Things That I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland
“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne
Perched on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Wawel Castle is one of the most important structures in Poland. It was the residence of Polish kings for centuries before being converted into a museum and extensive art gallery in 1930.
The ornately decorated cathedral (no photos please) and the royal staterooms are good to include in your visit.
The castle represents nearly every European architectural style, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and consists of a number of structures situated around the Italianish main courtyard.
As in other countries, it is good to be the king.
In Wawel Castle, there is an exhibition of one painting. It is an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine.” Only five other cities in the world can boast a painting by da Vinci, so don’t miss it. The painting was bought in 1800 by Adam Czartoryski, a Polish prince. It was moved to Paris in 1836 and returned to the Czartoryski Museum in 1876. Hidden from the Nazis in 1939, the painting was found and formed part of Hitler’s Berlin collection before ending up in Waiwei as the property of Krakow’s Nazi commandant, Hans Frank. With Soviet troops getting close, the painting was rushed back to Germany. American soldiers finally confiscated it and returned it home to Kraków in 1946. The painting has since become one of the city’s most loved treasures.
Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.
Krakow is an old town of young people. The twenty-eight Krakow institutions of higher education have over 200,000 students attending them. The population of Krakow is 760,000 thousand.
St. Mary’s Trumpet Call can be heard playing hourly from the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – a major symbol of Kraków. The melody always stops short, which symbolizes the legend of a trumpeter who, in 1240, wanted to warn the locals of an approaching enemy, but was killed by an arrow.
Krakow is a city of churches, which is especially visible in its historical center.
In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city willingly gave themselves into the hands of the Saints, who would protect them and help them with all life problems.
Krakow is one of those European cities that takes pride in having a cold cut produced and branded there -like Parma. Kielbasa Krakowska or Kielbasa Lisiecka are the products whose taste has been synonymous with Polish sausage.
Another specialty of Krakow is the famous bagel (obwarzanek krakowski). The ring-shaped braid of bread covered with poppy seeds is sold on every corner in the city.
It was baked in Krakow since the Middle Ages and popularized by the Jewish community who emigrated throughout the world.
MOCAK is a very interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art museum.(art makes you free)
The museum has a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture, all well presented and explained in a spacious modern building.
There were some excellent pieces challenging nationalism, globalization and war.
There are both Polish and International contemporary artists represented.
Many European cities have an Old Town, but Kraków definitely has one of the best.
The medieval architecture is especially fascinating and it’s big enough that you can spend all day walking around it.
Kraków’s Market Square is the largest medieval commercial square in Europe (each of its sides is 200 m long).
It is forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. The locals hate them. (a few hungry pigeons)
There is a lot of weird sculpture in Poland. The big head in Rynek Square is one of them. It is a good meeting point because every tourist can find it. The head is Eros, the God of Love. Why the blindfold? Because love is blind?
The Vistula River, Poland’s longest, runs through Kraków just outside of the Old Town and Jewish District. There are more locals than tourists enjoying it.
The riverfront is long and wide and goes along both sides. It’s lined with a sidewalk, grass, parks, and a few boat restaurants.
During World War ll, the Nazis occupied beautiful Krakow. Hans Frank looked over the terror from his office on Wawei Hill which is why Krakow was not destroyed.
Krakow is one of the most charming cities. it is hard to believe there was so much death and darkness in such a peaceful place with all those churches.
I would like to thank Jo Fisher and Aryeh Maidenbaum of Jewish Heritage Travel for putting together such an interesting, well thought out trip through Poland. I have learned so much of the history and complexities of Poland and appreciated the thoughtful intelligent guides and of course, the great hotels. Hope to travel with you again, some day.
Good luck in your travels, greetings from Piotrkow
Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Piotrkow will be my last Poland blog. 🙂