This was a perfect way for me to add one more geocaching country to my list and for my partner to a visit a city that she had read about and found interesting. I visited both Krakow and the salt mine in Wieliczka about ten years ago but that was on business and before there were more than a couple of caches available and none of them close to where I was staying. This time I was able to plan a visit for sightseeing and geocaching. It was great to see in advance that there are a number of interesting earthcaches as that is a cache type I enjoy finding.
Kraków or Cracow? I suppose as the post is in English I should use Cracow but it feels more correct to use the Polish spelling of Kraków so that’s what you will get.
We were staying in a hotel just a few hundred meters to the west of the old town that was conveniently located on the bus route from the airport. Once we had checked in we started our sightseeing and the first stop was actually to find a geocache! Just a few hundred meters from our hotel was a bookshop/cafe called Massolit and that was the name of the cache as well. It was a great place with a huge selection of new and used books mostly in English covering a whole spectrum of topics. The cache was a “treasure chest” in plain sight and the staff were helpful in pointing out the right equipment needed to retrieve it. This was the only cache found on the Thursday, the rest of the time was spent sightseeing in the old town.
The morning of the next day we were picked up at the hotel and were driven the sixteen or so kilometers south west from Krakow to Wieliczka where we visited the salt mine. The first task was to learn about the mine in order to be able to log the earthcache Wieliczka Salt Mine before descending the 384 wooden steps to the first level of the mine. The mine hasn’t produced salt for over twenty years as it is no longer profitable for that but makes it’s money from tourists. We learnt that there are about 500 workers to maintain the mines (mostly prevention of flooding) and about 500 tour guides!
Upon our return to Krakow we wandered down through the old town past Wawel castle hoping to look for the earthcache Cavernum Draconis MCLXXXX A.D. but the gate was locked so we had to make do with the fire breathing dragon.
There was a market and fair in the area and a small easily found cache Dzok.
From here we wandered on towards the Jewish quarter where we found a fun cache at a newsstand on Plac Novy. Here we saw several small stands selling the Polish equivalent of pizza but didn’t stop to try one as we were heading for Stara Zajezdnia and a meal and a beer. At Stara Synagoga we met a couple of local geocachers who were struggling to get a bearing to the cache with their smart phone. My GPS pointed right at the cache so after signing the log I called the cachers over and handed them the cache and showed them where it was hidden. They would never have found it on their own.
One of my other interests is craft beer so we stopped at a couple of the better known pubs or microbreweries in Krakow. The beers below are just a couple of samples from the House of Beer – I love that name.
The microbrewery Stara Zajezdnia was interesting in that it was housed in the old tram depot in the Jewish quarter.
After a good meal and a great tasting special honey flavoured dark beer we started our walk back to the hotel passing Ammonoidea – Basilica Corporis Christi. on the way. It’s great to see so many large fossils in the limestone of various buildings and realise that the rock is up to 200 million years old.
Saturday started with a cooked breakfast then a walk across the old town to the university botanical gardens. On our way there we went into the University to find Jurassic Krakow – 1 – Alma Mater which was an interesting and informative earthcache and we were on time to see the clock strike eleven and the meter high kings and other royals make their procession from one door to another
At the botanical gardens we quickly found that it’s still a little early in the year for everything to be in full bloom but it’s a large place and has a lot to see. Of course, there are many areas in the garden where more work would be useful. Some of the greenhouses are suffering from what may have been lack of maintenance but there are many exotic plants so a visit is recommended.
After arriving back in the old town we needed refreshments and visited a great little micro brewery supplied pub in a hidden courtyard called Viva La Pinta where we were able to taste a couple of the local tap beers.
All in all we had a pleasant weekend of sightseeing that also netted five earthcaches and six traditional caches plus a few halfhearted attempts to find other caches. They weren’t really DNF’s but more like CBB’s – can’t be bothered.