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Posts Tagged ‘ Krakow ’

The Ultimate Guide To Christmas Markets

There is about four weeks to go until the big day and the run up to Christmas is definitely the best time of the year. Streets markets any time of the year can offer unique and creative products but street markets at Christmas have that added ingredient of magic. If you have never been to a market Christmas time is definitely a great way to start. Christmas lights adorn picturesque wooden huts, with Christmas performances and beautiful Christmas music filling the sky.  The lights, the music and the sheer general ‘Christmassy’ creates a feeling of such extreme excitement for the countdown to Christmas.

Stroll up and down the stalls, mulled wine in one hand to keep the chill at bay and have a gander at all the incredible products on sale. Christmas markets are held all over the world from November to December and each offer a unique experience that only that city can offer.

I have compiled a list of Christmas markets that will take you all over the world from Galway to Prague to Dubai each offering an incredible and unforgettable experience.

Ireland

Galway Continental Christmas Market in Eyre Square is open from Friday 23rd November to Saturday 22nd December. Santa’s Grotto will be there along with lantern making and a Christmas Youth Pageant to name a few of the activities that Galway offer.

Christmas Markets at the Milk Market Limerick in Cornmarket Row runs from the 30th November to 24th December  (Friday to Sunday until 13th December and then every day from 13th December) will contain Christmas choirs, food and craft stalls.

Kilkenny Christmas Market along the Parade Kilkenny runs on certain days from 1st December to the 23rd December 10am – 6pm. There will be carol singers, wooden log cabins, daily kid’s storytelling, and traders selling fantastic Christmas gifts.

Ballina Christmas Market in Mayo runs during the weekend of the 8th and 9th December and 15th and 16th December. Two weekends of Christmas festivities, including the arrival of Santa, craft and food stalls and a Christmas carol services.

Gorey Christmas Market, Wexford will be held on the 4th December on the Main Street with craft and food stalls a carol service, mulled wine and of course Santa!

Waterford Winterval Christmas Market on George’s Street will be starting 30th November and running each weekend until 23rd December with traditional Christmas food and craft stalls.

Docklands Christmas Market Dublin will be held from the 7th December until 23rd December and showcases the magic of Christmas through the Victorian fairground rides, gourmet food stalls and arts and craft stalls. Santa will be turning on the lights on the 7th December

Europe

Cologne Christmas Market, Germany, is set on the backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral and will make for a picturesque weekend trip. Cologne has six markets all eluding a different sense of Christmas, from the 26th November until the 23rd December. All six markets have their own unique spirit of Christmas from the Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral, “Home of the gnomes” Christmas Market, and the Fairytale Christmas market, the Christmas market at Stadtgarten, the new maritime Christmas Market and the Angels Market. Each Market holds Christmas performances and offers you traditional arts and craft, and delicious food and drink stalls.  Lufthansa fly to Cologne (Friday to Sunday) from €205.02

Krakow Christmas Market, Poland runs for a much longer period than the Irish Christmas markets from the 24th November to 6th January. The Krakow Christmas market will celebrate the Christmas spirit with beautiful wooden stalls selling crafts and jewellery. Nothing could be more beautiful than picking up a traditional Polish craft as you walk through white winter snow winding your way past lit up wooden stalls. Ryanair fly to Krakow Friday to Sunday from €92.00 (approximately), Aer Lingus fly to Krakow from €462.00 (approx. Friday to Sunday flight)

Outside Europe

If walking knee deep in snow doesn’t appeal to you why not skip the snow and try a Christmas Market in style. Dubai doesn’t do things by half measures and the Dubai Christmas Festival certainly showcases this. Running for three days 6th, 7th and 8th December the Dubai Christmas Festival is the ultimate Christmas festival and includes celebrity chefs, a music stage, Winter Wonderland which has bouncy castles and Christmas arts and crafts, Christmas Market and of course the man himself Santa. Etihad fly to Dubai from approx. €560.00 (flying out on a Wednesday and returning on a Monday)

Mary Byrne

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The Enigmatic Gem Of The East

Rynek Glowny: The Heart of Krakow

Take all of your perceptions of Poland and throw them away for the glamorous and charming city of Krakow will surpass even the most optimistic of expectations.

Krakow is a haven of activity and is a city that allows one a perfect base from which to explore Poland and the incredible history attached to this famous nation.

While the city is more so known for the cultural and historical symbols in its vicinity, many will be surprised by the beauty and excitement emanating from the medieval quarters of Poland’s second largest city.

Krakow is in its essence a cosmopolitan city enlightened by eastern European traditions which brighten up the fabulous Rynek Glowny, the main square located at the heart of the city. From the centre one can enjoy a relaxing stay with an Eastern flavour, taking in the numerous sights on offer while also sampling some of the finest food and drink in Europe.

A short stroll away from Rynek Glowny lies the famous Wawel Castle, the seat of the German Government during their invasion of Poland. This historic medieval castle stands beside the Vistula River, a perfect location for one to take a cruise and learn about the origins of a city which dates back to the 7th century.

There are plenty of other attractions in the famous city centre, including tours which touch upon the communist era of the past. But the most spectacular scenery within the boundaries of Krakow lie in the nearby towns of Wieliczka and Oswiecim.

Twenty minutes away from Krakow lies Wieliczka, home to the most famous and beautiful salt mine in the world. The mines boast nine levels (only three of which can be visited) of underground salt sculptures , hidden chapels and lakes. The tour begins with an incredible trek into the mine, totalling some 380 stairs. From there visitors learn about the history of salt mining which boasts Polish myths and legends while also viewing some incredible statues of famous Polish people such as Pope John Paul II. Many think that he famous artwork spread throughout the mines is that of professionals but the majority was actually done by the miners themselves, including a stunning picture of The Last Supper located in the picturesque chapel. Many will be surprised to learn that the mines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, actually act as a wedding venue, a conference centre and a concert venue throughout the year. Upon completion of the tour visitors are returned to the surface via a mining shaft, which takes approximately thirty seconds to reach the surface.  The mines are easily accessible from Krakow and offer guided tours in a variety of languages.

But the biggest attraction which draws people to Krakow is ultimately the proximity to Auschwitz, the concentration camps, which lie an hour away in the town of Oswiecim, which is accessible by train, bus or guided tour, with Cracow Tours highly recommended.

Words quite simply can’t do justice to what a visit to Auschwitz contains. Take every film, book and thought you have ever had about the concentration camps and the Nazis and scrap them. Indeed on a personal level as a freelance journalist who once interviewed a Holocaust survivor I too found myself struggling to comprehend the reality of all. It simply is horrendous that such actions were allowed to take place for a period of five years. When taking the trip expect the unexpected, that is perhaps the trip in a nutshell.

The trip to Auschwitz, as provided by Cracow Tours, begins in Auschwitz before taking a tour to nearby Birkenau, a concentration camp dubbed Auschwitz II. Each visitor is equipped with a set of headphones and a receiver to enable them to hear their tour guide. The tour begins amidst the shadow of the renowned “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work sets you free) gate. Sadly the gate is not the original one, as the original was stolen and cut up by thieves some years ago. However the original gate has since been retrieved and is now on view in the museum.

After a brief history of the camp the tour proceeds to some of the blocks which show the living conditions of prisoners. Visitors view the many cells, the sanitary conditions and other items on display. The walls of the block are adorned with images of the deceased. The extermination block is also visited.

A venture into another block offers a different outlook on things. We hear how those who were captured were promised a new life in Auschwitz, and how some faced a 17 day trek to reach the camp from parts of Europe, while many ultimately never made it that far. The captives were told they would be allowed bring their prized possessions to the camp but these were robbed by the Germans. The museum boasts thousands of pairs of shoes, some belonging to children. Endless suitcases are also on display as is a wide selection of hair taken from the body of victims. The hair was originally transferred to Germany in the war era and used in production of other goods. At this stage a sombre mood descends over the tour as the reality and seriousness of what happened some 72 years ago hits home.

Other parts of the tour include a visit to the execution yard and the many cells, all amidst the backdrop of watch towers and barbed wire fences. The tour then procedes to a statue reminiscent of a guillotine were Polish prisoners were executed for helping an escapee flee the camp. A short while later the tour of Auschwitz draws towards a conclusion where we come to the execution spot of the first commander of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss. The tyrantwas captured by Polish forces and hung in Auschwitz. Prior to his death he offered no regret for his actions stating his only regret was his failure to spend more time with his family. The tour concludes with a quiet moment inside one of the gas chambers.

After a brief rest period, the tour resumes at Birkenau, another concentration camp which is best known for its death track at the entrance. This track was created by the Germans in order to speed up the process of transferring prisoners from one camp to another. The track is adorned by a wreath of the Star of David, paying homage to the many victims of this cataclysmic event.

We learn about the history of the camp and how men, women and children were segregated. We view the death track before crossing over and making our way to the memorial, which pays homage to the victims of the many European nations in their own language. After a brief period of silence we view the ruins of some of the chambers, which the Germans destroyed themselves when the Soviets were advancing upon the camps. The Germans sought to rid of any evidence that would show such chambers existed.

The stark reality of it all really hits home.

The tour then brings us to three separate buildings, the most striking of which is a living quarter. The living area is comprised of a three bunk bed system with each bed holding eight people with only one blanket between them. This living area is considered to be the finest as it has a concrete floor, something the others lack. The sanitary conditions are equally as striking.

The tour concludes with a brief message from the tour guide who asks everyone to share the story of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the hope that it will never be repeated and the memories of the victims will live on.

Krakow has plenty to offer everyone and is definitely worth a visit.This gem of the East awaits and is only a two hour and forty five minute flight from Dublin.

Fly directly from Dublin to Krakow via Aer Lingus or Ryanair. Be sure to avail of the guided tours on offer, most hotels will be able to book these trips for you, which are incredibly inexpensive.

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