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Places we’d rather be – Kraków, Poland.

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Gin blogger Claire Filer from High Ginx gives us her guide to the Polish city of Kraków

 

I had a week off at the same time as two close friends, a rare and exciting event, and so we decided to choose a holiday destination that none of us had previously visited. Kraków had
been raved about as a beautiful, historically and culturally interesting city, and very affordable due to the exchange rate, and so flights and an Airbnb were booked and we were
sorted.


Little did we know, Kraków is somewhat of a gastro-hub, with an interesting fusion of Polish, Jewish, Italian and French cuisines. The best restaurants we came across were located in
Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, and the exceptional Karakter was so good that we went twice. Dishes such as bull testicle pâté, ostrich tartare with truffled goose lard, and beef ribs
slow-cooked in Guinness, resulted in many a fork-drop; while a knowledgeable sommelier, extensive wine list and excellent selection of spirits, including artisan vodka, added to the
brilliance of the experience. Overseen by the same chef, the bistro Zazie was a very close runner-up, with mouth-watering French-inspired dishes such as slow-cooked goose leg and
potato gratin with confit duck. A special mention also for the Michelin Guide-recommended Trattoria La Campana, with flawless service and delightful Italian-inspired cuisine.
As gin vloggers, we felt it was our responsibility to report back on Poland’s national beverage, wodka. (The one Polish gin we found, Lubuski, was average at best.)

One must visit the tiny, quaint Wodka bar (although you may be lucky to get a seat), where a tasting flight of six different flavours of vodka can be purchased for the equivalent of £8. A vodka
purist might scoff at salted caramel, chilli chocolate, hazelnut and pear which were our personal favourites, but this is a wonderful place for an aperitif or a liquid dessert. Notable
proper vodkas we tried elsewhere were Chopin, the famous Żubrówka and the more obscure Frant and Zielona Natura. Once the vodka has kicked in, Kraków has a vibrant
nightlife, with clubs dotted throughout the city, with a mixture of locals and British tourists quoting The Inbetweeners. A particular highlight for us was a sojourn in a karaoke bar; I’ll
leave that to your imagination. For a classier option, Piano Rouge is open late with quality live music and slightly outrageous décor, as well as local cuisine and beverages.
For a recovery breakfast, one cannot go past the adorably cosy Ranny Ptaszek, again in Kazimierz, serving Jewish-fusion brunch cuisine along with excellent coffee and homemade
kombucha. Followed by a wander around the streets of Kazimierz and an informative visit to the Old Synagogue, this was a great way to kill a few hours and gain strength for another
assault on the wodka and restaurants of Kraków.

Kraków itself is a beautiful city reminiscent of a fairytale with pastel-coloured, ornately-decorated buildings, grand cobbled squares and old-fashioned horse and carriage rides. It is
worth simply wandering the streets, visiting colourful pottery shops and quaint delicatessens, picking up treats such as rose Paçzki (Polish doughtnuts) and smoked sheep’s
cheese chocolates. The interior design of the churches is also stunning and more colourful and decorative than other parts of Europe, and Klasztor I Bazylika Franciszkanów contains
some particularly interesting stained-glass windows. One can do several day trips from Kraków, and we chose two: the Wieliczka Salt Mine and
Auschwitz/Birkenau. As a New Zealander well-versed in caves, the Salt Mine was informative but not an essential part of the trip, although apparently the air in the mines is
very good for one’s skin. I doubt I need to tell you the effect that our visit to Auschwitz/Birkenau had on us; suffice to say we needed a couple of hours’ down-time to
process the day.

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