On our second day, we limited our travels to a visit to Krakow, going to the Royal Salt Mine at Wieliczka in the morning. First mined in the late 13th century and now understandably a UNESCO World Heritage site, the salt mine is an interesting excursion.

To descend to the bottom of the mine, there are 54 flights of 7 steps, which makes 378 in total. There is a real cranky lift that takes you back to the surface, so you only have to be fit to climb down those steps.

Bogmir taking photosThe marvel for me was seeing the intense interest in Bogmir’s face as he returned to the mine where he had once worked. He hadn’t been back for a very long time and I got the impression that he was revisiting his youth and taking as many photos with his phone as he could.

After a steak lunch of in a local café near the castle, we took a leisurely stroll through the town centre. Hovering around the market stalls, in an effort to find a bargain, we found ourselves outside the Basilica of the Virgin Mary's.

The large number of churches within the city of Krakow earned it the reputation of “the Northern Rome.” It takes something special for one to stand out, but the giant Gothic altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss between 1477 and 1489, certainly does the trick.

I stopped us for one of my mad Kodak moments in the city’s Grand Square before we decided to walk around Wawel Royal Castle. While taking this excursion, we talked about visiting the monument at Płaszów concentration camp near the railway station, but Bogmir wasn’t sure where it was.

Despite this obstacle, we accepted the challenge without realising how difficult it was going to prove. Even though we were armed with a map of the location, we still met a great deal of trouble in finding the memorial. Bogmir stopped the taxi several times so he and Pavel could the locals for directions, but without success.

We knew it was opposite the railway station, but as we drove up and down the same streets that didn’t help us too much. It was a mite frustrating as we knew we were close, but as darkness drew in, we didn’t appear to be finding it.

We reached what appeared to be the bottom of a hill and felt that we had to be in the vicinity of the monument, but how close? Daylight was rapidly casting its last few rays of luminosity onto the snow-covered path that beckoned.

We stopped the taxi and glanced hesitantly up the hill. Frustration mixed with keenness to end our adventure was becoming more evident as we debated our next move.

Picture courtesy of Pete RidleyFinally a gentleman appeared in the street walking his dog. In response to Bogmir’s questions, the gentleman became very animated. His excitement bubbled over and he immediately offered to show us the way.

We had been right, the monument was close by. It was at the top of the hill, so with our new friend, we made our way up the slippery hill.

There we all were, racing up the snow covered hill in the rapidly gathering gloom. Led by an eager mongrel, pulling his energized, vocal master along, surrounded by three strangers with Pavel and Bogmir trying to interpret as we tried to clamber up the slope.

Larger imageThe gentleman who had led the way for us spent a lot of time explaining about the monument and the history behind it. As you can see from the above photo, Pavel worked very hard to translate for us.

Two steps forward, and then one back, as the ice on the path did its best to prevent us from completing our mission.

To our amazement and relief we made it, but as night had arrived, it proved difficult taking good photos. The monument is impressive and can be seen best on this web site.