It was up a little bit later the next day and we started it off with the hotel breakfast. This consisted of cheese, really well cooked scrambled eggs, sausages and even coco pops! They had a really good selection of food so that most people would have been able to have a lovely breakfast. They had even done seasonal shapes with the food!
With everyone well fed most of us, except the few who had stayed out a little bit too late the previous night, went on a walk to Wawel Castle.
It is a beautiful building and it was really atmospheric due to the smog. We walked around the grounds and enjoyed the view from the top of the hill before heading back down. It was here where the group got a bit separated and Luke and I walked the long way around by the river. This appeared to have been the right choice as just as we walked past the metal dragon statue, the church bells chimed the hour and the dragon breathed fire!
Unfortunately, the others missed it and still are unsure whether we actually did see it breathe fire, which we did.
We had a quick stop into a very pretty church (St Peters and St Pauls) before refuelling with a coffee and cupcake. Then, the best hagglers of the group got us a discounted tour to Schindler’s Factory via one of the electric buggies. This can be done via a walking tour but we had a lot to fit in that day so we were a little bit lazy.
We were on the end and this was great until the speed bumps! Even though the tour started with an unusual remix of Gangam style vs Last Christmas, it was a great way to see a lot of the Jewish Quarter and it was very moving, especially going past the square filled with the chair monuments. It was also really interesting to see the gates of Schindler’s Museum and all the photographs of the people who worked for him.
We then had a few hours to get some lunch before climbing aboard a rather posh minibus to go to the Salt Mines. Despite the traffic we eventually got there and met our guide. We were then taken down about 600 steps until we had really descended into the mine, feeling slightly dizzy, and our tour began. It was a fascinating tour with lots of facts about the mine and about the local area. There were also beautifully, intricately carved salt statues and complete chapels, made from salt, by the hands of the miners. We then came across a few very clear underground lakes and learnt more about how they have mined for salt in the past and how they mine now. My favourite bit was when we got to the huge underground chapel where they still hold mass. There were the most glittering chandeliers made from salt, which hung in the cavernous room. We were also treated to a light and music display, which was just magical.
The lift on the way back, which could hold 39 people in different compartments, was less magical as people had to slot into various compartments. With some of us in separate ones the lift sped , very quickly, all the way back up 130 metres to the surface. Once we were all safely back on the bus it was back to the Jewish quarter for a drink and supper. We went to an atmospheric bar called the Alchemist.
Then we went to an amazing restaurant where we had our own tunnel shaped room with a huge dining table in it. It was here I got my first taste of cabbage and meat filled polish dumplings. Yummy! although they were more like dim sum than the floury dumplings I was expecting.
It was then to bed early as we were heading to Auschwitz and Birkenau in the morning. These places were extremely moving, informative, eerily quiet and somewhere that is too hard to describe.