Wawel is cool!

April 27-30 – Krakow, Poland

Dzien dobry Nate!  (That’s “Good Day” in Polish).

We got to the Prague train station early so we wouldn’t miss our train.  It was a little scary.  It seemed very confined and dark and there was construction going on and pigeons flying around inside and a lot of people that looked a little spooky.  Even the police were traveling in groups of three.

Inside the Prague train station

Eventually our train came in and we got on.  We gave the conductor our tickets, and he showed us to our compartment on the train.  It was made up with two bunk beds, a sink, and a closet area.  Don had to climb up into the upper berth, I slept in Linda’s purse.  I guess I should say I tried to sleep; between Don’s snoring and Linda yelling at Don to be quiet I didn’t get a lot of sleep on the train.  It was fun, but I don’t much care if I don’t get to do it again.

Our sleeper compartment Flat Stanley on upper bunk

We got into Krakow early. Krakow is in Poland, and used to be the capital of Poland. Linda’s mother’s family is from Poland, from the area around Krakow (which is one reason why we came).

We collected all our bags and left the train station for our hotel. On the way we walked through the center of the old part of Krakow, but since it was early in the morning there wasn’t a lot of people on the street. We checked into the hotel, then went out to see a little of the town.

In the middle of the town is a main square even bigger than Prague’s! Sitting in the middle is a building called the “Cloth Hall”. This is a building originally built 700 years ago (rebuilt 500 years ago) to act as a marketplace, for textiles (cloth) and other goods being traded. Even today, the ground floor of the building is full of stalls where people sell to tourists.

Cloth Hall in Krakow Interior of Cloth Hall in Krakow

Across from the Cloth Hall on the main square is  a church called Saint Mary’s Basilica.

St. Mary\'s Basilica (Krakow) 

The inside of this church is even more amazing than most of the other churches we’ve seen thus far. The altar is another spectacular wood carving, this time by Viet Stoss. This one is huge. It has two doors that open and close. We got there in time to watch the nuns open it in the morning. The main figures in it are life-sized, maybe larger.

Altar, St. Mary\'s Basilica (Krakow) Viet Stoss altar, St. Mary\'s Basilica (Krakow) St. Mary\'s Basilica interior (Krakow)

The rest of the church is pretty special too; the ceiling and walls are painted.

Ceiling, St. Mary\'s Basilica (Krakow) Choir detail in St. Mary\'s Basilica (Krakow)

One thing Don and Linda did every day in Krakow was to visit the square in the afternoon and sit in one of the outdoor cafes. There must be a couple dozen of these on all sides of the square. We would order something to drink and sometimes some food, and just sit and enjoy the scenery and people-watch. The crowds in Krakow were much better than in Prague. Here’s a shot of the Town Hall tower (all that’s left of the original Town Hall) and a guy wearing a beer suit. No, I don’t know why.

Town Hall tower (Krakow) When that last beer creeps up on you...

One morning we set off to visit Wawel. This is a hill on the southern edge of town where the castle and cathedral are. It was a very short walk from our hotel.  The cathedral looks like 10 different people using different sets of Lego blocks put it together.  It looks more like a bunch of different buildings than a single building.  I saw another neat gargoyle on this building too (like in Prague). 

Wawel Cathedral (Krakow) Gargoyle on Wawel Cathedral (Krakow)

We took a tour of the castle portion of the complex.  Below is a picture of the courtyard.  Some people say there are seven “Chakra Energy Points” in the world, and one of them is in the far left corner of the courtyard.  Don seemed skeptical on this point.  Linda went and touched the wall.  Our guide said they have to paint the wall every month because of all the “touching”. 

Wawel Palace courtyard (Krakow)

The castle complex on the hill was the seat of Polish government from around 1000 thru to 1600, when it moved to Warsaw.  After that, change in Krakow slowed down, which is why it remains in a lot of ways a reminder of times gone by. 

Linda let Don run loose for a couple hours at night again to take pictures:

Buskers at night (Krakow) Cloth Hall at night (Krakow) Krakow by night Town Hall at dusk (Krakow)

One day we hired a guide, Marta, to take us out into the countryside to visit the town Linda’s grandfather came from (Ispina). After that, Marta drove us back into town and showed us around some other sites.

First up: Ispina. Not much there. It’s a little clump of houses at a crossroads, and nobody we talked to knew anybody with Linda’s grandfather’s last name. We did find what we think is the church, but the priest was away so we couldn’t ask him to look at his records.  Marta says she’ll help if we can send her some specifics about Linda’s grandpa.

Ispina house Church (Ispina)

Don did get some neat photos of a stork and it’s nest on top of a power pole. Marta says the storks fly up from North Africa in the spring to nest and lay eggs.  They fly back to Africa before it starts to snow in the Winter.

Stork on nest (Ispina) Stork taking off (Ispina) Stork in flight (Ispina)

After we got back into town, Marta took us to Kazimierz, the old Jewish district of Krakow. Here we saw Oskar Schindler’s factory. Oskar was a German businessman who saved many Jewish workers and their families during World War II. We also had a lunch of Pierogies. These are yummy Polish “raviolis”, that are filled with different fillings and served with cooked onions and butter (sometimes sour cream) instead of spaghetti sauce. These had all kinds of different fillings, even fruit!

Schindler\'s factory (Krakow) Pierogie in Kazimierz (Krakow)

Before Marta left, we saw a few more things in old town. One was the Collegium Maius, one of the oldest parts of one of the oldest universities in Europe, the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. This building was built before Columbus discovered America, and has been the place of learning for many people as varied as the scientist Copernicus and Pope John Paul II.

The other was the last remaining section of the old town wall (like in Rothenburg, Krakow had a wall for protection). Krakow has torn down much of the wall, and replaced it with a park called the Planty that surrounds the old section of town.

Collegium Maius (Krakow) Krakow wall

Well; that pretty much sums up our visit to Krakow. Early tomorrow morning we’re going to catch a train to Vienna. I’ll write you from there!

Do widzenia! (“Good bye” in Polish)

Plaski Stanley

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