Sep 29 2007

Kraków

by in Central & Southern Europe, Poland

Krakow is one of my favorite places on earth. It is a medieval city full of young people. A wonderful, striking combination. – Jonathan Carroll

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few years, you’re certainly well aware that I have somewhat of an obsession with trying to visit multiple countries within a timespan of only a few days (i.e, last year’s trip to the Caucasus, or the one day Croatia-Bosnia-Montenegro run of ’05, a current personal best). It’s like an episode of the amazing race, only with more landmines and disgruntled Kalashnikov-carrying border guards.

I didn’t think that we needed to spend an entire week in Kiev, so I pulled up Google Maps and made a list of nearby countries that I hadn’t visited yet: Romania? Moldova? Slovakia? Belarus? Poland? Poland, as it turns out, seemed the most cost-effective travel wise, and Krakow was a city on my “to do” list that I had missed while studying in London (Yes, I did occasionally have to go to class). So, after spending four days in Kiev, Laura and I caught a flight to Krakow while Ryan hopped a train to the Crimea.

On our flight leaving Kiev, I was seated next to a young Ukrainian couple, who, I surmised, had never flown before. They clutched each other’s hands tightly, and as our plane gained speed for takeoff, the girl shut her eyes and repeatedly crossed herself. Fortunately, the flight was uneventful and divine intervention was not required. We switched planes in Warsaw and finally landed at Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport, named after a former local priest turned international Catholic superstar.

Our apartment was located near Market Square in the Old Town section of Krakow, an incredibly beautiful historic quarter composed of cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the 15th century. Market Square is an ideal place to sit at an outdoor cafe and sip a cappuccino or glass of Żywiec beer with a shot of grenadine.

beer with grenadine in Krakow

Yes, beer and grenadine. I was puzzled when I flipped through the drinks menu and saw a list of syrups displayed next to the beer choices. “So, uh,” I asked the waitress, “you add syrup to the beer?!” She looked at me like I was an idiot. “Yes, syrup for the beer.” Well, I like beer, and I like flavored syrups, so maybe they’d be good together. The end result was something that looked like a Shirley Temple, and tasted, well, good enough.

Krakow Market Square
Cloth Hall in Market Square

Krakow main square

We really only had one full day of sightseeing in Krakow, but managed to cover a lot of ground despite the cold temperature and steady downpour of rain. We spent the morning touring Kazimierz, the home of Krakow’s Jewish population until the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II.

Krakow Kazimierz Jewish Cemetery

Krakow Kazimierz Synagogue

Krakow Kazimierz

Krakow Kazimierz
A courtyard used during the filming of Schindler’s List

Shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland, they forcibly removed all Jews from Kazimierz and placed them in the Krakow Ghetto. Conditions in the Ghetto were grim, with 15,000 people living in an area formerly occupied by 3,000 residents.

Krakow Podgorze ghetto
Memorial to those killed

Krakow Podgorze ghetto
The pharmacy run by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Polish national hero.

Krakow Schindler's factory
The entrance to Oskar Schindler’s factory

Krakow Schindler's factory

Krakow Schindler's factory

Krakow Schindler's factory
Schindler’s office

Krakow Schindler's factory

Krakow Plaszow concentration camp
Site of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp

Krakow Plaszow concentration camp

Krakow Plaszow concentration camp
Former mass graves

We spent the rest of the day at Wawel Castle, the former residence of Polish royalty. To be honest with you, I found it to be a bit boring. Beautiful architecture, but after a while all the castles start to look alike.

Krakow Wawel Castle

Krakow Wawel Castle

Krakow Wawel Castle
Obligatory “American” pose

The following day we toured Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. More on that later.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Tags: , , ,

10 Responses to Kraków

  1. From T Sidoti:

    Castles do get boring after a while, but beer… never.

    Posted on October 1, 2007 at 1:59 pm #
  2. From Lindsay:

    LoL, couldn’t agree more…

    Posted on October 1, 2007 at 10:52 pm #
  3. From Joyce:

    So jealous! Kazmirez is the one part of Krakow that I wish I’d spent more time exploring and I really, really wish I’d gone on one of the tours.
    Yes, castles all look the same, but I got a serious kick out of all the attempts at one-upsmanship represented by the random assortment of architectural styles!

    Posted on October 4, 2007 at 4:41 pm #
  4. From Krzysiek:

    well if you liked Kraków, you definitly should visit Wrocław next time 😉 (Venice of the north – over 120 bridges in one city, i think only St.Petersburg got more)

    Posted on October 10, 2007 at 7:59 pm #
  5. From Lauren:

    Au haus in the middle of Auschwitz!

    Posted on February 21, 2008 at 11:53 am #
  6. From Jenny:

    I love looking at your pictures. I spent a little over a month in Krakow during the summer of 2007, and I loved every moment of it. Your pictures bring back so many memories b/c I remember seeing all of those things!

    Posted on March 12, 2008 at 8:30 pm #
  7. From Krakow:

    Hi, thanks for the post- great photo’s. I used to live exactly where you took the photo in Kazimierz of the Star’s of David on the old Synagogue. Turn around and there was my front door!! No: 25 ul. Jozefa For more info about Krakow http://www.krakow-poland.com cheers

    Posted on November 21, 2008 at 5:12 pm #
  8. From Pawel:

    Amazing how many places one can visit in so little time. Congratulations!

    Posted on March 25, 2014 at 8:28 am #
  9. From Tomek:

    I love your pictures from Krakow – it’s my favourite city in Poland. Why? Because of its culture, great history and so many things to visit! I strongly recommend coming to Krakow.

    Posted on June 3, 2015 at 7:30 am #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ukraine/Poland ‘07 Roundup | At Home In The Wasteland - July 8, 2009

    […] Monastery of the Caves) 12. Poland Photos: Krakow / Auschwitz-Birkenau / Wieliczka Salt Mine 13. Kraków 14. Auschwitz 15. Wieliczka Salt Mine: Goin’ Deeper […]

%d bloggers like this: