outer top shadow
Kraków shim John & Kristie

inner bottom shadow inner corner shadow
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

This entry has been viewed times.
outer bottom shadow