Krakow! Very excited to be at the “official” start of our route through Poland. Described as one of Poland’s most beautiful cities, Krakow was exceedingly lucky to come out of both world wars relatively undamaged.
We navigate a tricky bus/tram combo in, made even trickier by the tram being out of service, replaced by a bus. It’s instances like these where the lack of local language really starts to bite. It takes a bit of faith to get on a second bus when you’ve been expressly told that it ought to be a tram.
There’s only one place to start a tour of Krakow, and it’s the main market square, Rynek Glowny. Laid out when Krakow received its municipal charter in 1257, it’s one of the largest in Europe.
We set out through the gardens surrounding the old centre – its a deliciously cool green belt seperating the old from the new.
It’s not long before we hit the square. And oh my… it’s magnificent! Packed with restaurants and gorgeous old buildings it’s quite overwhelming at first sight.
The Renaissance Cloth Hall is the centrepiece.
Replacing an earlier 13th century hall that burnt down, it’s now dedicated to cafes, souvenir shops and an art gallery on the first floor. A memorial statute of Poland’s national poet, Adam Mickiewicz stands out front.
Towering over the square is the Church of St Mary with its assymetrical towers
and the City Hall Tower, all that’s left of the original City Hall.
We lap the square, in search of the perfect spot for lunch – if Himself isn’t fed regularly, he becomes most grumpy and uncooperative.
I’ve heard that meals in Poland can be enormous so skirt towards the entrees – cabbage rolls are just the thing, I figure.
Himself agrees, abandoning plans for a crispy pork hock. They’re very good too, with a filling that’s light as a feather, but if this is an entree, I was right to steer clear of mains.
As we lunch, lavishly decorated horses clip past, ferrying tourists about in their carts.
After lunch we take a closer look at the Cloth Hall.
Amber is popular here, with many shops selling elaborate pieces.
We also pop into the tiny Romanesque church of St Wojchiech, the oldest building in the square.
Surprisingly, there’s a mass in progress. There’s certainly no shortage of churches in Krakow.
Just past the square, Ulicia Grodzka winds its way to the castle. It’s home to the Jesuit Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its impressive entrance,
We take a detailed audio tour here, but my absolute favourite has to be the tiny 11th century St Andrews church next door, which, despite its modest exterior,
looks like a fairytale opera house inside. Just gorgeous, but we can only admire it from afar, behind an elaborate iron gate (you’ll forgive me its dark edges in the photos below)
Further out, we pass the Wawel, Krakow’s castle, and follow the river back around its perimeter.
The Wawel is a task for tomorrow – too late in the day for today. The only job left is to get thoroughly lost on the way home. The “broken” tram reappeares, correctly labelled and seemingly in service, but it ends up going somewhere else, kilometres out of our way. Himself navigates us back to the first bus, but I’m not best pleased by day’s end. Hot, tired and grumpy would be an apt description.
An aside: The only true fly in the ointment came in the morning, at the Fiat service centre. They were disinclined to look at the window, claiming it a Rapido (motorhome brand) build. Not being their electronics, it’s unlikely they would be able to access parts, they claim. Given that Rapido has no presence in Poland, and France (home base of Rapido) is about to commence its August shut down making parts impossible to come by, after some debate we decide to press on. We’ll live with the window as is, in a fixed shut position. Having come this far, there’s no way I’d agree to turn back now missing Poland altogether.