Experience matters: Providing teachers with all they need to know about a school trip to Krakow
Updated: 9th March 2017
First Published: 9th June 2014
Experience it! An idea we look to promote in order for young people to explore the world, learn about places and themselves while developing their educational understanding of the wider world around them. For us to be able to meet these objectives we endeavour to develop our own knowledge and awareness of the many learning possibilities for students. Last week, a number of the Travelbound team were invited by our partners in Krakow to do just that as we explored the key attractions within the locality.
Day 1 – Welcome to Krakow
One of the immediate benefits of travelling within Europe are the short flights meaning no sooner are you in the air you will be touching down. The early morning flight meant the team could make the most of their stay in city known as the ‘Slavic Rome’. Met at the airport by our contact Tomasz and our guide for our stay, Paulina, we packed our bags onto our luxury mini-coach and set off for the city. It may be a given, but one thing to remember when travelling is to embrace the local culture, customs and cuisine to get a true flavour of the country…and so we did! Starting off with chocolate covered plums this tasty treat is certainly suited those with a sweet tooth. Arriving at Hotel Alexander II, the benefit of sending our names ahead of arrival meant we were already allocated rooms making the check-in process painless. After leaving our bags in our room, we set off for lunch at a restaurant in the Old Town. Though we always look to choose the best located hotels we would soon learn that Hotel Alexander II’s very close proximity to the Main Square is one of its major benefits as a choice of accommodation. Arriving at the restaurant used by many of our groups, we set about choosing our lunch. Amongst our favourite dishes we were able to choose from a number of meals which had some added Krakovian flavour.
Cameras at the ready, we set off on a walking tour of the Old Town. Our guide Paulina was able to provide us with an in-depth description of every building central to Krakow’s history. From the classic architecture of St Mary’s Church just off the Main Square to the hugely impressive 900 year old Wawel Castle Cathedral, the tour provided us with a number of fantastic viewpoints in which to see the city from a different perspective while also identifying further notable sights such as the home of Oskar Schindler.
Transferring over to the Jewish Quarter, the Travelbound team learnt about the history of the area and began to discover more about the Jewish communities of Krakow. We ducked into the Remuh Synagogue in Kazimierz which remains one of only two active synagogues in the city. From the stones that sit on top of the graves to the inscriptions on the walls, this visit was the first place that started to paint a picture of the Jewish history of Poland’s second city. This experience continued after we explored another of our hotels (Astoria) as we took in a short visit to the Galicia Jewish Museum where a collection of art depicts the various trials and tribulations of the Jewish community throughout the years and to this day. Visiting Ghetto Square, the team saw the rows upon rows of chairs lined up in memory to the Polish-Jews whose possessions and lives were taken by the SS.
A short journey back to our hotel and we were soon ready to head out for dinner at a restaurant just off the Main Square. Having dived into the Polish cuisine we returned to our rooms for the night having already explored a lot of Krakow.
Day 2 – There’s more to Krakow than meets the eye
Our second day saw us picked up by our mini-coach as we set off for the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Taking an in-depth tour (pun intended) our guide took us on a journey through time until we finally made it to 135 metre below the ground. It’s not all dark and grey down below as meeting areas, underground lakes including light shows and short films further enhance the visitors’ experience. Our visit was topped off with a 5D movie experience and interactive screens allowing us to learn more not only about the mine’s history but also the processes the carved rock salt goes through.
We returned to the Main Square for lunch before setting off to inspect a number of hotels. Always sure to think about location, access, facilities and amenities the team were excited to explore the rooms and ask the key FAQs asked by our Party Leaders.
Our evening entertainment was organised by our partners as we experienced unique Polish cuisine along with traditional live music at Morskie Oko. If you’re not already blown away by the décor and staff dressed in traditional costumes, the food itself is bound to! A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, the team chose from a number of 4 course menus that included prunes wrapped in bacon, mountain-style grilled cheese salads, traditionally prepared beef goulash and apple pie with homemade ice cream. You would think the evening couldn’t get any better but for the well thought out plans from our contact Tomasz. Keen to play down his bowling abilities, Tomasz booked us into the local bowling alley for a few games of ten-pin. Split into our teams, we soon saw who had the competitive edge, the eye for a good line and the strength of Hercules. Having lost by a sufficient margin to Tomasz’s team, the group headed back to the accommodation to rest up for day 3 of our Krakovian adventure.
Day 3 – How learning outside the classroom is taken to a new level
Today we were joined by another guide, Dorota, for our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Possibly fitting for the occasion the weather had turned from the heat of summer to the showers expected of April as we pulled up to the main car park. The team met our Auschwitz guide for the morning, picked up our headsets and settled in the theatre for the introductory movie. A powerful film went some way to setting us up for our visit around Auschwitz I and we ventured into the buildings where history teaches our generation of the need to be forward-thinking. Auschwitz II proved equally evocative as we entered the remaining wooden barracks and learnt of the horrific conditions faced by prisoners. Auschwitz remains one of the, if not the, most important visits during your stay in Krakow.
Having brought a packed lunch with us we travelled out to Schindler’s Factory. This museum is devoted to the wartime experiences faced by Krakovians during the Nazi occupation. Our guide Paulina took us through the exhibitions and explained the importance of the various artefacts collated. The multimedia experience provides visitors with a comprehensive viewpoint of the struggles, community issues and timeline of events during this period.
After returning to our accommodation via a local tram, we freshened up before walking out to the Main Square for our final night. One dish we had come across a lot on our travels were dumplings and what better way to finish of your stay than by making your own. At Kogel Mogel we were given a Dumpling master-class before going about make our own…interesting creations. The results were creative with a number of our team proving to be quite the little chefs! We topped off the night with so more outstanding Polish dishes before heading back to the hotel for our final night.
Day 4 – Think we can call Krakow our second home
Our mid-morning flight saw us arrive back in Blighty for a late lunch and back to the office to reflect on our visit.
Besides meeting our business partners in Krakow and experiencing for ourselves what our groups enjoy, we were able to learn more about the city of Krakow itself. While every visit on our tour remains a highlight, it is said with confidence the trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine was a favourite for many of us while Auschwitz provided a memorable and thought-provoking experience. Determined to provide you with the best accommodation and travel options during your stay the team has been able to experience, ask questions and provide feedback on this quality product chosen to enhance the experiences, knowledge and educational value available to your students.
To learn and find out more about school trips to Krakow and how we can best accommodate your educational needs, contact the team on 01273 265 265, use the contact us tab to enquire or request a quote here.
We would like to thank our friends Tomasz and Paulina and the rest of their team for looking after us and our school groups during our visits to the city of Krakow.
By Tim Jenkins