If you are finding somewhere unbearably cold and have another four weeks of winter weather stretching out in front of you, what’s the best way to get warm? Go somewhere much, much colder. Yup, I am sitting here in Krakow (pronounced ‘crack-off’), Poland where we have come to chill – literally.
The currency is zloty, (I have quite a lot of fun saying it, even more fun spending it) the drink is vodka (the only way to keep warm apparently, I will be trying this out later) and the temperature is below freezing (we arrived today to falling snow and a reading of minus 1…but I’m told on good authority – a pretzel seller outside our hotel no less – that it can get as cold at minus 30; let’s hope not in the next three days).
I was last here about 10 years ago and although it’s changed since then, Krakow remains one of my favourite cities in Europe…and it does winter beautifully.
Where other places seem bleak in December, Krakow embraces it: think bustling Christmas markets behind a back drop of architectural brilliance, buckets full of swimming carp, fur coats, snow and an amazing main square.
The official Christmas market is held on Rynek Glowny in the shadow of the very impressive Cloth Hall (above). Stalls really are beautiful and sell a huge array of things from handmade wooden toys to fur coats – there’s also a man who makes his own candles on a rudimentary wheel – mulled wine is sipped on street corners and there are even people skating.
It all sounds good and terribly romantic…but just to give you a bit of context, I am like a labrador on a wet lino floor as soon as I don a pair of ice skates so I’m admiring that particularly graceful winter sport from afar.
I can and have got involved in the shopping scene here, only slightly hampered by my leaking Ugg boots which I forgot are hopeless as soon as there is any snow or rain on the ground. My coat is perfect though and has come in to its own at last, having been stuck in my cupboard in Singapore for about a year:
The best £50 I think I have ever spent (Brooks Brothers outlet in Woodbury Common, New York).
We are staying at the lovely Hotel Wentzl, right on the main square and costing just £90 a night.