After our long day at Auschwitz, we drove to Krakow Poland which took about an hour and it was time to unwind from what we had just experienced. It was time for some FOOD!
But, before we headed down to the old centre, we needed a place to stay. We drove around for just a little bit and found a hotel that had been converted from a college dormitory. I was a little skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a pretty great place! I told Paul that if we had to share a bathroom with anyone it was a no go! But they had rooms with private bathrooms so we decided to settle in! To this day we still tell stories of this place, it was great!
Once we had freshened up, it was time to hit the big city centre! And when I mean big, it is one of the largest squares in all of Europe. I wasn’t prepared for what we were about to see. This. Place. Is. Awesome…
But first, and important because we were starving, was food!
(This is me looking over the beverage menu… I needed a drink!)
We settled on a restaurant called Hawelka, and boy was it fantastic! If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend it!
And then for dessert, there was this!
And since it was getting really late, (now mind you, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm or so during summer here so even though it looks light out, it was actually getting pretty late!)
So after we filled our bellies with an amazing meal, it was time to head back for a good nights sleep.
We really wanted to grab a ride, but we chose to save this for another time!
On our way we spotted good ol’ Hard Rock Cafe!
And a little bit further down the road…
We slept pretty good that night, but I still remember going to bed with the images that we had seen earlier in the day, and both our hearts were very heavy.
But onward to a new day! And what an exciting day it was going to be! I know we had seen a castle earlier at the beginning of our adventure, but today I was going to see another! What I didn’t know was how much I was going to fall in love with this city. To this day, it still ranks at the top of my favorites, and I believe it always will.
Off we went.
It was a beautiful day and they city was magical… Green trees were dancing in the breeze, city benches were calling to be sat in and the parks were starting to fill with people. We walked down the city blocks through the incredible walkways on our way to the castle.
There it is! Now we just needed to get to the other side…
We MADE IT!!
Wawel Castle, Krakow Poland.
Wawel castle is one of the largest in Poland and represents nearly all European architectural styles of Medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. Krakow was the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569-1795; the Free city of Krakow from 1815-1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918: and Krakow Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1998.
The city has grown from a stone age settlement to Poland’s second most important city. It actually began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill (Now home to Wawel Castle) in the year 965. Not only is Krakow cited as being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest in the world.
But back to the castle, as it’s time to buy our tickets.
Now as I’m sure you’re all getting familiar with Paul always being in front of me, hence you can always see him in quite a few of the pictures. I have since learned to follow behind more so he tends to blend in with the rest of the crowd that way!
Upwards we go to get our passes.
One more quick one before heading in.
So the first thing you see when entering through the gates is Wawel Cathedral.
It is a Roman Catholic church and is more than 900 years old. It is also the Polish national sanctuary and it traditionally served as the coronation site of the Polish monarchs as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Krakow. You might have heard of a man named Karol Wojtyla who offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of the Cathedral in 1946 and was ordained as Krakow’s auxiliary bishop in the Cathedral in 1958. He later went on to become Pope John Paul II.
There was Mass going on while we were there so we did not get to go inside, unfortunately, but we did get to go down in the Crypt but no pictures were allowed to be taken. We were quite taken back to find out that the sarcophagus of Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, the Polish President and First Lady who were killed in a plane crash a little over a year before our visit, were laid to rest here.
That was a sad day in history, as the two of them along with 94 of Poland’s highest military and civilian leaders were killed.
Here is a layout of the castle and it’s grounds.
As you can see, the cathedral is built right into the castle, and the entrance is the yellow dot. We had a lot of exploring to do!
Like the crypt, no photos were allowed inside at all, so all I’m able to do is share the outside with you. I guess that just means you’ll have to buy a ticket to see it for yourself!
We were on our way to see the residence part of the castle, called the Royal private apartments. Just a short walk away…
And here they are. Magnificent!
Just look at the detail painted on the walls… Awesome.
The height of the castle was in the 16th century, when it was turned into a splendid Renaissance palace by Sigismund I the Old and his wife. It soon became the model of stately residence in Central and Eastern Europe. In the year 1609, a new King Sigismund moved the capital of Poland to Warsaw, and tough times for Wawel began.
Here is an example of what the kings used to wear.
Since then, through wars and changing hands, it went on to become the official residence of the President of Poland and shortly after WWII, by decree of the State National Council, Wawel Castle became a national museum.
There was some construction going on and an event in the works, so workers were everywhere preparing for the festivities, so onward we go!
A little view from the castle wall out onto the city, and a beautiful day it was. Here is an example of what weapons they used to shoot from these lookouts.
Here are a few more of the view.
Now to get out of the castle, you can either go all the way back to the entrance, or head out through the underground caves, or “dungeons!” We chose the latter!
Off we go!
And let me tell you, there were A LOT of stairs!!!!
My camera didn’t work so great down there, terrible lighting and it was blazing hot! So these were the only photos I came away with, but you get the hint.
So at the bottom we landed and now to go see what the rest of the city had in store for us!
Bye-bye Wawel, for now anyway!
We made our way down one of the main streets and the city had come alive!
I wanted to stop at each little cafe and have a nibble of something to eat, just delightful!
We happened to stumble on this gem as well, Saints Peter and Paul Church.
This time we were in luck! We could go in… and actually take pictures!
And a lovely sight it was. This church taught me that it didn’t have to be massive, have soaring ceilings, for flying buttresses to be absolutely stunning, because this was exactly that.
This church was built between 1597-1619 and since 1842 serves as the Catholic All Saints parish.
The next image is very special to me. It’s the image that started to make me love photography… It’s the image that made me start to love my photography. (or at least put the thought into my head that I might actually pretty good at it with a little practice!)
Here it is…
It’s still one of my first favorites!
After we stood, sat and just took it all in, it was time to head back to the main centre.
This photo reminds me of Mary Poppins… Feed the birds. It was the thing to do that day I guess. If I would have had a little something on me, I might have joined in on the fun too!
The above picture is known as Cloth Hall. It is one of the city’s most recognizable icons as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Traveling merchants met here to discuss business and to barter, which it still does today. In the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax. On the upper floor, it now houses the National Museum of Krakow.
(We will actually visit again in two years, so stay tuned for more photos to come!)
And now one last marvel before we head back to our room, St Mary’s Basilica.
This Basilica was built-in the 14th century, with foundations dating back to the early 13th century. It is considered one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture and stands at 262 feet tall.
The inside was just spectacular, and the crowds waiting to get in were proof.
Again, pictures this first time around are not the best, but you will get the picture.
One interesting fact about this place is this:
Every hour, on the hour, a trumpet signal is played from the top of the taller of the two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off mid-stream to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. The noon time sounding is heard across Poland and broadcast live by the Polish national radio 1 station.
I’m a sucker for European history, and if you are too, look up Krakow Poland. There is a little bit of everything tucked away in its history pages.
And here comes the end of our time in this wonderful city. I am incredibly happy that we will be here again in two years, (we didn’t know it at the time, and my Dad will be joining along with us too!)
Goodbye for now Krakow, and sweet dreams.