I arrived in Riga after another night train from St. Petersburg. Found a hostel straight away and left our luggage so we could explore the city. The hostel is the best I have been in so far. It has only been open for a few months. It is clean, roomy and has all the amenities I need including free internet access (I hate paying for internet!) and a free beer with each night's stay. What more could you ask for... oh yeah, pretty comfortable beds as well.
Riga is a nice city. Stayed in the Old City area and have spent time wandering the city streets and taking in the sights. I also went to a museum on the Occupation of Latvia. I had no idea everything they went through before gaining their independence from Russia in 1991. I also have been to their huge outdoor market and feasted on some of the local food and produce.
I had the opportunity to take a day trip outside of Riga and went to Sigulda. It is a quaint town. They call it the Switzerland of Latvia in that the city is small and set in the hills. I did a walking tour that included a couple of castles and I took a cable car from one side of the valley to the other. A relaxing day before heading off on the night bus to Warsaw, Poland.
My next stop on the world tour is Poland. I took the an overnight bus to get to Warsaw, took a much needed rest day and then went out in search of the city sites. I have to say that Warsaw is not my favorite city. There is not a lot there and I was not impressed with what I did see. The highlight of the 3 days there was supposed to be a walking tour of the old Jewish Ghetto. Eight of us from my hostel took what was supposed to be a 4 hour tour costing us 20 zloty (about $6). The tour was interesting and we saw things that we probably would not have seen on our own, but the tour wound up lasting almost 7 hours and the guide tried to charge us 50 zloty ($16) for the tour! We kept trying to get away from her and she kept saying one more thing.... When we managed to get away the group had a chance to sample the local beers (they were much needed after the day we had).
Next I headed out to Krakow. I had heard some really good things about the city and was looking forward to getting there and I wasn't disappointed. It is a really nice, small town. It is one of the towns that did not suffer much from the WWII bombings and most of the Old Town has survived over the years.
Krakow --Day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau
There are two must does when visiting Krakow so I found out as I arrived there. The first was a day trip to Auschwitz. I took a bus about an hour and a half from the city. I arrived in time to take the tour in English and was really glad I did. The tour guide walked us through the camp and museum that has been done very well. We spent time at both Auschwitz and at Birkenau, which is also known as Auschwitz II (about 3 km away). I had no idea that the camps were so large in size. It was definitely a moving experience and I encourage any one who visits Poland to visit.
I did not take any pictures when I was there in respect for what happened over 60 years ago, but I encourage you all to look at their website to learn more.
My last day in Krakow I went out to the salt mines. I took a tour down 115 meters into the mines on a guided tour (they don't let you go by yourself...might get lost). It was a really fascinating place. Over the years the miners carved different sculptures out of the salt including a cathedral and a statue of Pope John Paul II (he was from Poland and visited the mines 3 times).
My next stop will be Prague in the Czech Republic.
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