Part 1 - Krakow

Krakow Travel Blog

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Rynek Glowny Square by day

 

My very first, inital reasons to visit Poland and Krakow in particular were to experience Auschwitz as it stands today.  For reasons unknown, the Holocaust is a part of history that I have always been intrigued and moved by, hence my expression of intrest to the most notorious of all Nazi deathcamps.  Of course any keen traveller will rejoice in the excuss to research a inpending foreign destination; I for one love nothing more than spending hours on the internet looking at blogs, photos, videos and any other random documentation of a place I can find.   This was when the love affair with Krakow began. 

I had never even contemplated the city as a popular tourist destination, nor any of the historic beauty that is portrayed in abundance.

Inside the famous Cloth Hall @ Rynek Glowny
  I had no knowledge of The Rynek Glowny Square; one of the largest and oldest squares in all of Europe, nor the Wawel Castle thats sits proudly on the Vistula River. 

Dispite my avid researching, I was still somewhat confused by what to expect of Poland, and was figiting in my seat for the entire duration of the flight over.  Once me and my sister had arrived at the airport we hauled down a taxi (after an obligitory fag break) and set off for Kurniki Street to locate our buget accomodation at the Maly-Krakow Apartments.    The first thing I noticed was how Poland simply wasn't what I was expecting, not in a bad way though....I was just surprised to find a kind of landscape subtley different to anything I'd seen before in Europe.

The Cloth Hall- early evening
   The drive into town took us past industrial area's and places that seemed sad and perhaps some-what poverty stricken (at least compared to the rich parts of Spain and Norway I had seen before) but gradually as the city centre grew closer, the shabby buildings evolved into a very unique architectural style.....  at this point i'm hanging my head out the taxi window like a bloody dog; trying to not miss anything potentially important! 

Now, I had always thought that Amsterdam was possibily the craziest place on the planet -  traffic wise, but krakow sure gives The Dam a run for its money! To say I was a bit distrubed by the erratic driving from the taxi man is a bit of an understatement;  not only do they have lanes for cars, but there is also a tram system running through the city as well as numerous cyclists, all of which seem to merge together seamlessly.

Me - in our tiny yet perfect accomodation - The Maly-Krakow Apartments
...magically not hitting one another nor the daring pedestrains.  Anyway, after surviving the short drive we arrived on Kurniki street; I had already noticed the large Kebab shop opposite our hotel, and more importantly as we stepped out the car I was shocked to see perhaps only 50 metres away, an enormous shopping mall - Galleria Krakowska.  Ironically this presinct had opened only a couple of days before our arrival, but as you can imagine it was another fantastic added bonus for me,  and especially my sister (who has with-drawal symptoms every time she doesnt part with her money for more than a few hours!). 

The hotel itself was extremly basic, but perfectly formed and the staff in particular were of out-standingly helpful, friendly and well spoken - something I soon realised was quite the ordinary for Polish people.

Rynek Glowny
 

Just round the corner to our hotel was The Barbican, an eye catching building which has stood for some 500 years - certainly worth a look!  Directly behind this attraction beggings a narrow cobbled road - , awash with yet more kebab shops, several night-clubs and many clothes retail outlets, of both designer and street fashion.  This is where you will find the MacDonalds in case you were wondering!!!  Eventually this road will lead you all the way to the Rynek Glowny Square.  It is, in my humble opinion, the best square I have ever been to; my first visit was during the day and with the sun still blazing down on us we decided to sit for a cold drink in one of the many cafes and resturant that line the square.  Its the kind of place where from your cafe of choice, you could sit happily, people watching for hours and hours - something that I like to think the locals take full advantage of!  Myself and my sister did exactly that for some time, sipping on our diet cokes and soaking up the bustling atosphere of the ancient square.

  At any time you can find horse-drawn carts carrying paying passengers for tours and performing artists of all kinds - Fire Dancers and Breakdancers were the two forms I was lucky enough to witness, both of which were performed by youths.....perhaps an incite to the young confident talent in the country.  In the very middle stands the famous Cloth Hall, which you can enter from either end; inside you will find rows of stalls selling a selection of items, especially a massive display of amber jewelery.

Later that evening, we returned to the square for dinner; The Polish Zloty goes a long way in Krakow allowing us to eat in a lovely selection of resturants across Rynek.  As we sat on our table (outside in the fresh autumn air) I noticed a middle aged man, who was obviously homeless, winding his way through the tables towards us.

Wawel Castle
  It takes a lot to annoy me, and his presence wasn't a trouble..... until suddenly he was standing beside at our table.  He was talking loudly and directly at me, in Polish and I will never know what it was that he had siad that night; be it religious preaching or drunken mummbling....who knows.....  but he refused to leave our table and actually tried to sit down with us on the empty chair beside me!  Now this touched a nerve! lol  Before I even knew it I was having a conversation with the bloke expressing my need for him to 'BACK THE HELL OFF!'.   His anger seemed to grow with mine,  and our conversation grew into a slanging match, neither of us knowing what the other was saying.  Eventually the patron of the resturant had to come and remove him from the site, letting us return to our meal finally.
Wawel Castle
  Despite the fact that I found the experience extremly intimidating, it was also the only time among all my travels that I have encountered trouble of some sort....so in a strange way I feel quite grateful.  Looking back now, I laugh my ass off about it........ and I still to this day wonder what it was about me that rialed the man to the extent when he had to shout at me over my dinner!!!

Another area of particular interest for me was the Kazimierz district of Krakow, the old Jewish quarter which was in its prime prior to the Nazi invasions in 1939.  Today a lot of the area is gradually being restored (both the jewish and christian heritage) to its former glory.  Though even now is a wonderfully quaint place to wonder the streets, admire the unique buildings, synagogues and churches and if its your thing.

..visit Oscar Schindlers Museum also.  During our visit to the kamimierz, we decided to continue walking until we hit the Vistula River.  Does this city have it all or what?  There is a cycle and pedestrian path that leads all the way along the river, which led us (after some well deserved lunch on a Boat!) to The Wawel Castle.  The castle is masked with lots of myth and leygend most of which evolves around a Dragon which was supposedly slayed by a Polish Prince who then settled at Wawel as King founded the city of 'Cracow'.  Alongside the Vistula, on the western point of Wawel Hill there is an enourmous metal sculpture of a dragon  which even breathes out gushes of fire from his nose every 5 minutes or so.  Because of his legend you will notice Dragon themed novelties all over the city.
On the River boat having lunch!

Other than happily wondering the streets for hours on end, the only activity that enticed us greatly was of course...shopping!!!!  The Galeria Krakowska was obviously brand spanking new when we first arrived.....and it showed.  The cafes were absolutely imaculete, the food courts offering an unbelievable selection of foods, and the clothes shopping in particular just blew me away!!!!!!!!!!   Its amazingly cheap compared to London, so anyone with even the slightest bit of cash to blow is going to have a fantastic time at this Mall.  Also there is a definate unique style to the clothes, a little bit different to what else you come across in Europe - this for me was the best point - Krakow does individuality like KFC does chicken.

More views of the other side of the Vistula River
   I absolutely love the place, and would jump at the chance to return any day.  My one and only negative thing to say is that after a few days I decided to try one of these kebabs....and was slightly disturbed to find it covered in cabbage...not lettuce....I mean what the hell is that about!!  ;)

 

katy_custard says:
where we going then....?? :) How do you feel about the ukraine?
Posted on: Jan 18, 2011
Ange75 says:
A truly wonderful yet chilling in parts visit to this wonderful Country.

Definately worth a go, but soak up the culture as well as the clubs and nightlife.

The only thing that could have bettered this trip was to have had more time to explore and indulge, the best bit was seeing it all with my Sister.

Looking forward to planning the next!
Posted on: Jan 17, 2011
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Rynek Glowny Square by day
Rynek Glowny Square by day
Inside the famous Cloth Hall @ Ryn…
Inside the famous Cloth Hall @ Ry…
The Cloth Hall- early evening
The Cloth Hall- early evening
Me - in our tiny yet perfect accom…
Me - in our tiny yet perfect acco…
Rynek Glowny
Rynek Glowny
Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle
On the River boat having lunch!
On the River boat having lunch!
More views of the other side of th…
More views of the other side of t…
The Vistula
The Vistula
My sister :)   Enjoying a meal on …
My sister :) Enjoying a meal on…
14 km (9 miles) traveled
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Krakow
photo by: EmyG