Call me crazy, but following my trip to Kuwait in mid-December I made a long stop in Poland on the way back to the U.S...in the middle of winter.  I had another friend (of course) who lives in Madrid and had planned his own trip to Prague and then Poland and I decided to meet up with him, his girlfriend and his traveling buddies.  I actually met up with him in Prague because it was easier to access from Kuwait and I spent a day in Prague before moving on to Poland.

I got to Prague by again booking through Chase's travel portal so I could use some of my points to make the flight a it cheaper.  The most reasonable option available was to fly Etihad from Kuwait to Dubai, then Air Berlin from Dubai to Berlin, and then hop on a short connection to Prague.  So essentially it took me 3 flights (2 stops) to get from Kuwait to Prague.  Air Berlin is partners with Etihad, so I didn't make 2 separate bookings, it was all booked under 1 booking.

I won't talk much here about Prague as I only spent a day there.  It was my third time visiting Prague so I was completely find with just spending a day there.  I do however  want to share a few pictures of the Christmas markets and decorations in Prague as it was a really great experience to be able to see these things around Christmas time in Prague.

After Prague, our first stop in Poland was Krakow.  We took a bus to get there (I can't remember the name of the company or track down my ticket) and the trip took about 7 hours.  It was a long trip with a few stops in larger towns or cities but the bus was actually pretty comfortable and was not full for most of the trip.  I will say that locating the right bus in the bus station in Prague was quite confusing, but eventually we found the right one.  I don't really have any tips for figuring that one out.

We had left earlier in the day from Prague and arrive in Krakow in the evening.  I had booked separate Airbnb from my friends which was a little farther out from the center of the city.  Most of the building in Krakow are very old as there hasn't been any new construction or renovation in a long time.  However, don't be fooled by this.  The single-room flat I had booked on Airbnb was surprisingly really nice, and it was cheap.  I had no problem checking in and getting the key to the flat from the owner, who did speak English.

After checking in to our respective Airbnb flats we all met up and walked into the center of Krakow to check it out.  First obvious warning about Poland in the winter, it's very dark and cold.  If you're thinking about visiting Poland in the winter, bring all of your winter clothes and bundle up.  Krakow has really pretty European-style streets that were also decorated really nicely for the holiday season.  I had never been farther east that Prague before so I didn't really know what to expect, but after walking through a few of the small streets everything opened up and we found ourselves in the beautiful, huge main market square in the center of the old city named Rynek Glowny.

During the holiday season in the main square you can find endless little shops selling pierogies, soup, hot wine, souvenirs, jewelry, etc.  Anything you could hope for is there.  There is also a semi-indoor row of shops located in the middle of the square that you can walk through and browse.

The next day I had decided to do a free walking tour through Krakow.  These tours are offered pretty frequently by a company that can be found here: https://freewalkingtour.com/krakow/.  Personally, I love doing free walking tours when I am visiting a city for the first time and I highly recommend it to others.  You will learn so much more about a city and its history from experienced an knowledge guides, and all you have to do is tip them at the end of the tour.

The tour ends at Wawel Royal Castle, which is a huge historic castle sitting upon a hilltop in Krakow.  The tour guide will explain this history of the castle and its relationship to the city.  Krakow is also surrounded by an old medieval wall that still remains mostly intact today.

Another must do in Krakow is Schindler's Factory Museum.  The museums in Poland are incredibly well done and this is a special one.  Poland does have quite dark and depressing history, so prepare yourself accordingly before visiting this museum.  I didn't take any pictures in this museum as I wanted to be respectful of what happened there, and it is defiantly a museum that you need to see for yourself.

The museum is located within a walkable distance from the former Jewish Quarter in Krakow, known as the Kazimierz District, and I highly recommend taking a walk through the streets in the District.  Most of the former Jewish population of Krakow no longer exists there, a fact incredibly depressing in itself, but seeing the history of the District for yourself is a must do. However, don't bother trying out one of the "Jewish" restaurants in the area.  They aren't really legitimate or even run by Jewish families, and the food is mediocre as a result.

That about covers Krakow, so now I'll move onto to our second and last stop in Poland, which was Warsaw.  We got to Warsaw by taking a PKP Intercity train, which you can book here: https://www.intercity.pl/en/.  Trains are quite cheap in Poland and the train ride was just under 3 hours from Krakow to Warsaw.  Do not book a first class ticket, as there is really no difference between first and second class that makes first class worth the extra money. Upon arriving in Warsaw we checked into our Airbnb rooms. Mine was basically right in the center of the city.  This Airbnb booking was a private room on the top floor of the building, which has amazing views of the city which I have to share.

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The first thing we did after checking into our respective Airbnb rooms was of course to walk into the Warsaw Old Town and check it out.  First disclaimer, the entire city of Warsaw was basically destroyed during WWII and the Old Town is really the only visible historical part of the city that is left.  The Old Town is smaller than the one in Krakow, but I found it to be just as charming.  You can also find many restaurants and shops in the Old Town.  I highly suggest trying a kielbasa from one of the shops in the middle of the Old Town.  It is incredible.  I couldn't control myself and ate 2 of them.  The Old Town was also decorated for the holiday season, which made it even more charming.

Just as in Krakow, a free walking tour is a must do in Warsaw as well through the same company if you really want to know the history of the city.  A lot of sites throughout the city you just won't be able to see yourself as they were destroyed in WWII, but the tour guides are really great about explaining what used to exist there and what happened during the war.  If you are like me, I believe that it's very important to learn from the past and take that with you into the future. The first picture I've posted below used to be a park where Jewish people would get together and socialize or just spend some time outdoors, and the other 2 are memorials to what happened in Warsaw during the war.

Remember when I said the museums in Poland are incredibly well done?  Go to the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw.  Just as in Schindler's Factory Museum in Krakow, I didn't take any pictures so as to be respectful to the history, but take my word for it.  It will take you a couple of hours through the museum as the detail, quality and amount of items that were preserved is stunning.  Warsaw has maybe even a darker history than Krakow, if that is even possible, so prepare yourself and make the visit.

I had a lot of time to wander around on my own in Warsaw and explore the neighborhood where I was staying.  My Airbnb was also very close to the Old Town so it made it easy for me to wander over that direction.  There was a small 24 hour fresh market right down the street from where I was staying, so occasionally I would buy fresh Polish food from the market and bring it back to my Airbnb to prepare.  I should mention that the same thing is easy to do in Krakow, and we actually made ourselves an amazing breakfast with kielbasas included one day in Krakow.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from my trip to Warsaw that are memorable to me as I look through them. I hope this inspires you to make a trip to Poland yourself.  It will broaden your perspective of the world, I'm sure of that.

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P.S. You thought I was going to leave you without a picture of snow in Poland?!  I don't think so!!