The train ride between Krakow and Warsaw lasts about 3 hours. Trains are very comfortable and goes at 125km per hour. There is an exit directly into the Galeria Krakowska, a large Shopping Mall, right through the train station.
We rented an apartment flat in Krakow. Paola was the attendant of the company we rented the flat from. A very sweet girl. I give the printed out version of the reservations we made in Istanbul, to the cab driver, he turns to me and gives me a look, like “why dont you just walk”. Unfortunately he spoke no English, and I spoke no Polish. So we are back to the body language once again... I shake the papers in my hand going “Hotel, Hotel”. He makes a walking gesture with his fingers, I go “no,no”... This is what I call global communication. We are at the entrance of our flat right after a five minute ride. Paola is waiting for us at the door of the apartment. This is a complex that consists of 4 blocks. It was had a very central location. About 4-5 mins to old city by walking.
Krakow is one of Poland’s oldest and largest 3 cities. The approximate population is 1,4 million. It is known as the heart of Poland due to it’s former title of being the Capital City. Nearly 7 million tourists visit here per year. One of the most substantial reasons for this is that it has the Auschwitz- Birnakeu camp and Wieclizka salt mine tours.
We leave our flat and start touring on the Krakow’s streets. There are many amber shops on the road to the Old city. The prices here though are a lot more expensive than other Baltic countries. If you are planning to go to Letonia, Lithania or Estonia in the coming times, dont bother buying here, it is nearly double the price.
We head to the Rynek Glowny (Main square). This square was created in 1257, it is 200 meters in width and height, which makes up for 40.000 square meters. It is the largest square of Europe after Venice. There are many colorful buildings surrounding this central square,with cafe’s and restaurants pouring into the square from the nearby buildings. It is possible to find restaurants in every cuisine, but polish culinary style is more dominant.
The Cloth Hall located right in the middle of this square is one of the the oldest shopping malls in the world. This structure, located right in the center of the square and is similar to the Grand Bazaar in style, was built in the 14th century and was severely damaged in a fire that occured in the 16th century. It was later renovated by the Italian architect Giovanni il Mosca in 1555. In Krakow and Warsaw, the renovation process of most of the buildings were led by Italian architects. Dont be fooled by it’s name and the shops in the Cloth Hall are mostly souvenir shops selling silverwares, and handcrafts. Although since it’s a highly touristic spot the prices are very high, and bartering is a must. The restourants and cafe’s put up tables and chairs on the square when the weather is nice, so you can enjoy the view and the passerby’s while eating your meal. You can find all the flavours of Krakow here in Sukiennice. I strongly advice you to get the Krakow soup. There is no actual closing hour, so they close whenever the last customer leaves, and the prices are very manageable.
On the second hall of the Cloth Hall, is the Krakow National Museum. Try to not to skip it, since you are already here. The gigantic paintings of the 19th century painter Jan Matejo is worth seeing.
The most attractive feature of the square is the Saint Mary Basilica. The stained glass is highly impressive, it took them 12 years just to build these. In this brick-made and two towered basilica, you can find the largest gothic statues. The height of the tower is 81 meters, and is open for those wanting to see the city with a bird’s eye view. Also a golden horn is blown at every hour , making you think they are calling the people to come and pray. Although this is apparently not the case, this music is called a “signal trump”. In medieval times an attendant would blow to horn to notify people about the city gate’s opening and closing. Unfortunately the attendant was shot in 1241 by a Tatar bowman. So now the bells ring at every hour and then is halted suddenly to reminisce about the death of the attendant. The King Jan Sobieski came and prayed here, prior to the Austrian War.
The Jagiellonian University which is one of the oldest university’s in Europe was constructed in 1364 is also located on this square. Copernicus also graduated from here. You can tour the place with a tour guide if you wish. You can see many different astronomical tools left from the 16th century along with a globe that shows the continent of America,dating back to 1510. Although not a must-see, it is an option if you have the time.
There are many stores on the Old town square and it’s back alleys. A butcher, a clothing store, a fruit seller, amber store, a licker store yes every store of all kinds is side by side.
Another important feature of Krakow is that it is home to a very valuable piece of art. Da Vinci’s painting “ Lady with an Ermine” is displayed in the Czartoryski Museum. I’m afraid I could’nt see it. Hopefully you can visit it, and share your pictures with us.
Krakow ,with all it’s beauty is deemed the most unappreciated city. How can such a pleasant, modern city be unappreciated is a true puzzler, but I hope even if it hasnt been yet, it will be appreciated in the future.