Off The Beaten Track
Our World | On 20, Sep 2013
I recently had the pleasure of spending five days in Krakow, home of Wisła Kraków and Cracovia football teams, the winding river Wisła, Wawel Castle and the ubiquitous Pope John Paul II. Knowing that this destination is probably off the beaten track for most, I thought I would give you a quick snapshot at my experiences there.
So what is there to do in Krakow? The answer is plenty if like myself, you enjoy stepping back in time. A true Polish Iron Curtain experience is certainly eye opening. I was picked up from the hotel by my guide, in an original Trabant. Yes you heard correctly. During the Communist occupation of Poland, Trabants were incredibly popular. My guide drove me some 8km out of Krakow to the huge suburb of Nowa Huta (The New Steel Mill). Built after the war, Lenin’s Steel Works and associated suburb is certainly a blast from the past. Speeding along the tree-lined avenues in this perfectly symmetrical suburb, we finally stopped to appreciate the view of the Square that once housed Lenin’s statue (an impressive sight, even if a little eerie).
Next it was onto the massive steelwork’s complex. Renamed Sendzimir Steelworks, the huge complex covers over 1,000 hectares and even has its own internal rail network. While there, you must visit one of the largely unchanged, Milk Bars. I’ll warn now though, take a deep breath and wait to experience the best table service of your life! Grim counter assistants sternly take you order, which then swiftly arrives from the kitchen hatch. No frills here but well worth the experience of what life was like back in Communist Poland.
My next little adventure took me to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Odd and boring you might think, but honestly it was completely the opposite. The Mine really impressed me and I think offers a lot of potential for a corporate group. Built in the 13th Century, it continuously produced salt until 2007. After a descent on foot of some 380 steps, you will be able to look up and see the dozens of statues, three chapels and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of the rock salt by the miners. Saying that this sight was impressive simply does not do it justice. The mine also boasts a conference hall, which could be a uniquely different venue for a product launch, conference or even a gala dinner for up to 600 delegates.
For me Krakow is unusual and different but well worth visiting. For a corporate group though it is tricky. The quirky appeal that would attract some, would at the same time put many off. Organising an event here would certainly require extended effort to arrange multiple activities to keep the group entertained. Of course there are some good bars and restaurants and the range of vodka available is exceptional. The slightly down side is that its appeal actually comes from being all a bit dark and depressing, letting you experience a different mindset/way of life. Krakow is the home of Pope John Paul II, beautiful architecture and loads of street vendors selling local treats. All of that a side though, it also houses some truly unique venues and great experiences that would easily bring a smile to a corporate group. Overall I’d say give Krakow a crack!