KRAKOW

A highlight of our recent fam trip to five-star Marriott in Poland was the night and day spent in Krakow, a real jewel of a city in one of the most visited areas in the country.

OK, it helped that we had lovely sunny weather, which brought out the best in the city’s beautifully preserved old-town complex, especially the Ryneck Glowny grand square and the atmospheric old Jewish district of Kazimierz. This was one of the great Jewish centres of Europe until the Nazis implemented their “Final Solution” here in 1941 and forcibly “resettled” all the Jews they could find in a new ghetto area in Podgorze, south of Kazimierz, and in the concentration camp at Plaszow. These black times of man’s inhumanity to man were thrust into public awareness by the 1994 Stephen Spielberg film Schindler’s List, much of which was shot around Krakow, and visitors wanting another sobering and affecting experience that will stay with them for life can also visit the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenhau death camp, a venue that all politicians, especially the anti-semitic ones, should be required to experience for their humanisation.

Our Krakow hotel for the night was the very centrally-located five-star Sheraton Grand, which offers 232 guestrooms, including 25 Club rooms and 8 luxury suites, and 8 meeting spaces for 12-300 delegates. The hotel also has a gym, indoor heated pool, sauna, massage services and barman who knows a lot about vodka and is happy to share it.. (see separate article in this issue) Krakow also has a very impressive ICE Congress Centre in the heart of the city which offers a huge Auditorium Hall with fixed, raked seating for up to 1915 delegates and ten simultaneous interpretation booths, a smaller Theatre Hall with fixed raked seating for 600 and 6 simultaneous interpretation booths, a 300-400 seat Chamber Hall with 2 simultaneous interpretation booths and a divisible Conference Hall Complex for up to 400.

Another outstandingly unique venue around 10 kilometres from Krakow is the Weiliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a deep, vast underground complex of corridors and chambers hewn out of the salty rock, which visitors are encouraged to taste. There is a lot here about the history of salt-mining as well as 7 chambers and two chapels used for events and ranging from 58 to 680 square metres of space, each with its own dining facility. Chambers are mostly very high-ceilinged and furnished with modern AV equipment and Internet and mobile phone coverage available in most. Some in the group voiced concerns about Health and Safety and it is true that on August 16 2010 a thunderstorm caused a power cut that was unusually long enough for the mine authorities to order an evacuation of the 1,000 visitors trapped 400 feet underground with no lifts working and poor visibility. This entailed a climb up 760 steps so organisers will need to weigh up the chances of this happening while their group is down there. Fortunately everyone stayed calm on this occasion so there was no panicky stampede. In any event a large group of 600 could take up to an hour to get to the surface, even with the lifts working.

More information on Krakow venues from Chandra Woollard. [email protected] +44 (0)20 7012 7143

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