The world's best kept secret, Krakow and Zakapane, Poland

As a former flight attendant, I visited Albania and Poland in all European countries. Poland is the fifth largest country in Europe. Apart from Lech Walesa, Copernicus, the Pope and a decade of Polish jokes that I never understood, I knew nothing about this land. But my interest peaked because it would soon be warm on the tourist trail and because my husband's family in Chicago came from here. He was tempted to discover his roots with pleasure. I studied and got something new. We flew from Atlanta via JFK for less than 4 days and from Warsaw to Krakow. There is no fatigue to the tired with a spin. I prefer to visit out-of-season cities to discuss with the locals. Provides an authentic and intimate atmosphere.

Upon arrival at the airport, Pavel welcomed us, who would be our entire driver. His greeting board is "Suza Davis". I say, "Hi, I'm Suzy from Atlanta." I chuckled when he said, "Yes, on the ground floor of the US." We looked at Hotel Amadeus, a 16th-century post office in the city center. Prince Charles once lay in our room, I said.

We set out for dinner. The illuminated old town was stunning and full of many young people, I felt old. 150,000 students live in this university city. Krakow is Europe's premier party where they stay until the birds sing. This historic quarter holds the concentration of the largest bars and restaurants in the world. Suddenly we discovered the Pierogi Garden, the latest Polish dumpling. Stuffed cabbage, lamb, beef, berries, chocolate and even peanut butter. There were 6 kinds of soup, each of the beets I hurt. After a dozen dumplings, I had melted ewe cheese pancakes, which was too delicious.

There have been numerous invasions in Poland during its history. After the attack by the Germans and then the Russians in 1989, it finally reached independence with the collapse of Soviet Communism. Krakow in the II. Towards the end of World War II the Germans destroyed wire by wire. It was planned to detonate as soon as the Russians took over, luckily the war ended a few hours before the plan was implemented.

Today it remains one of the few cities that has survived in its original form. Today its 780,000 inhabitants have become a fashionable international capital. Lively and modern, it still retains its traditional culture in some way with royal architecture. Find the spirit of the new Poland in Krakow.

On day 2, she was greeted by Anna, who was strikingly beautiful. We started off with a web of cobblestone streets in the Old Town, which we intended to walk. It was a maze of museums, chapels, galleries, cafes and football. Even in winter, I had fun with street dancers, mimics, accordions and a knight in an armored break dance on one corner.

We entered the largest medieval square in Europe, where little has changed since 1257. Its crown is crowned by a bell tower where an insect plays at the top of the clock. This will shake the residents at night. One must see the Cloth Hall, where fish merchants, clothing merchants and bakers have been selling their goods since the 14th century. Now a fabulous arcade at craft stalls.

We walked to the well-preserved Jewish Quarter, which is now artistic. Poland once held the largest concentration of Jews in Europe, with 3.5 million people. In the Middle Ages, the kings of Poland observed that they were deported elsewhere and asked them to boost their economy. Here they grew up to the post-World War II Holocaust and forced communism. Now there are only 180 left. We watched the ghettos where Spielberg's famous movie was filmed, and reviewed the river to see Schindler's factory.

Rick Steves writes that he should visit a dairy here. Anna accompanies us to one of the state-sponsored cafes for the working class. Jump from the Polish communist past. Everything is incredibly cheap. I ordered a bowl of homemade soup and cheesecake for $ 2.

Then we visited Wawel Castle, a masterpiece of the 12th century and a defining icon of the town's pride. There was no turn as we walked down the corridor of history. This was the residence of the kings for 500 years. Anna explains the legend of a cigarette fire-fighting dragon who ate virgins in the morning.

This was supported by the discovery of strange large bones in the 1400s. (The bones are truly whale bones, since this area was once underwater evergreens in Europe.) The dragon has thus become a symbol of the city and is present everywhere in souvenirs. Anna then rushes us to various beautiful churches, to me always as boring as the paint, but delicious. I ask, there are Protestants here. In fact, he replied, "Yes, one."

The afternoon restaurant and hotel were checked. I loved the official greetings and they were always educational. I learn the local cuisine and the best accommodation at the best prices. All hotels are fully booked. Jews and Catholics visit religious pilgrimages or go all year round.

Krakow has recently been ranked among the top 10 European destinations. Now I see why. Americans continue to move past Prague, which is proving to be temporary, raising prices and lower quality of service. It will be as expensive as Rome. Finally, Krakow could do the same if Poland switched to the euro in 2012. Decomposes for the time being affordable prices. Europeans are here with savings of 50-70%. Germans and Danes in particular have dental and optometric needs. Medical tourism, including plastic surgery, is booming. I met an Austrian staff attendant who flies monthly for spa treatments for half the price.

At night we had dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Wierzyn, which has served its princes to tourists since 1364. Delicious peasant dishes made from (organic) wild boar, roasted ribs and heaps of potatoes. I ask them to teach me Polish, Slavic language, which is just as impossible as a mouthful of alphabet soup. The word WC has 5 syllables.

On the third day, we woke up to a gray, cold, and wet day, which gave us the right atmosphere for what we would see. Pavel led us to Auschwitz 60 km away. Yuri was welcomed by our brilliant personal guide, whose only passion was to enlighten us on the tragedies unimaginable here in 1940-45. I visited Dachau once, but it was the biggest concentration camps. This deadly factory killed 1.4 million people from 27 nationalities. Most were Jews. The others are Gypsies, Soviets, Poles, Gays, political dissidents and so on.

We entered the gate reading, "Work will set you free." Inside, a great reminder when we looked at crematoria, starving cells, pounds of hair, endless glasses and a pond that was still gray from ashes 60 years ago. For me, the most comforting part was the children's section. There were tiny shoes, dolls and tiny German documents in the sea, with 230,000 little ones suffering and dying here.

We were led to the extended Birkenau camp (Auschwitz II), where wooden barracks built 100,000 houses, but eventually over 200,000. In silence, the three of us walked half a mile to see the gas chambers and the memorial. At the end of the tour, Yuri said goodbye to us with this profound statement: "I led more Holocaust survivors who visited here than tourists. In the end, I was told that I could not show that 1% bad was actually." that my eyes have ever seen.

Late afternoon we visited the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine. This mysterious and huge, 3-mile underground city has been extracting salt for 800 years. World Heritage attracts millions of visitors every year, and it seems that they have all arrived today.

Our guide seemed to Justina to be obsessed with salt, but that only meant the love of the leader. He said to follow 836 steps, which was a better result than the stair master. The caves were worn by me, but this page stays in my head forever. Imagine underground chapels, ornate sculptures, martial arts, and life-size figures all made up of salt or a restaurant and a 380 post office and below street level. It was spectacular. Miners and horses have lived here for centuries. They stayed healthy in this rich microclimate. It has to do with magnesium ions, whatever they are? Nowadays people come to the healing chambers of the treatment complex to isolate the purity of the natural air.

4 days. I am constantly researching unique things or places in the world that other travelers must introduce. I found it today in Zakapane. For years a friend of mine insisted that I visit this mountain resort with a funny name I have never remembered. With Eva, our expert guide, we went into the clean air of the Tatras. He said that the target of this adventure of 60,000 people will increase to 200,000 throughout the year. In summer they come to mineral water baths and alpine hiking. They come skiing in winter. This week Zakapane hosted the International Ski Jumping Competition.

Here was a city of charming artists and Giorake, a mountainous mountain ethnic group. These nomadic shepherds date back to the 15th century. They like to wear colorful clothes for tourists. They live on cheese or whatever else the cheese smoothes out. We visited a Swiss-sized cheese market. As I saw, there were sheep and goat cheeses that were artistic in every imaginable shape. We traveled to the Aqua Park with an Olympic-sized mineral water spring with a mineral water pool and lifted the breathtaking scenery high up into the mountains.

It was the most productive and enjoyable day tour. I found a local tourist company that organizes fun activities for groups like horse sledging in the woods, dog sledging, and "snow lifting" in new rubber sleds like sledging. In the huge outdoor market with countless ethnic stands, I bought surprising leather and fur for $ 260, which looked fashionably six times the price.

I didn't see this short visit so much. The next time I come back, I'll do a new "Crazy Communism Tour". Outside Krakow, Nowa Huta, once a serious socialist suburb of forced industrialization. The huge steel mills have surpassed the rich agricultural fields. Doctors and professors were sent here to work. Miles of concrete tenement houses were set up to house the houses.

During the tour, you will discover first-hand Stalin's gift to Krakow by riding the classic East German Trabant car to Nowa Huta. The room includes dinner with salted bread, pickles and vodka and dancing in a retro 70's disco.

Under the yoke of communism, the Poles refused to give up their religion. Stalin said, "Implementing communism here is like winning a bull." Against such a determined spirit, he gave up on people. I marvel at all the obstacles that this Stoic country has overcome.

If you've been there and bought a London, Paris, Madrid or Athens T-shirt, I encourage you to visit unexplored parts of Europe. Krakow is expected to be the next Prague. You pull it off with history, friendly faces, hearty cuisine, and it won't break your pocket book. When you visit the new Poland, please do not tell anyone about Zakapane, one of the best kept secrets in the world.