Cindy’s 10-Day Poland Adventure
This was my first trip to Poland, and it was extra-special because of my Polish heritage. My friend and I joined 14 eager food enthusiasts on a Poland Culinary Vacations group tour, a special tour that highlights Polish heritage, cuisine, local food markets, and cooking classes. How could I resist!
Poland is a beautiful country rich with lush green landscapes and scenic vistas. The countryside beckons visitors with the natural beauty of dramatic, jagged mountains, nicknamed the Polish Alps, the Masurian Lake District of 2,000 lakes, primeval forests, and the Slowinski Sand Dunes where the Baltic Sea’s waves and wind form dunes as high as 30 meters. Top Poland Destinations
Rich in history, heritage and heartache, Warsaw straddles the Vistula River in east-central Poland. We spent our first night in the heart of Warsaw in a magnificent, landmark hotel built in 1901 on the site of the old Tarnowski Palace on the city’s Old Town Square. We explored the city on a guided motor tour and walking tour. We marveled at its beauty, museums, shops, churches, landmarks, and eclectic architecture.
I was emotionally moved by Warsaw. It was fascinating to see the spirited rebirth of a city that experienced the worst crimes of war. I discovered that Poland has many monuments and museums dedicated to the heritage and history of Polish Jews.
Later that day, we traveled 300 miles south to the medieval city of Krakow.
Krakow is an elegant city that was spared the wartime devastation that nearly destroyed Warsaw. We arrived in time for Krakow’s famous Dragon Festival. As the legend goes, a fire-eating dragon lived for centuries in a cave under Wawel Castle scaring and hurting the good people of Krakow. Finally, a local shoemaker freed the city from the dragon’s reign of terror. We watched the colorful ceremonies and fabulous fireworks from our hotel window. The dragon became the official mascot of Krakow, and a fitting symbol of triumph over evil forces.
Food, Glorious Polish Food!
The next day, we joined the Poland Culinary Vacations tour group. We toured Krakow’s historic Jewish district and other points of interest. Then we drove to Zakopane, a resort town in the countryside at the base of the spectacular Tatra Mountain Range where we spent four nights.
We dined at typical Polish restaurants in Zakopane, enjoying local favorites like chicken soup, cabbage rolls, herring in oil with onions, Hunter’s stew, goulash, breaded pork cutlets and Polish croissant cookies. Yum!
We traveled from Zakopane to a mountain village and prepared foods with village women. We learned how to make perogies (Polish dumplings), stuffed cabbage, and other delicious traditional dishes. We dined at a restaurant and participated in folk dances. We ate delicious smoked Polish cheeses.
We toured famous Zakopane-style wooden churches and houses, a very popular architectural style.
We took a day trip from Zakopane to the Dunajec River Gorge where we spent an absolutely glorious day. It’s one of the most scenic areas on the river where the cliffs rise 300 meters tall.
We took a glass painting class and decorated the timber churches with our artwork.
Back to Krakow
We then returned to Krakow and toured the Historic Centre of Krakow, a UNESCO World Heritage site at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century merchants’ town has Europe’s largest market square and features many historical houses, palaces, and churches with their amazing exteriors and interiors.
While in Krakow, we enjoyed another cooking class with a renowned chef. Thanks to this wonderful class, I now make delicious perogies and mouth-watering crepes with chicken and mushrooms. My family and friends are very impressed with my new skills.
Next day, we toured the famous 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mine, a working mine until 2007. It was nothing like I have ever experienced—stunning, long underground passages and chambers, lavishly decorated by talented artists. Sculptures, statues, reliefs, walls, floor tiles and even chandeliers—all carved out of salt. Imagine this: the salt mine is 178 miles or 287 kilometers long!
Next day, we visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial and learned about the largest, most notorious Nazi concentration camp complex in operation during World War II.
The following day, we toured another food market in Krakow and learned about different types of foods and how they run the market. We had another cooking class with a famous chef in the countryside where I learned about dessert perogies. I had no idea you could do that with perogies!
We spent our last day in Poland in Krakow. After a farewell dinner, we toured Wawel, Krakow’s historic hilltop castle complex. It’s the most important collection of buildings in Poland and considered to be the Polish version of Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. It is the crown jewel of Krakow’s architectural treasures and a glorious way to end our 10-day adventure. In all, it was a fantastic experience and reasonably priced, too.
From Krakow, we flew back to Miami via Vienna. Now I’m back and unpacked with great memories of my unforgettable trip to Poland.
Cindy Baldwin, founder of Baldwin Travel, is an award-winning travel agent in Naples, FL with satellite offices in Londonderry, NH. As a custom vacation planner, Cindy is often on the road exploring countries and cultures. Her first-hand experiences give her vital information about a destination’s best tourist attractions, personal and group tours, and special activities and unique experiences. Her meticulous research paves the way for unforgettable, personalized vacations, honeymoons, and destination weddings for clients.