After spending a few days in Warsaw, Poland area while researching the history of my father and his family in 2009; I planned to spend a few days in Krakow, Poland as well. I discovered a world city that has so much history, religious significance, and old world culture. Located on the Vistula River with origins back to the 7th century, it was the capital of Poland until 1596. Now, mainly an academic city with many universities, the student population swells to about 170,000 and accounts for 20% of the city’s population. Known as the city of churches, Krakow boasts over 120 Catholic Churches with the most famous one being the one where Pope John Paul II was the archbishop, Wawel Cathedral. Fortunately, Krakow was not heavily damaged during WW II because the Germans considered this city to be their General Government, so many of the beautiful buildings are still intact.
Fortunately for me, my relatives organize a tour guide friend, Konrad Myslik, who speaks English and happens to be a foremost expert and author about the history of Krakow. He had just published his latest novel, and I was in great hands for my historically significant touring of the city!
The Main Square in Krakow is considered to be the largest medieval square in Europe, covering about 9.4 acres. The most notable site is the large church, St. Mary’s Basilica, on one corner built in 14th century. It features 2 bell towers of completely with different architectural designs because the architect brothers could not agree on the same design, so each one chose their own design for each tower. The taller tower has a trumpeter that plays each hour, but he is cut off mid-stream because the last living trumpeter was shot during these times, cutting off his alarm sounding the arrival of the Mongols attack. The inside of this Basilica is very unusual by the use of the color blue on the columns and the ceilings.
A few noteworthy sites would be the Collegium Maius (Latin for Great College) where they have interesting items and rooms from the 14th Century. As you walk around the many pedestrian zones, a worthwhile snack for a Krakow Pretzels and or Polish Gyro is in order! I then head over the river to the famous Wawel Royal Castle another UNESCO World Heritage Site from the as early as 970 AD. It is large complex of buildings that were added over 100 years and now features a large Cathedral and various museums. Nice views from here because is it on Wawel Hill 228 meters above sea level.
My few days to Karkow, Poland come to end as I spent one day going out to the Wieliczka Salt Mine nearby and you can see my blog post regarding that side trip. One of our last meals is at an authentic Old World Polish Peasant Restaurant called Chłopskie Jadlo for an excellent meal consisting of herring in sour cream, perogi (dumplings filled with sauerkraut), and dessert. A wonderful ending evening to this must visit city if you are in Poland!