About Sasha H
Lives in Healey, United Kingdom
Since Jan 2015
I’ve swum with wild dolphins in the Maldives, fed baby kangaroos in Australia, spent hours in the shopping malls of Dubai and crash-landed a hot-air balloon in Poland – having spent the last decade travelling and freelancing, I am a joyful, nosy traveller, always meeting new experiences head on. I enjoy digging into the culture, listening to what’s happening around me and taking thousands of photos on the way. Thanks to two decades of travelling extensively through Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Caribbean, I know the cities and countries I write about inside out. And even though I live in the Yorkshire Dales – surely the most beautiful place on earth – I never lose my enthusiasm for skiing in Zermatt, visiting my favourite cities in Italy and Poland or discovering new places to shop in Dubai.
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites
Gift & Speciality Shops
Historical & Heritage Tours
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Krakow’s biggest cemetery covers 42 hectares, and opened in 1803 as room ran out in the graveyards around the churches in the city center. Now carefully protected from further dilapidation, it is a lovely and tranquil place to wander among greenery scattered with marble statuary and ornate family tombs. Great names from Krakow’s illustrious past are buried here among the Polish nobility, including the 19th-century historical painter Jan Matejko, and actress Helena Modrzejewska. A neat corner of the cemetery is given over to the allied dead of World War II and there is also a monument to the Poles who suffered and died under Communist occupation after the war.
Plac Bohaterow Getta in Polish, Ghetto Heroes Square lies south of the River Vistula in Podgórze and is one of the saddest sights in the city. Over the years this vast piazza has had many incarnations, from market place to stabling, as a bus terminal, and as an execution site. During World War II it became the center of the ghetto when the Nazi occupiers of Krakow forced the Jewish community south out of Kazimierz. Briefly the spot where displaced families came together to socialize, Ghetto Heroes Square soon became the backdrop to mass deportations to Plaszów and Auschwitz-Birkenau. When the Krakow ghetto was liquidated in 1943, clothes and furniture belonging to its inhabitants were left strewn across the square; a somber fact reflected in the memorial of 70 huge bronze chairs scattered across it today; it was created by Polish architects Kazimierz Latak and Piotr Lewicki when the square was renovated in 2005.
Standing just south of the 'Stare Miasto' (Old Town) overlooking the River Vistula, and largely ignored by the hordes visiting Wawel Castle nearby, Skałka Sanctuary is one of Krakow’s leading religious complexes. Although its appearance today is one of mellow 18th-century Baroque gables and spires topped with copper domes, this has been a pilgrimage church since Bishop Stanislav of Krakow was executed here in 1079. He subsequently became the patron saint of both Krakow and Poland and is much revered to this day; a fragment of the rock he was beheaded upon is displayed on an altar in the main church. The crypt is also open to the public and famous Poles interred there include Symbolist painter Jacek Malczewski and Nobel Prize-wining poet Czesław Miłosz.
Opened in spring 2011, Poland’s first Museum of Contemporary Art shares a former enamel factory in Podgorzé with the Schindler Factory. For whatever reason it has not caught the public imagination in the way it should, as MOCAK has a fine permanent collection - including surreal photography, weird installations, and giant paintings by Polish artists such as Tymek Borowski, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Jaroslaw Kozlowski - as well as a constantly changing repertoire of temporary exhibitions, concentrating on conceptual art from across the world. The museum’s sleek, boxy exterior and clean display spaces are in sharp contrast to the ornate décor of Krakow’s better-known art galleries.
U Stasi is a Krakow bar mleczny (milk bar) — a hangover from the old days of Soviet occupation, first appearing on the streets of the city in 1948 to encourage its residents to drink milk rather than hard liqueur. Over the years these have morphed into the cheapest of cheap eateries, selling vast quantities of simple, warming dishes such as 'pierogi' (stuffed dumplings) and potato pancakes. Now constantly crowded with money-conscious locals, milk bars have enjoyed something of a renaissance - known as Krakow’s canniest way of eating out on a tight budget.
Tucked away behind the Renaissance façade of Kazimierz’s former town hall, Krakow’s Ethnographic Museum has inexplicably yet to register on the itineraries of most visitors, but it certainly warrants a visit. From the beautifully crafted recreations of rural homes to the colorful traditional costumes and delicate woodcarvings, this museum is a visual feast of Polish secular and religious life through the ages. The undoubted highlight is the enchanting collection of ornate Nativity cribs — called ‘szopki’ in Polish — that are made in the style of Russian Orthodox churches, complete with many spires, and brightly painted in clashing shades of red, green, and gold.
Although a daily produce market is held on Plac Targowy Unitarg, stalls are at their best on Sundays, when the whole square is given over to antiques (many of dodgy provenance), knock-off leather accessories, stolen phones or cameras, war medals, and cheap DVDs. Crowds throng the stalls — many no more than blankets flung any old how on the ground — all hoping to turn up a prize icon, a painting by a great master, or some valuable Soviet memorabilia.
Light years away from the photogenic romance of Krakow’s old town, Nowa Hota is the stark result of a Soviet attempt to create a dream town for the newly acquired Communist subjects of Poland. Designed for Stalin in 1949, it is a suburb of geometric grid shapes, monumental architecture fetchingly coated in concrete, giant statues of Lenin, and vast parks. The central focus of Nowa Hota was the steelworks, which became the biggest in Poland, raining down pollution on the architectural gems of the old town. For many years the town had no church but one was eventually built in the 1960s; it was consecrated by the future Pope John-Paul II, a native of Krakow. As Soviet repression increased in the 1980s, this dysfunctional ‘garden city for the masses’ became a hotbed of Solidarity and since the fall of Communism, many streets have been renamed. Nowadays Nowa Hota is a commuter suburb of Krakow, a mere tram ride away but a legacy of an altogether harsher era.
While the gleaming white Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa isn’t exactly off the beaten track for the millions of Catholics who come each year to see the treasured Black Madonna icon, there’s another, newer attraction in this unassuming regional town that hasn’t quite yet hit the tourist trail. Follow the long, tree-lined boulevard that sweeps down from the monastery to the underground Iron Ore Mining Museum, where tours delve deep into the earth along old mining shafts and showcase the importance of iron to the city’s development.