So I am a writer who likes to tell stories from my travels that enhance the reader’s understanding of a destination. I find stories are a great way to experience travel before you even go to the destination. In these times of Covid -19, it is important to look back and hear about people’s stories for a sense of escapism. This is why I started The Travel Story Society and will be the focus of this blog post. You are about to hear my favourite stories from Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland

 Krakow City Centre buildings
Photo: Travel With Cooky

Krakow is a beautiful city in the South of Poland. A real city breaker’s paradise. You get a lot for your money, it is full of culture, has amazing night out spots, and many fun experiences. It also has one of the most famous sites from the Second World War on its doorstep. It is also one of those places on precipes of becoming a huge tourist destination but it isn’t quite there yet which is perfect for a lot of people. This means it has a great tourist infrastructure and most people speak English, but it is by no means overrun with tourism. There are occasional nights where Stag dos take over the city but it is getting difficult to find major tourist cities in Eastern Europe where this doesn’t happen. 

I went to Krakow in 2016 when I was interrailing around Europe with a group of my mates and it was one of the most memorable cities on our trip for three separate stories and because I love stories so much I am going to tell you all three so here we go… 

Cliff Diving in an Abandoned Quarry 

We were sitting in our hostel in the middle of Krakow thinking about what to do next. We had already had such an amazing time but we needed another fun activity. I am one of those people who hates to be doing nothing whilst travelling. I always want to be getting my money’s worth. Then we found it, a website talking about an abandoned quarry just out of the centre of Krakow.

This quarry has become a reservoir and a great place for cliff diving, since being abandoned. Although the Krakow council had tried to make the area more regulated by making you pay to get in. However, a little bird told us of a hole in the fence that all the locals go through. We just had to go! 

We jumped on the tram and jumped off at Kapelanka, the closest stop to the hole in the fence. Once we reached the local access point, after a short walk through a wooded area, my heart started to race. This felt very illegal. But once we squirmed through the hole it put me at ease, it was totally worth it. 

It was everything you would want a quarry filled with water to be. The quarry itself was a huge casm with towering white cliffs on all sides. I am guessing it was limestone but I am not a geologist. Inside this dome of white was a simmering blue lake, the water a beautiful crystal blue, and we were at the very top of it.

As we looked out over the quarry we realised just how high up we were and this would be our first-time cliff diving so we decided it was probably not the best idea to jump from this high. We made our way around the edge of the cliff to a lower point where we could jump in. After swimming across the reservoir, we found the perfect spot! A touch on the ‘safety first side’ and even though I love adrenaline, I would rather not be spending my interrail time in a Polish hospital!

REMEMBER… Travelling does not make you invincible!

This was an amazing experience and one I would encourage you to have if you go to Krakow. Finding these Off the Beaten Track places are some of the best things you can do on your travels because you have a story that not many other people have. 

We went in 2016 and it may now be more difficult to get into the quarry. It is called the Zakrzowek Quarry and in 2019 two people died whilst messing around here. According to ‘’, the quarry has been closed off until 2021, due to the Krakow council wanting to make the area safer. It also seems to have become more commercialised with scuba diving lessons provided in the reservoir, once again making it more difficult to get in. But, I am sure there are still holes in the fence. 

A Strange Character on the Tram 

We all know cities are the perfect place to find the craziest people, and Krakow is no different. This is one of the stranger stories from our time interrailing and possibly my travelling experience in general. What’s more, it happened on a simple tram journey. The tram is a great way to get around Krakow and we used it to get pretty much everywhere. But this tram experience won’t be for everyone. 

We were travelling back to the hostel from the quarry and it seemed like a pretty mundane normal tram. That was until we heard clicking on the ground. A woman had just got on the tram wearing football boots. She walked towards us and stood against the wall where we noticed there were other things ‘different’ about her. She had coloured in a monobrow across her forehead, had her hair in several ponytails and she was looking around in a very shifty fashion. 

We just took a step back from her and looked away…

The Travel Story Society

About 5 minutes later she took a wooden spatula out from a bag and tapped the woman in front with it before hiding the spatula and giggling at us, looking for approval for her joke. This was starting to get super uncomfortable but we couldn’t stop watching.

Can’t Help But Watch

You know how they say people look at a car crash and it is so horrific that you don’t want to watch but you can’t turn away? Or like watching some standup comedian that isn’t funny and they know they are bombing? This was that kind of experience. Incredibly awkward and kind of scary but we couldn’t take our eyes off the football boot-wearing, spatula-waving crazy lady!

The wooden spatula-wielding character continued to tap this poor woman on the shoulder. Getting really freaked out by the whole situation, she tried to move away but she was followed. One man then took a stand and stood in front of the aggressor and told her to stop. She began laughing maniacally in the man’s face and got off the tram. We all looked at each other like it was some sort of strange dream. Then my friends and I noticed something funny. We had passed our stop about 15 minutes beforehand. We were so engrossed in the action that we had forgotten to get off the tram. It was worth it for the story. 

Auschwitz- Birkenau Day Trip To Hell On Earth

Inside the gates of hell at the concentration camps
Photo: Travel With Cooky

Everybody has heard of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the terrible crimes committed there during The Second World War and in my view it is something you have to see when you go to Krakow. Travel is about enhancement, whether that is improving your mental health by having fun and getting some sun or enhancing your knowledge of the world we live in, good and bad. We have all been taught about the Holocaust from the age of 11 and as a history student I just had to see it. 

I went to a Church of England Primary school. We had to go to church every Wednesday and sing hymns every single morning in assembly. However, I have not kept up this devotion to God in my adult life, but this experience in Poland filled me with so much despair I had to pray. 

You can go on tours which take you from the centre of Krakow to the camp and then a tour guide takes you around the site. However, we decided we wanted to make use of our Interrail pass and take the train to the village by the camp and then walk from there. It was the beginning of what felt like a constant two-week downpour in the middle of our trip, and I couldn’t help but think how fitting this was. Not that this place requires pathetic fallacy to feel the pain. The skies were grey and we were drenched. It was almost like the skies were always grey over the camp, weeping for the lives lost.

Arbeit Macht Frei = ‘Work Makes Your Free’

Photo: Travel With Cooky

When we first walked through the gates of Auschwitz we were kind of worried that it was going to be a classic tourist attraction after seeing all the tour buses outside but trust me it is not. We were assigned a tour guide who started off by telling us his story.

He was a Polish Jew whose family had actually been taken to Auschwitz during the Nazi’s Final Solution. He had given hundreds maybe even thousands of tours but you could still feel the passion and sorrow in every word from the get-go. I knew this tour was going to probably change my outlook on life. 

We were given a little bit of background of the site before the really emotional stuff began. The history of this site and the Holocaust as a whole is truly horrowing. Aucshwitz-Berkenau was the largest centre for the Nazis Final Solution where six millions Jews were killed as well as other minority groups like Gypsies, Slavs,people with disabilities and political dissidents. At least 1.1 million of these murders took place in Auschwitz-Birkenau. 1.1 million people died within these walls. Let that sink in … that is like the population of Glasgow being taken to a small Polish village and being killed, for no other reason than who their parents were. Those numbers are unimaginable for humans to comprehend.

Photo: Travel With Cooky

Death Behind Every Corner

We turned round a corner and saw all these glass displays, the size of the wall, filled with items. One was filled with a pile of glasses, another with shoes and the most disturbing … human hair. These are all items kept from Auschwitz when the allies liberated the camp. These were all items stolen from the unfortunate souls who were taken there.

You are taken aback by the sheer magnitude of possessions, that is until you realise how much will have been thrown away before the Allied forces arrived. The fact this is a small fraction of the people who walked through the gates never to leave, nearly brought me to tears. Our tour continued, mind-blowing site after mind-blowing site, then we reached them. The one site that made everything real … the ovens. 

The ovens were where they brought the dead bodies after they had been murdered in the name of Nazism. This is where the reality of what was surrounding me finally hit. I had learned about the Holocaust for years but it just didn’t feel real until that moment, obviously, I knew the Holocaust happened but I don’t feel I truly understood it until that precise moment.


How could the human mind take a whole society to this level of destruction. Where people who would be considered normal in many other aspects of their life, systematically murdered six million people because of their religious beliefs. In that moment all my faith in humanity was ripped from me, and I felt as though I had no one to turn to. I didn’t know what else to do so I shut my eyes and prayed. By no means am I religious but in that split moment of hopelessness I needed someone, something to help me feel hope. I asked for strength to fight against injustices and never let anything like this happen again.

I have never felt so depressed in all my life. But this is an experience everyone has to have at least once. You will see what the human race can be capable of if we don’t stand up for what is right and what we believe in. That is what sites like Auschwitz are there to show us. It is a memorial for those who lost their lives and a lesson. Learn that lesson, don’t hide away from these eye-opening sites because you are scared it will be too much for you to take. 

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Photo: Travel With Cooky

Krakow’s Conclusion

I wanted to leave you with this message and I hope it has encouraged you to visit the amazing city of Krakow, not only for the fun side of it, but also because it can teach youso much. These are just short stories and I have missed out so much but it gives you room to create your own.

My writing style isn’t normally as down as the last story but I felt like I really need to get that message across as it is one of the most important things that I have learned during all of my travels. If you have enjoyed these stories or you have your own to tell, head over to The Travel Story Society where you can read stories from authors all across the world. Thank you for reading.

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