Friday, 26 October 2012

Krakow, Poland

Knowing I would be back home for a few months before heading off again, I went ahead and booked a short break away in Krakow for myself and my mum. Taking advantage of cheap weekday flights and lucking out with decent hostel accommodation managed to keep costs down too.

Arrived late at night but figured we'd check out Rynek Glowny, the main square, before we hit the hay and see if there was any action around the area. It was pretty much a straight shot and within 15 minutes we'd come to the square.

As you apporach it at night, the most obvious sights are Sukiennice which houses loads of little stalls selling everything from amber to souvenirs to pottery, the Town Hall Tower and St. Mary's Basicila. All of these are lit up at night and look beautiful.

We sat down at one of the many restaurant/ cafes flanking the square and had a few drinks while relaxing asnd soaking up the tranquil atmosphere. Horses pulling carriages are a regular occurence and you soon realize that buskers work night and day here, well at least until closing time anyway.

St. Mary's
Rynek Glowny (the square)
The following morning proved to be rather drab weather but that wasn't going to deter us considering how short our visit was. Again, we took the direct route to the square and, guide book in hand, started to go through the obvious things on the tick list.

St. Mary's Basilica with its two towers is considered a giant in the Gothic world and although I know nothing about this kind of architecture, it is obviously beautiful. There's a resident bugler who plays the same old tune on the hour til midnight, perhaps later, really hoping that there is more than one person who does it rather than some poor chap chained up in the tower.

Inside is Veit Stoss' famous high alter which takes up the back of the church, just turn right at the visitor's entrance. There are many more alters within the church but designed for actual prayers and worship, not photos and tours.

The Sukiennice, which basically translates to 'cloth hall' is constantly packed with tourists milling around and buying up trinkets whilst sifting through the rest of the souvenir junk on offer. There is the Town Hall Tower and surrounding the entire square is a plethora of restaurants, cafes and bars. It would be very easy to not venture too far from the square at all, everywhere looks so inviting and it would be too easy to just sit down with a drink and not move.

St. Mary's in the sun
Stalls within Sukiennice

Rynek Glowny
Town Hall Tower, Sukiennice, St. Adalbert's Church (left to right)
Within St. Mary's

If you leave the square via Grodska, you are soon led to a few different churches: the massive Franciscan church with its dark and somber interior, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Andrew's Church and St. Gile's Church. Went into these for some reflction and peace and was surprised at just how many young people were frequenting the churches. Having said that, Pope John Paul II was Krakow's bishop for some time so not that surprising I guess, there are pictures of him in every church.

The end of the road brings you to Wawel castle, the most un-castle like castle you are ever likely to come across. It looks more like a stately home or city retreat of a king more than a castle. To gain access, you walk up the ramp, turn the corner and find yourself within the grounds. At least it's set up on a hill and there is the odd looking rampart so maybe it could pass for some sort of castle.

Entrance to walk around the grounds and Wawel cathedral are free, but if you want to look at the old Royal tombs or climb Zygmunt tower to touch the bell clapper for good luck, you'll have to fork out a little extra.

Once we'd finished scouring the area, we just headed straight for the onsite cafe and took in the calm of our surroundings. Would look beautiful on a nice day, with the well kept gardens and buildings and the cathedral's wild design, with it's many spires, towers and domes jutting out unevenly and all differing in shade and colour.

Wawel Castle
Wawel Cathedral
More from within the grounds
St. Peter and St. Paul's
Church of the Holy Trinity

The weather picked up for the following two days which was unexpected, as you can see some of the photos show a rather dank looking atmosphere compared to those in the sunshine where everything looks amazing.

This made for refreshing evening strolls around the centre and with the ridiculous choice of cafes it was never hard to find somewhere to sit down and get some good food and a beer. G&Ts for mum.

On our final night we went to St.Adalbert's Church which is a little one on Rynek Glowny for a concert. A couple of the churches offer this but we fancied something  a little less commercial and more intimate so went for that one instead, fewer than fifty people can fit in.

Everyone gets a good view of the alter where the quartet are set up, one cellist and three violinists, to play their set. Having never been to a concert or seen anything like it before, I found myself surprised by how much I liked it. Might have to invest in some Chopin CDs.

Loved my time here in Krakow, and leaving with the same feelings I had when I left Holland the other week, mainly, why have I never travelled in Europe before? Definately something I need to rectify in the coming years. Having enjoyed Rynek Glowny so much, perhaps a stop in Brussels sometime would be something to consider. Next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment