Well, at least we know what we’re doing today. The challenge of getting into Krakow sorted, we’re free to explore at will. Our guide book tells me we were most remiss in not visiting the Church of St Mary, Koscioi Mariacki, yesterday. Built by the citizens of Krakow to rival the royal cathedral at the Wawel, work commenced in 1355, continuing through until the early l6th century. It’s our first stop today.
Externally, the church’s baroque porch was designed by Francesco Placidi in the mid 18th century, and the higher of its two towers, the Hejnal, trumpets the hour. It’s also broadcast through Polish radio at noon daily. The call is in memoriam of a mediaeval trumpeter shot whilst sounding the alarm.
Whilst the guidebook waxes lyrical about various aspects of the church, it surprisingly fails to mention its sumptuously decorated interior. With deep blue ceilings dotted with golden stars, it’s meant to represent the heavens above.
The church is home to a series of significant pieces, including this 15th century sandstone crucifix and the Alterpiece of Viet Stoss, the world’s largest Gothic alterpiece, carved in 1477 – 1489.
It’s currently undergoing restoration, the draping below belying its enormous 11 metre by 13 metre size.
The decorative finishes are seemingly endless, with something new to see at every turn.
Having marvelled over it all, we’ve worked up quite the appetite for lunch.
And we’ve just the spot too, picked out during yesterday meanderings. Sitting at the edge of the old city’s green belt I couldn’t resist the siren call of this gorgeous veranda.
And what a good choice it was. We start with fermented treats: a pickle and sauerkraut.
Since Himself first mentioned Poland, I’ve been dreaming about the local dumplings, pierogi. Stuffed with either meat, sauerkraut or white cheese, they’re about as national a dish as possible. I order them, of course, with a side cucumber sour cream salad. As far as food is concerned, this is my idea of heaven.
Himself orders ribs, meltingly tender, but hubcap huge!
And doesn’t he look pleased with himself afterwards?
Tummies sated, we set sights on the Wawel, fully expecting to tour the castle for the rest of the afternoon.
The ticket office has other ideas though. Despite queuing for 30 minutes, with no advance warning, we’re told that tickets (which are for timed entry today) are sold out, and that is not possible to buy a timed ticket in advance, for tomorrow. Hmm. A sign to this effect might have been useful… before we joined the queue to nowhere.
We satisfy ourselves instead, with external views.
Whilst I would have liked to have seen the Wawel, there’s still the Royal Cathedral to explore. We join a different queue, for that, instead.
Frustratingly, it’s another place where they’ve banned photography. This is only mentioned once you’re inside, of course, cloaked under the guise of it being a spiritual shrine. I’d rather they took an extra payment, donated it to good works, and let me photograph at will, as many churches do.
The Royal Cathedral was the site of coronations and burials. Kings and Queens were crowned and laid to rest within its walls.
There’s also a Cathedral Museum, with pieces from the cathedral treasury and mementos from Pope John Paul II who was once once Bishop here. Again, it’s the beautiful embroidery that catches my attention.
Eventually, it’s time to call it a day. There’s just time for a lap around the gardens to say hi to the bumbles, and admire the views across the river.
A much smoother ride home with the tram now correctly reinstated. Krakow had been a wonderful introduction to Poland.