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Kraków shim John & Kristie

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travel :: Saturday, August 22, 2009
EUROPEAN VACATION DAY 10 :: KRAKOW, POLAND :: After Kristie completed her Business Week program in Gdynia, we flew south to Kraków where we enjoyed two days of fantastic sightseeing in and around the city. Kraków is the former capital of Poland, where ancient kings and priests ruled from the castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill. The city is full of history and culture, much of which is proudly preserved in its buildings and traditions. Although Warsaw is the country's current capital, most Poles believe Kraków is where the nation's heart still resides.

We stayed at the Sheraton, and our room had a great view of the Vistula River and Wawel Castle. The most popular attractions, including the Main Market Square, were a very short walk away. We had access to the convenient Club Lounge, a private area with complimentary food and beverages, including fresh fruit for Kristie and endless beer for me!

Our first destination was the climbable tower of St. Mary's Basilica. At the top, we took in a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding landscape. Directly below us was Europe's largest medieval square, Rynek Główny, where vendors, performers and tourists were just starting to emerge. The square would soon become packed with entertainment and shops that were fun to watch and explore.

In addition to being a major tourist attraction, Kraków is also home to several universities. The population is very young and relatively cosmopolitan, and thus, there was a large variety of restaurants, including a great vegetarian place we found called Green Way. Kraków is also notorious for having the largest concentration of pubs and nightclubs of any UNESCO World Heritage site. We saw ads for bars that didn't open until 11:00 PM and closed at 7:00 AM the next day! Unlike Northern Poland, English was often displayed on signs and spoken fluently in Kraków, making it much easier for us to find our way and ask for information.

In order to receive a quick history and cultural overview of Kraków, Kristie insisted we join a bike tour. This was a lot of fun and very informative. Our guide narrated our trip as we pedaled through the charming city streets and parks. The stops included Poland's oldest university (where Copernicus and John Paul II enrolled), Kraków's legendary fire-breathing dragon, the remnants of the old Jewish ghetto, Oscar Schindler's apartment and factory, and recognizable locations from Spielberg's movie (which we watched again a few days prior to leaving for Poland). Before the war, there were 65,000 Jews in Kraków, accounting for 25% of its population. Today, there are approximately 300 Jews in a city of 750,000.

On our second day in Kraków, we hired a private guide to take us to the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Upon returning to the city, we visited Wawel Castle during sunset and walked the Rynek Główny (Main Market Square) again at night. Both were beautiful and romantic. We fell in love with Kraków and wish we had more time there. It's definitely on our list of places to return.

Next post: Auschwitz-Birkenau

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on Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 5:46 PM

Love the pics John. Happy New Year too!

on Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Thanks, Jayson! It's been a very fun and eventful decade. Happy 2010!


on Monday, January 4, 2010 at 11:11 AM

What great pictures of a wonderful adventure
Here's to a great 2010

on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Polish letters don't show up on some websetis (depending on encoding and fonts available), so some people castrate such letters to nearest standard latin alphabet equivalent. When people use wrong encoding, results sometimes look like Krak%12314w or %$41%51d%123 (Łf3dź :) ). I made up the numbers, but they look similiar.The same with SMS sending polish letters uses up a few characters, when sending standard letter only uses up one character per letter. So people often write SMS without polish letters. Everybody assumes these tails and accents were implicit . So Krakow is just Krakf3w, when you're not sure software will handle the awesomness of Polish letters.As for using Cracow etc when writing in English some Poles use English names for Polish cities, like we use Polish names for foreign cities when writing in Polish. See Nowy Jork, or Edynburg, or Lwf3w (ok, that one is sentimental also).Btw cracovia is from latin, and most of Polish cities have latin names it was important language in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

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