7 Stops Along the Kazmierz Trail in Krakow
Whenever I travel anywhere new, I always buy a travel guide. My absolute favorite are the travel guides by The Lonely Planet. They are informative, easy to read and are small enough to fit your pocket. While perusing through the book, I discovered a section called Podgórze's Quirkier Side. This section included a small map with 7 points of interest along the path's way. We decided to give this trail a try because it seemed like a great way to explore Kazmierz by wondering off the beaten path. This trail is used mostly by locals and is rarely used by tourists so I was excited to try and go where the locals go. Quite honestly I wasn't prepared for how far off the beaten path this trail was. It was literally hiding in plain sight. We did have a little trouble finding exactly where to start, but once we found the trail it was easy to follow. After returning home, I was still surprised and inspired by this trail and wanted to do a little more research about it. After searching online, I quickly discovered there wasn't much information about it. Because of the mystery surrounding it, I decided to dedicate an entire post to this trail. Because there are no maps or information online I had to take 2 photos of the travel guide which you can see below.
This post is a comprehensive guide to all 7 points of interest on this trail.
1) Podgórze's Other Square
Our first stop was the neo-gothic Church of St. Joseph. After a little apprehension, we decided to enter the church. Inside you are greeted by large vaulted ceilings, beautiful stain glass and crusted chandeliers. The interior is quite large and even has separate small churches dedicated to specific saints. I didn't take any photos of the interior because I didn't want to be disrespectful.
2) The Mysterious Church
Our second stop was listed only as "The Mysterious Church." If you weren't looking for the path, you would probably miss it. After getting a little turned around, we eventually found the small trail hidden among the trees that led us up the side of a hill. The hill path was made of dirt and was fairly steep to climb. Once we reached the top, we found the tiniest church I have ever seen. According to the travel guide, this was known as the Church of St. Benedict and is only open once a year on the first Tuesday of Easter.
3) Abandoned Fortress
Directly to the right of this tiny church was the abandoned fortress. And when the book said abandoned, they meant it. The exterior was decorated by graffiti and this once fierce artillery tower sat at the top of this hill left to rot. I was a little dumbfounded by the fact the gate was wide open and they let anyone in to walk around this rounded structure. Built in the 1850's to defend the city from Russian invaders, it was eventually turned into apartment complexes and eventually abandoned. From what I read online, I believe the city is planning to restore it.
4) Forgotten Cemetery
On the other side of the fortress is another dirt path which leads back down the side of the hill. The cemetery can be seen as you descend down the hill and the entrance is at the bottom. This cemetery dates back to the early 18th & 19th century, but it was completely destroyed by the Nazis in WWII. Many of the graves were dug up and robbed and some of the headstones still remain turned on their sides. It's a sad reminder of the cost of war and it retains an eerier feeling.
5) Pagen Mound/Kopiec Krakusa
The climb to the top of this hill was exhausting. The trail we were following led us up a pretty steep hill only to find another hill on top. At this point, I was thankful we stopped at a gas station for water. This was a very mysterious place. There were rocks scattered in the shape of strange symbols and it was weird to see this giant hill on the top of another hill. At the top, the views of the city below were breathtaking. If you have the stamina to make the trek I highly recommend it, the payoff is worth it.
6) Liban Quarry
This quarry is best known for Schindler's List and was handpicked by director Steven Spielberg to use in his film. The quarry was used as the set for the Płaszów labour camp and there are still movie relics that were left behind. This long stretch of land was completely overgrown with brush and was quite difficult to get down to. The path was steep and there was a lot of loose gravel. The closer we got, the harder it got to maneuver down. Being clumsy, I made sure to hang on to trees for some extra support just in case. There are still many abandoned buildings littered around the property completely open for urban explorers. It was so quite and we barely saw another living thing, it made us feel so far removed from the city, even though we were still in the center of it.
7) Płaszów Labour Camp
After we made our way up and out of the quarry, we followed the path around the outside to our final stop- the Forgotten Concentration Camp. After visiting Schindler's List filming site of this camp, we began our walk to visit the actual location of it. After about a 10 min walk, we rounded the corner of the trail to discover a clearing. This clearing had several abandoned structures and concreate poles surrounding it. We have found the camp.
This was a forced-labour camp and had a capacity of as many as 20,000 prisoners at any given time. I was both horrified and saddened by the amount of people housed here and by the ruins left behind. Although there wasn't much left of the camp itself, there was still this heavy lingering feeling in the air. There were several other couples hanging around and even joggers running past the site. We quickly walked around exploring what was left of the buildings and structures.
Once we were finished exploring the ruins, we realized this was end of the trail. The trail took us about 4.5 hours in total - this included walking to each site, exploring, (accidentally) getting lost and making pit stops. I wouldn't have had any idea this path existed if it wasn't for this travel guide. Just to clarify, this is in no way a sponsored post - I personally like the Lonely Planet and their travel guides. If you have any plans for traveling out of the country, especially to a place you haven't been before, I suggest checking to see if the Lonely Planet offers a travel guide for that location. Maybe I'm just old, but you don't need to worry about having a problem connecting to a paper product.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it encourages you to travel off the beaten path and explore like a local.