Krakow, which is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, lies in the southern part of Poland, by the Vistula (Wisla)fRiver. Though the city has suffered a lot during the World War II, it was able to resurface and regain its glory as second most important city in the country. Krakow has a rich cultural and historical heritage that it was made European Capital of Culture in 2000. The city itself, considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful cities, is listed at the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It was no wonder that our desire to see Krakow was too strong, that it was on top of our list when we did our camper adventure in Poland. I would say, it was the main reason why we pushed through with our Poland trip on the first place. And then, we came…we saw and experienced Krakow…we were enticed by its charms…and the magic and beauty of the city will forever be engraved in our hearts..
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR KRAKOW ADVENTURE
I. THE MARKET SQUARE
Krakow’s main Market Square ( Rynek Glowny) is located in Krakow’s Old Town an done the largest medieval squares in Europe (200 m x 200m). It dates back to 13th century and is now the city’s principal urban space. It is a very busy and cozy place, normally full with tourists and merchants. Several important buildings are situated around the square, such as the Cloth hall, Town Hall Tower, St. Mary’s Basilica, historic buildings and restaurants. Hans and I spent lots of time just wandering around the square, sometimes sitting near the fountain, and just curiously watching the people doing their own things on the square.
II. MUSEUM VISITS
The city of Krakow is like an open air museum. There are lots to see , experience, and learn. For someone who hunger for knowledge is Krakow the place to be. Because we have only limited time in the city, we were able to visit only three of its musea. But these two were , if I may say, one of the bests the city offers.
a. Rynek Underground
The Rynek Underground, which was opened on September 24, 2010, is a one-of-a-kind unique and modern museum which is located under the surface of the city’s main square. It presents the city of Krakow during the medieval period. It gives the visitors a very good impression of how Krakow was during that period, with aids of multimedia presentations and interactive computers, documentary films and audio guides. Ticket for the museum costs 19 zloty (16 zloty discount price). No entrance fee on Tuesdays. We had to reserve our ticket as there was a limited number of visitors for specified hours of the day.
b. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
The museum, which was once the enamel factory of the celebrated Oskar Schindler found in Uli. Lipowa 4 in the Kazimiers area. Situated some 3 kilometers from Krakow’s Old historical center, the museum presents a different side of Krakow : that under the Nazi Occupation. Its permanent exhibition, Krakow Under Nazi occupation (1939-1945) presents some of the most crucial events in the history of Nazi-occupied Krakow. Special features are the office where Oskar Schindler self worked during those times, and the possibility to make some stamps as souvenirs from our museum visit. It was a very enriching visit for us as we were familiarized with the city’s dark history and also were able to see with our own eyes and relate more personally to Schindler’s List story. Ticket costs 16-19 zlotys and free on Mondays. It is advised to book in advance to avoid the long queue at the entrance.
c. The Lost Wawel
This exhibition is part of the many permanent exhibitions at the Wawel Castle. Accommodated in the old royal kitchen, this exhibition features remnants of the late-10th-century Rotunda of Saints Felix and Adauctus, reputedly the first church in Poland, as well as various archaeological finds (including colourful ceramic tiles from the castle stoves) and models of previous Wawel churches. (The Lonely Planet).
We visited this exhibition on a Monday as the admission was free. But sadly, there was already a very long queue whenwe arrived at the ticket center, so we had to wait at least an hour to obtain our free ticket, with a result that we were not able to visit another free exhibition.
III. THE WAWEL HILL AND THE WAWEL CASTLE
Towering over the Vistula River is the Wawel Hill which houses the Polish architecture and cultural complex, The Wawel Royal Castle. The castle was once the residence of kings and the symbol of Polish statehood, but now it is one of the country’s finest art museum. There are lots to do and see in the castle complex. One can visit the permanent exhibitions and musea, climb the 137 steps of Sandomierska Tower, go to the Dragon’s Den, take a rest in the castle’s gardens, have a moment of solitude at the Cathedral, grab a cup of coffee at the nearby restaurant, or simply hang out on the the castle grounds and enjoy the views of the Vistula river. Unfortunately, Hans and I were only able to visit one of the permanent exhibition, The Lost Wawel, and climbed the Tower. We were not able to visit the other exhibits as it was really very very busy. It was advisable to book the tickets in advance to avoid long queue.
Kazimierz, which was once a separate town situated beyond the Vistula River, is a half-Jewish and half-Christian district of Krakow. It is where one can find the traces of Jewish community like the presence of the Old Synagoge, and lots of Jewish small restaurants with Jewish concerts.
Hans and I went here two times (with our bicycles) and visited couple of famous churches, the Plac Novy where market is held (both antique and textile) and also drank coffee in one of the charming and unique cafes in the area, the café Singer. It is authentic café which made use of old singer sewing machines as coffee tables. We also visited the Old Synagogue, the oldest in Poland, where I got a discount in the entry price.
V. THE TYNIEC ABBEY
Tyniec is a little picturesque village found at the right side of the Vistula River, which is about 12-13 kilometers southwest of the city of Krakow. The place is notable for its famous church and monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, or better known as the Benedictine Abbey. Hans and I had a great time biking to this abbey, following a wonderful and easy cycling route which runs along the river.
Once at the village, we first had some coffee at the small café at the foot of the abbey; then we went up the abbey, visited the church and even bought a beer brewed by the monks themselves; and surprisingly, Hans found it good!
VI. CHURCH VISITS
Poland is primarily a Catholic country. This was very evident with the many churches found in the city of Krakow. Because we loved to visit churches, we have selected a number of these churches which we would like to visit. Among them are :
a. Saint Mary’s Basilica
Located at the Main square, St. Mary’s Basilica is a Gothic church built in the 13th century and stands 80 meter high. It is famous for its wooden altarpiece by Veit Stoss. Entrance to the church is free, but a small fee is asked if one wants to see the wooden altar. We managed to see the altar for free when we visited the church at a time when the mass was about to begin. Then visitors had a chance to go as near as the altar. It is also possible to climb up to the tower, which we did not do. St. Mary is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever visited.
b. The Wawel Royal Cathedral
The Wawel Cathedral, a Gothic religious building located in the Wawel Hill, is the most important religious building in Krakow, and is the sanctuary of the patron saint of Poland, St. Stanislaus, the Bishop. We were only able to see the exterior of the church. Though the entrance to the cathedral is free, it was impossible for us to visit the interior as there was always long queues in the several times that we were at the castle complex. Too bad!
c. Corpus Christi Church and Church on the Rock (Jewish Quarter)
Both churches are located in the Kazimierz. The Church of Corpus Christi is a massive Gothic religious building from 14th century which have a towering golden altarpiece as it most significant feature.
The Church on the Rock is a baroque 18th century church formally known as Church of St. Stanislaw and Pauline . It is one of the important religious buildings in Krakow, a site where Bishop Stanislaw was murdered.
d. Churches of St. Andrew and Sts. Paul and Peter
Church of St. Andrew is one of the oldest buildings in Krakow and is now used by Orders of St. Claire. The Church of Sts. Paul and Peter, adjacent to St. Andrew is best known for the statues of the 12 disciples lined along the fence of the church.
VII. SHOPPING AND FESTIVAL
We were fortunate that there were a couple of festivals going on in the city of Krakow in the times that we were there. These were the Peirogi Festival and the Municipal festival. Peirogi or dumplings which are savories filled with cheese, vegetables or meat (dumplings) is one of the post popular local delicacy in Poland and during the festival week, the people are treated with the best kinds of pierogi. We just knew about this festival by chance; we got to sample the food, and also able to had good conversation with a nice Polish couple who also gave us tips about hiking trails in Zakopane.
The other festival ( I am quite not sure about the name, though) happened at the back of the main square and featured local live music and dance by different cultural groups in the region. There was also a big market with local and traditional products on sale and a couple of stands where they served local food.
Aside from sightseeing, we also the chance to do a little bit of shopping. There was a permanent market in the Cloth Hall in the middle of the market square. where we bought some traditional products for family members. Also, it was lots of fun walking around the local market stands and look at the delicately hand-made traditional products of Poland. Aside from these local market stands, Krakow has also the normal known shops and a couple of shopping malls where we spent quite of out time too.
We had a 5 glorious day- stay in the city of Krakow. We were fortunate to have found a very appropriate camping area where we stayed from August 12-16, 2016. We arrived here on August 12, after driving about 22 kilometers coming from Wieliczka. It is a an ideal parking area for campers owned by a private company/car company. It is just 7 kilometers from the city center, which could easily be reached by a bus or by biking. We did a lot of biking here, as Krakow is also a bit suitable for biking. The parking costs 7.50 euro per day. Internet, water and disposal of chemical toilet is free. Electricity can be obtained for a small price.
Address : Parking, El Camp Car Service
Ul. Tyniecka 118 E
Coordinates : N: 50.03418 E: 19.87658
Our customary pictures together