I flew from London Stansted Airport to Balice Airport in Krakow using SkyEurope airlines. The flight was uneventful with no huge delays. For a budget airline, service was good, with a free beverage (tea, coffee or mineral water) being offered.
After flying into Krakow, we (James, Crinnie, Lisa and myself) took a taxi to our accommodation (Willa Borgosz)in Zakopane. This took a bit of negotiation but we had the assistance of Artur who is polish.
The trip was 2 hours long and we arrived quite tired after a long day travelling and hungry. We got directions to a nice restaurant from the manager - an amusing experience since she didn't speak english and we didn't speak polish!
The next 4 days (Mon - Thurs) we snowboarded. We booked lessons for the first 2 days with Szkola Narciarska. Our instructor was called Kuba and he ran us through the basics - turns and linking turns.
My main problem after 2 days was I still couldn't stand up from a sitting position on my own. This was so frustrating and I was on the verge of quitting. But on the 3rd day, out of the blue, I got some expert help from a complete stranger. He not only showed me how to do a standing start but some technical details on knee movement - all without speaking english. I now know the words for hand, leg, left and right in Polish!
After that I was in bizness! I could then get on with practicing my turns. By the last day, I could make it down the slope (from 3/4 way up) without falling. But I still can't use the button lift. Will have to tackle that next time.
Lisa and I also took a trip up to Kasprowy Wierch. This is a ski/snowboard area for the more experienced. To get there you need to take a cable car which does the journey in two stretches with an intermediate change. The views at the top are spectacular.
If you plan to use this slope, go early in the morning. We went at about 8am and so was amoung the first. When we came down 2 hours later, the queue for the cable car extended out of the building.
I liked Zakopane. It's a great little town with quite a bit to see and do. If you're into nature and adventures, you can ski, snowboard, hike, ice-climb and do all sorts. There are great restaurants and pubs too.
I think it's a great place to learn to snowboard or ski. It's cheap and you can rent the equipment and pay for lessons quite cheaply. That way you don't have to splash out too much.
Auschwitz - Birkenau
On Day 5, on our way from Zakopane to Krakow, we stopped off for a visit to Auschwitz. This is located about an hour from Krakow in the town of Oswiecim.
The former Nazi concentration camp is not a museum and serves well as a reminder to the horrible events that took place there. It's a depressing place to visit but I would still recommend it. I, personally, didn't really comprehend the scale of the concentration camp until this visit.
And then on to Krakow it was. We arrived in the evening and checked into the hotel (RT Regent) and then ventured out for dinner. Saturday we had a proper look around Krakow, visiting the Market Square, Wavel Castle and the Old Town area.
The market square was quite busy - it being Saturday. I bought some little trinkets of amber and other stones. Poland is well known for its amber. There was also a variety of leather and woolen goods on sale but it was freezing cold and we probably didn't look around as thouroughly as we ought to.
I would definitely want to visit Krakow again (summertime) and have a look around the Jewish District, the newer parts of the city and travel out to see the salt mines at Wieliczka.
I really like Polish food. It's probably not the healthiest of cuisines as it's probably designed for farmers and other manual labourers and so is loaded in calories. Polish fayre consists of a lot of meat and quite a bit of fat.
My favourite dishes were the potato pancakes served with stew and the grilled meats and sausages. Breakfast was typically bread with a selection of meats and cheeses - they have good bread in Poland!
To drink, I tended towards fruit juices . . . espcecially blackcurrant juice. This seemed to be a popular choice and was widely available. Then there was the ubiquitous vodka which came in a variety of flavours.