It has always been a competition between Warsaw and Cracow. It started when the Polish-Swedish king Sigismund moved the Polish capial from Cracow to Warsaw, 1599. Why? Maybe to get closer to Sweden? Maybe to piss off the people of Cracow? Well, maybe he didn’t intend to, but he did. Ever since it has been a competition between the two. Warsaw is the capital, the big city with pulse. Cracow is much more laid back, it has culture, pubs, a great castle and soul. I’m a girl from Warsaw. And I love Cracow.
Paintings for sale by the Barbakan-wall
Since I’m from Warsaw, I’m not supposed to like Cracow, but I do. It won my heart many years ago and sometimes I just go to visit it for a weekend to feel better. Most often I fly to Warsaw, I jump on a train and after two hours I’m in Cracow. It’s that simple.
Castle on dragon’s hill
The Wawel Hill with its magnificent Wawel Castle
Cracow’s Historic Centre was one of the first sites on UNESCO’s World’d Heritage list. And how could it be different? It’s a perfect choice. It has it all. The Historic City Centre, or the Old Town is an Medieval city. On the one side there is a huge Medieval castle with great interior and great exterior. It’s been extended several times and you can see it, in a good way. It’s different parts look different, like a mirror from that time period.
The Wawel castle by night from the river side
It also has it’s own dragon cave with a dragon outside.The dragon is a statue built in 20:th century. It spits out fire every 15 minutes. According to an old legend, there used to be a dragon there, who ate beautiful virgins and all the local sheep. The king Krak (thereof name Krakow, or Cracow) promised princess’ hand and half of the kingdom to the person who could get rid of the dragon. Many tried and died and finally a poor farmer showed up with two sheep filled with sulphur. The dragon ate the sheep. The sulphur made him thirsty and he began to drink water from the river nearby. He drank so much, so he exploded. The city was saved and the farmer boy got his kingdom and the princess. The moral of the story: too much water is not good for you.
The dragon guarding the castle
The castle is situated on the Wawel hill, just by the Vistula river. The view from the castle is great. In the castle area, on the square there is the great Royal Cathedral. Many of Polish kings and great leaders are burried in it’s catacombs and in the tower there is the great Sigismund’s bell. It’s huge and it rings on special ocasions.
The Castle Cathedral
The Sigismund bell in the cathedral
Town’s square ans St Mary’s church
Further down, there is the city itself. It has Europe’s largest medeval square. It’s still the biggest in Europe. There are several restaurants, cafes and bars around it. All year around people sit and enjoy themselves there.
St. Mary’s Church from side
Beautiful St. Mary’s church in the town square
Next to the square is the famous church of St Mary, from which’s tower a trumpeteer plays every hour in memory of a medieval siege. There is an old legend here as well. It tells about a guard of the city in the tower, who was supposed to warn the city if the enemy was comming. And one night, when everyone slept the Cosacs on their horses with bows and arrows were getting closer and closer, hoping to take Cracow by surprise. The guard saw them and started to play his warning song. He was shot dead in a middle of a note, but he managed to wake up the people of the city. They discovered enemy in time and the city was saved once again. To his memory a local firefighter plays a song every hour from the top of the tower stopping as suddenly, in the middle of a note, as the guard in the old times. Today it’s a tourist attraction. Some days you can even go up (many stairs) to see the city from the tower and to see the firefighter play.
A firefighter playing trumpet every hour 24/7 from the top of the tower
View from top of the St Mary’s cathedral
The church itself looks great on the outside and even better on the inside. It has an altair made by Wit Stwosz with man size figures, eight gold and magnificent colours. If you pay a little more for your ticket, you also get a photo permit and you help the church and it’s artwork and are allowed to photograph it.
Beautiful piece of art, the altar by Wit Stwosz
More religious places
The cathedral is not the only church in town. They are many. Some magnificent, some simple, all beautiful. There are also several monasteries in and around Cracow, so it’s not unusual to see a nun or a monk around here. The former Pope, John Paul II was here quite often and he was actually born in a town called Wadowice, not far from here.
A little part of the ole Jewish part of town, Kazimierz
The churches are not only catholic. Not far from the old town is Kazimierz, an old Jewish part of town wih many synagogs, Jewish restaurants, very cute squares and some very nice places. And in the main square there are the best zapiekanki in town. Zapiekanki is a typical polish fast food. It’s a half baguette grilled with cheese and some other stuff (meat, salty cucumber, chili, sausage tomato, just to name some).
In the line, waiting for the best zapiekanki in town
The Cloth Hall
In the middle of the square there is the Clothing Hall, a medieval shopping area, called Cloth Halls, where today you can buy handmade products, art, jewlery, crystals and souvenirs. There is a lot of folklore, colors and curious tourists there. The prices are not very high either, which is a surprise for me. But that’s Cracow.
The Cloth Hall in the middle of the town square
Inside the Cloth Hall
University, students and bars
Cracows Historic Centre is also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, The Collegium Maius. People like Copernicus have studied there as well as a few Nobel Prize winners. It is still a university town with students everywhere from the whole world. In the summertime the student dorms turn into a hostel, quite nice and cheap way to stay in this wonderful city.
Collegium Maius, the oldest part of the university
Churches, students and a castle, is Cracow a quiet town with no night life? No, no, no. The people here say that there are many museums, more churches and even more bars here. Just in the old town there are more than 400 bars and pubs. Some are open until 3 in the morning, some as long as the last guest wants to stay.
What to drink
Beer is always possible to get. Or beer with juice (piwo z sokiem), which is beer with rasberry syrup. It’s good, even if it sounds weird, and perfect in summertime. Many places have also a drink called Kamikaze. That is a small plate with six or twelve small glasses filled with a blue sour liquid. It’s vodka, blue curacao and lemon and the point is to drink up the small glasses fast. That’s the reason for the name.
The famous drink Kamikaze
The city of artists
Cracow is also a city of artists. Many famous artists, authors, actors and screenwriters are from here. They are either born here ot have lived here. To name some: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wislawa Szymborska, Roman Polanski and many more. During one of my visits here I saw Steven Spielberg leaving a bar, just like an ordinary man. I think he was recording Schindlers List back then. And last year we witnessed a Bollywood team recording Romeo and Juliet here. Why not.
Horse carriages are a common site and a nice way to see the town
You can also take a ride in a horse-carriage around the town. We did so and enjoyed it very much, even if it is very touristic.
A wheel of the horse carriage
There is so much more that can be said about Cracow and its neighbourhoods. Lets save that for another post. There are two more sites nearby.
Have I said that I love Cracow? It has many cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants. A lot of wonderful people, artists, theatres, it’s just great.It’s a city where you can be yourself. Just go there! Again and again!
My grade is without doubt five out of five:
And the link: Cracow