into adorable art adorning the streets. One gnome is so small he requires a microscope to view him so he is kept at a local university.

We took the recommendation of the guide on a restaurant, and were not dissapointed. Chris had beef goulash over gnocchi, and I had dumplings stuffed with potato, cheese and spinach. Both dishes were heavenly.

We went to the most popular attraction in Wroclaw, a 114 meter long by 15 meters high 360 degree panoramic painting that took 750 kg of paint to complete. The painting depicts a battle between Poland and Russia. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Not only was the painting incredibly detailed making it seem life-like, it also had props all along the bottom of the painting further making it appear 3D. For example, if there was a fence post at the bottom of the painting there would be a continuation with a real post perfectly color matched, making it impossible to determine where the painting ended and the props began. If you are traveling to Wroclaw this panorama painting is an absolute must.

We then traveled from Wroclaw to Krakow which was a 4 hour bus ride. We arrived and made a quick lunch and then headed out to walk around this beautiful city. We then met up with someone we met at the hostel in Wroclaw for 4 PLN (just over a dollar) beers at a local pub. The next day we woke up and again went on 2 walking tours, one of the old town and one of the Jewish Quarter. Krakow is 70 km from
Auschwitz meaning this city has an astounding amount of historical significance. We learned and were able to see so many things, it is not possible to share all of them via this post. I also think it is important to see these places for yourself, as no amount of words can accurately depict the history that has taken place here. After the tours, we visited Schindlers Factory, which is a museum not only about Schindler, but about all of Poland during this era.

Tomorrow we are heading to Auschwitz. We have opted to go on our own and join the tour provided by the museum guides (3.5 hour tour of the grounds). It is obligatory to have a guide to tour the grounds, so the options are to go on your own and join the tour once there, or join one of the many tours offered all throughout the town. We opted to go on our own as we wanted to have time to walk around on our own, and to stay as long as we like. The tours from town are a specific length of time and do not allow for you to go at your own pace. Worth mentioning is that as of January 1, 2015 you can no longer turn up and join a tour on spot, you need to prebook the museum guides ahead of time. The biggest issue with this is it takes up to 24 hours to process your payment and issue your tickets, so book well in advance. We were told by a local tour company that it costs the same to do it on your own (it will probably cost about half the price of the tour) and that the museum guides were booked until the following week. Don’t be fooled, they just want you to buy their tour. We will let you know after tomorrow our impressions of going on your own vs. what we have heard of tours.

We will then be heading to Budapest on Sunday.

Thanks for reading,
Kathleen

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Roast pork knee

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Wroclaw

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Gnome!!!

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More gnomes

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Goulash and dumplings!

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The restaurant

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Krakow

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View from Krakow Castle

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Bridge to Jewish Quarter Krakow