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Pretty Poland Calling!
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One of the most beautiful countries in the world, Poland is perfect with pretty panoramas, historic architecture, music, art and wonderful pint lager. By Kavita Wadhwani

Any central European sojourn is incomplete without travelling to picturesque Poland. The country offers an exciting range of gourmet, sightseeing, relaxing and shopping options. Its bustling cities with efficient trams and subways make for an extremely pretty sight. Although Poland does get a decent number of footfalls, it is a mystery why tourists don’t throng to this Republic as they do to most other destinations. The beautiful Polish cities are just begging to be discovered.

Can’t-Miss Cities
1. Krakow- the City of Dreams!
The medieval and historical city of Krakow in south of Poland is one of the oldest and prettiest university towns, which is evident from the number of youngsters thriving in the city. Poland’s foremost city is modern yet old with an ideal blend of its colourful past and the present making it a true treasury of history. The streets here pound with life, a seemingly relaxed city with young, chirpy people from all across the globe, who come here to study or make a living. There are a number of Indian students in the city who study and work part time in varied places.

What to Expect: Krakow, the magical city boasts of wonderful museums, galleries, restaurants and shops. Be it day or night, the city square is host to the caravans of musicians and entertainers while evenings have candlelit cafés full of city- dwellers unwinding post work. Kazmierz, the former Jewish Ghetto, provides a fascinating history into Jewish life from World War 2. The city sure knows how to party; on weekends, this place is buzzing well into the early hours. The Square and adjacent streets attract plenty of tourists with multitude of cafés and pubs, music clubs, street dances.

During the day, one can experience a boisterous market overflowing with souvenirs, bags, silver-stone-amber jewellery, crafts and flowers. You can also encounter foot-tapping accordionists, statues coming to life, a photography display of myriad themes and jazz musicians encouraging couples young and old to waltz on the cobblestones. With well dressed and suave youngsters all around, it is little wonder that Krakow is the royal capital of Poland. Walking through this city is like entering an enchanted world. Needless to add, Polish people are a friendly and well humoured lot to mingle with.

The Old Town is compact and walkable, with many pedestrian-only streets littered with shops selling collectables, souvenirs and handmade goods. This is also a great area for eating and drinking, with a wealth of cafés, bars, restaurants and pubs making it possible to spend a full day in this district. Besides shopping and going clickety click, you can indulge in pleasure rides on carriages!

Don’t Miss:
For people with ample time on hand, a few hours’ drive down is the most unusual and remarkable but little known Wieliczka Salt Mine located in the small town Wieliczka. The mine's attractions include dozens of statues, three chapels and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of rock salt by the miners. The Wieliczka Salt Mine reaches a depth of 327 metres (1,073 ft) and is over 287 kilometres long. The rock salt is naturally grey in various shades, resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that many visitors may expect. Shoppers can buy plethora of salt bath essentials as gifts and souvenirs.

Plus Points: Surrounding the Vistula River, the longest river in Poland, are a number of restaurants, parks, one can witness youngsters cycling, jogging or fishing around which transports you to a different relaxed world all together. The royal Wawel Castle houses the most precious assembly of monuments which look perfect to the T. Krakow is home to Oskar Schindler, the Austrian industrialist who saved the lives of more than a thousand Jews and whose story was immortalised by Spielberg in the Oscar winning movie Schindler's.

2. Zakopane: Nestled in the Mountains
Just a short hop from Krakow is Zakopane - a pretty hill station or resort town in southern Poland. Zakopane is the epitome of natural beauty with the pictorial Tatra Mountains in the backdrop, narrow roads, fairytale-like houses, highland peasant cottages, wooden architecture, churches and splendid scenery.

What to Expect: Popular with skiers and hikers who come from all across Europe, Zakopane is also known as Poland’s winter capital. The High Tatras are much sought after by professional mountaineers for adventure activities like climbing, ice skating, rafting and paragliding. Winters see people indulge in snowboarding, alpine skiing, dog sledding, snow mobiling, cross-country skiing, spelunking, quad biking and ski-jumping! You can rent bicycles and ride around town or in complete mountain wilderness.

Many original Zakopane-style houses are still standing, including the Willa Koliba, which is now a museum in memory of the architect. These pieces of Zakopane history lend character to the town. The Tatra Museum contains a collection of local folk art. The Bakowo-Zochylina Nizno restaurant is completely mesmerizing for its lip-smacking Polish delicacies, super friendly service and rustic ambience.

Don’t Miss: One of the most favourite tourist activities is taking a stroll on the most popular road named Krupowki, with a quaint bridge over it. This street is lined with unique Zakopane souvenirs (a must buy), stores, restaurants, carnival rides, horse carts and performers of its rich folk culture. The street radiates with energy, complete with vacationers and honeymooners happily taking in lungful of crisp air.

Plus Point: The adventurous lot can also go sightseeing on segway rides and tours, which is a unique and funny way to see the town. As for the foodies, do not come back from the incredibly beautiful destination without trying smoked sheep’s milk cheese and the eclectic dessert trout.

Apart from enjoying the pulsating nightlife, world class cuisines and brilliantly artistic and cultural experiences, one cannot return from the land of the Poles without trying the Polish Vodka which is the national drink. Cheers to that!

Weather: The weather here is mostly cold and pleasant, interspersed with short drizzles every now and then. The weather can change in a jiffy and thunderstorms are common in the afternoons.

Getting There: There are regular train services from any European destination to Poland. You can easily travel from the nearby cities like Prague or Budapest by train to Ostrava-Svinov in central Poland via RegioJet trains, which take about two hours, and then take a bus to reach Krakow or Zakopane respectively in another couple of hours.

Where to Stay: Neibieski Hotel, a boutique hotel with a beautiful river view as bonus, is centrally located and being close to the main square, makes for a peaceful and viable option.
Getting Around: Local transport in Krakow is very good. From local trams, trains, buses to taxis almost everything is easily available and not very expensive in this lively city.

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