Krakow, Poland (29th of January 2006)

Sunday 29th of January 2006

I arrived at the new bus station at 6.45am (about 20 minutes early). I felt pretty tired, had no local currency and it was pitch dark and very cold outside. I decided to wait there until the sun started to shine so I stayed there until about 7.45am before walking through the train station and then onwards towards the royal mile.

The domestic bus terminal has now been moved to ul. Cystersów which lies east of the train station. It’s quite a journey into town so either get a cab or jump on tram number 4, 10, 15. International buses arrive and depart from ul. Bosacka (E-1). It’s right behind the train station, so just follow the signs wyj?cie do centrum.

It was Sunday morning, and and there were hardly a soul on the street except a few police men on patrol and a few cleaners. While I hadnt realised yet, there had been a terrible incident about 40 miles away in where 60-67 people had died. People were already going to churches to say a prayer.





St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

After the Tartar invasions of the 13th century left the original church occupying this site in a heap of ruins, construction began on St. Mary’s using the existing foundations. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, the altarpiece, stained glass windows of the nave, and blue, starred ceiling of this cathedral will take your breath away. The magnificent altarpiece was for 12 painstaking years the principal work of the 15th century German artist Veit Stoss (aka Wit Stwosz), and depicts the Virgin Mary’s Quietus among the apostles. Surrounding the altar are polychrome paintings by Matejko, Mehoffer and Wyspia?ski. Several local legends are attached to St. Mary’s. The twin towers were allegedly the work of two brothers. The architect of the smaller tower murdered his brother, apparently jealous that his structure was shorter and less elaborate. Racked with guilt he then commited suicide by throwing himself off the roof of the cathedral. Nowadays the taller tower is home to one of Kraków’s most enduring traditions. The bugle call played on the turn of every hour apparently takes its origins from an event in 1241. Having spotted invading Tartar forces on the horizon, a lone fireman started playing his trumpet to alert the habitants of Kraków. He was shot with an arrow in his neck, abruptly cutting off the tune mid-melody, but the town was roused from its sleep and defended itself. In honour of this event, seven local firemen now have task of tooting the tune every hour. The first written mention of the tradition dates back to 1392, though a local magazine recently claimed the whole custom was invented by an American in 1929.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

After the Tartar invasions of the 13th century left the original church occupying this site in a heap of ruins, construction began on St. Mary’s using the existing foundations. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, the altarpiece, stained glass windows of the nave, and blue, starred ceiling of this cathedral will take your breath away. The magnificent altarpiece was for 12 painstaking years the principal work of the 15th century German artist Veit Stoss (aka Wit Stwosz), and depicts the Virgin Mary’s Quietus among the apostles. Surrounding the altar are polychrome paintings by Matejko, Mehoffer and Wyspia?ski.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

After the Tartar invasions of the 13th century left the original church occupying this site in a heap of ruins, construction began on St. Mary’s using the existing foundations. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, the altarpiece, stained glass windows of the nave, and blue, starred ceiling of this cathedral will take your breath away. The magnificent altarpiece was for 12 painstaking years the principal work of the 15th century German artist Veit Stoss (aka Wit Stwosz), and depicts the Virgin Mary’s Quietus among the apostles. Surrounding the altar are polychrome paintings by Matejko, Mehoffer and Wyspia?ski.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





SS Peter & Paul’s, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Kraków’s premier Jesuit Church was built in the early 1600s. The twelve disciples standing on the gates outside are its most striking feature, although the interior has been extensively renovated and the airy, austere grandeur of this late Renaissance building is now evident.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





SS Peter & Paul’s, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Kraków’s premier Jesuit Church was built in the early 1600s. The twelve disciples standing on the gates outside are its most striking feature, although the interior has been extensively renovated and the airy, austere grandeur of this late Renaissance building is now evident.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Main Square, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

The epicenter of tourist Krakow is the Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square), one of Europe’s most impressive public spaces. he other free-standing building in the Rynek in the Town Hall Tower (Wieza Ratuszowa). The 70 metre high tower is all that remains of the old Town Hall, the rest of which was pulled down in the early 19th century. It could also be known as “The Leaning Tower of Krakow”, as it is apparently slightly crooked, although nowhere near to the same degree as the tower in Pisa. You can climb up the tower for views of the Rynek, but probably more interesting are the various exhibits inside, including a model of what the Town Hall looked like before they pulled it down, and old photographs of Krakow. In common with most other buildings in the Old Town the vaults underneath the tower have been converted into a cafe, although they once held the city’s jail. The clock-face on the tower looks pretty old, but the clock itself is linked to an ultra-accurate atomic clock in Germany (one of those that’s accurate to a fraction of a second every million years, which begs the question “How the hell do they know?”).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Mian Square Scuplture, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Big Head …………….

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

A city forged in battle, war, conquest and fate, Krakow is in many respects the most Polish of all this great nation’s cities. The ancient seat of kings and intelligentsia comes steeped in legend and myth, and evokes the most fanciful of images, from dragons occupying the catacombs of Wawel, to Tartar hordes repelled at the gates, to an earnest Vladimir Lenin plotting revolution while sitting in the city’s cafes. Krakow’s history is the stuff of fantasy.

Back to the future. The budget flight boom confirms this nation’s transition from a country people are queueing to leave, to a country people are queueing to enter – the crowds that rotate around Wawel and fall out of the Irish pubs later on are all the evidence you need.

While much of Poland was left a heap of rubble at the end of WWII Krakow escaped wholesale destruction; a lightning fast pincer movement from the Red Army forcing the Nazi’s into flight before they had a chance to dynamite the city. Today Krakow’s dusty courtyards and web of streets are home to some 2.3 million registered artworks, and some of the most significant historical sites in the country.

If you’ve just got a day to spare (woe you) do your best to hit the highlights of Kraków. The old town is the sensible start point, and be sure to walk what is known as the Royal Road: starting at Floria?ska Gate make your way past the Sukiennice and St Mary’s Cathedral in the town square, and down ul. Grodzka where you will pass the church of St Peter and Paul.

The walk concludes at Wawel Castle: the defining landmark of the city, and in itself worthy of several hours of exploration. Just south of Wawel the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz is a must visit, and points of interest include the Old Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue and cemetery. Those following the Jewish trail should also pay a visit to Oskar Schindler’s factory (soon to be opened as an art gallery) in the Podgórze district, as well as a taxi ride to wonder around the forlorn landscape that was once home to Plaszow labour camp.

Kraków is often referred too as Poland’s cultural capital and art highlights include the Czartoryski Museum (featuring Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine) and the Wyspia?ski Museum. A visit to the Jagiellonian University Museum is a good way to spend a spare hour, while fans of Pope John Paul II should take a walk around his former residence, nowadays housing Archdiocesan Museum.

I had stayed in Nathans Villa Hostel before, and I knew how to get there by walking. Straight down past the castle etc. I was taking a few pictures so I did not arrive there at reception until 8.10am. I checked in with reception and put my bag in storage. I was cold and tired so i helped myself to cofee and 30-40 minutes on the free Internet they have. It was there I read about the accident in KATOWICE which killed over 60 people.

I went out to seek a Milk Bar – a Polish cafe that serves hot but cheap food. I found one and had Zurek (sour rye meal mash), followed the unofficial national dish, bigos (sauerkraut with pieces of meat and sausage) which was lovely. So lovely, to te big surprise of the waitress I ordered a second dish of it. Its just that after no sleep I was in need of a bit of food supplement. The bill came to about 20 Z – nothing really for a great meal.

I then spend a few hours checking out the Kazimierz district.





Walk Way just ouside Old town Walls, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Walking arounf the old town walls .. very peaceful Sunday…

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Walk Way just ouside Old town Walls, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Walking arounf the old town walls .. very peaceful Sunday…

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Kazimierz, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Kazimierz is the district that housed Krakow’s Jews for some 500 years. In the last decade it has been rediscovered, and its hollowed-out Jewish culture gradually reintroduced. Famous for its associations with Schindler and Spielberg, there’s more to the historic Jewish quarter than cemeteries and synagogues. Lying between shops selling buttons and spanners, you’ll find the heart of Krakow’s edgy, artistic character. Peeling façades and wooden shutters hide dozens of smoky cafes, each one effecting an air of pre-war timelessness. This is an area of Krakow that cannot be missed.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Kazimierz, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Kazimierz is the district that housed Krakow’s Jews for some 500 years. In the last decade it has been rediscovered, and its hollowed-out Jewish culture gradually reintroduced. Famous for its associations with Schindler and Spielberg, there’s more to the historic Jewish quarter than cemeteries and synagogues. Lying between shops selling buttons and spanners, you’ll find the heart of Krakow’s edgy, artistic character. Peeling façades and wooden shutters hide dozens of smoky cafes, each one effecting an air of pre-war timelessness. This is an area of Krakow that cannot be missed.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I also paid 7 Z to see Isaac Synagogue. I am not Jewish so these buildings and history do not resonate with me. I know the history but have no emotioanl connect.





Isaac’s Synagogue, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Isaac’s Synagogue, built in the Judaic-Baroque style, opened in 1644 and is the most beautiful of the Kazimierz synagogues. Renovation is not complete yet – holes in the floor show where the bimah and the stairs to the ark have yet to be placed. In the main prayer hall, a large television shows two black and white films over and over. Stills from the films are found in the adjacent room. Next, in the darkened room you can watch diverse other films depicting Jewish life before and during the war. Admission 7z?/6z?.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Isaac’s Synagogue, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 29th of January 2006

Isaac’s Synagogue, built in the Judaic-Baroque style, opened in 1644 and is the most beautiful of the Kazimierz synagogues. Renovation is not complete yet – holes in the floor show where the bimah and the stairs to the ark have yet to be placed. In the main prayer hall, a large television shows two black and white films over and over. Stills from the films are found in the adjacent room. Next, in the darkened room you can watch diverse other films depicting Jewish life before and during the war. Admission 7z?/6z?.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Angel in front of Wawel Hill, Krakow, Poland

Taken on the 30th of January 2006

For Poles Wawel is a symbol of national strength and patriotism; the ancient home of kings, and the material embodiment of Polish resistance and culture. It has certainly survived the vicissitudes of time – for instance, the castle came within a whisker of being flattened by the retreating Nazi’s. For foreign visitors Wawel is an unforgettable journey through the history of Poland. Perched on top of a 50m-high rock on the edge of old town, it is today remarkably intact and accessible to visitors, though in an effort to preserve the exhibits only a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter each day. To guarantee a place on the tours and to avoid standing in long queues, call the box office, tel. 422 16 97, and reserve tickets for the exhibits you want to see ahead of time. You’ll have to pick up your tickets at the Tourist Service Office (Biurze Obslugi Turystów) on Wawel Hill 15 minutes before your reserved tour time.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I went to the square and then walked around the town before heading back to the hostel. I had the whole 4 bunk bed dorm to myself in this clean, bright and warm room. Very nice hostel with its own bar downstairs. See pictures of the new bar in their website. I was talking to a guy who worked there for years (amybe owner) and said last year they got maybe 12 people a day stating in January but now its 25 a day and most weekends in Jan/Feb are booked out. He said alot of American students saying in europe (exchange students in Prague, Paris, Budapest) come for weekends.

It was 3Z for a pint of Zywiec beer (pivo) betwwen 5-7 so I had a few beers and talked to various peole who were coming and going. You also get a free shot of alcohol token when checking in. I could then use one of their many DVD’s to use in their dedicaated cinema with surround sound or join in in a free Polish language learning class. I stuck with the beer and atching Series 1 of “the office” with a few others. By the time we watched that and “lost in Translation” , I was pretty drunk and had an early enough night. I couldnt really get that film (the end anyway). At least I had my own room to relax in.

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