07th of January – 09th of January 2014: We went to Krakow with bus from Vienna. On the first day we arrived, we did 2 free tours. The first one was about the Old Town. We started meeting in front of the St. Mary`s Church, where you can hear on every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—being played from the top of the taller of St. Mary’s two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.
After this, we head to the St. Florian’s Gate, one of the best-known Polish Gothic towers, and a focal point of Kraków’s Old Town. It was built about the 14th century as a rectangular Gothic tower of “wild stone”, part of the city fortifications against Turkish attack. We saw the Main Market Square, which is the principal urban space located at the center of the city. It dates back to the 13th century, and at roughly 40,000 m² (430,000 ft²) is the largest medieval town square in Europe. The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) lists the square as the best public space in Europe due to its lively street life. There we could see the Adam Mickiewicz Monument, one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland, and a favourite meeting place at the Main Market Square. Our guide also told us that before the final exams to enter in a university, the students of Krakow jump around the monument to bring luck. She also did the same on her early days. In 1940 the monument was destroyed by the Nazis following German invasion of Poland. It was not to be seen in the Square until its restoration in 1955. However, most of the figures were recovered from a Hamburg scrap metal heap in 1946, which allowed the restoration of the Monument’s original appearance.
We continue our tour walking and seeing the Eros Bendato sculpture, the Jagiellonian University museum, Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Bazylika Franciszkanow (http://www.franciszkanska.pl/). On the last one, we found a Kraków szopka, or nativity scene which is a Christmas tradition originating from Kraków, Poland, and dating back to the 19th century. An unusual and characteristic feature of the szopka is the use of historical buildings of Kraków as backdrop for the Nativity of Jesus.
Later on, we arrived at the Gothic Wawel Castel (http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/pl/), which was built at the behest of Casimir III the Great, who reigned from 1333 to 1370, and consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard. There is a legend about the Wawel Dragon. His lair was in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill on the bank of the Vistula River. In some stories the dragon lived before the founding of the city, when the area was inhabited by farmers. The cathedral features a statue of the Wawel dragon and a plaque commemorating his defeat by Krakus, a Polish prince who, according to the plaque, founded the city and his palace over the slain dragon’s lair. The dragon’s cave below the castle is now a popular tourist stop and you can find dragon´s souvenir around the city.
For lunch we ate Pierogi, which are dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions – traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. Of central and eastern European provenance, they are usually semicircular, but are rectangular or triangular in some cuisines.
Then, the second tour started at the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. There we saw some synagogues, the restaurant Ariel (http://www.ariel-krakow.pl/), jewish cemeteries, a small market where you can try zapiekanka. We also saw some locations for the movie “The Schindler list”, if you look for the pub The Stajnia you can recognise some of these locations. After crossing the bridge Father Bernatek Footbridge (Kładka Ojca Bernatka) we walked a little bit more, until we arrived in the Memorial to Jews from the Kraków Ghetto on their deportation site. Each steel chair represents 1,000 victims.
We finished the walking tour there, and we decided to see the Schindler’s Factory (http://www.krakow-info.com/schindler.htm). As a curiosity, Oskar Schindler saved 1100 Jews, but there is also a famous name: Irena Sendler. She saved 2500 jewish kids. On the following day we visited Auschwitz concentration camp (http://www.auschwitz.org.pl/). For sure it was the saddest place I have ever been to, and I just hope human beings will one day respect each other.
We also ate at a mexican restaurant (http://www.tacomexicano.pl/), at a polish restaurant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_cuisine) and at the Hard Rock Cafe Krakow (http://www.hardrock.com/locations/cafes3/cafe.aspx?LocationID=525&MIBEnumID=3).
It is also recommended going to the Salt Mine, but we had no time: http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/visiting/visitor-s-guide/krakow-office
>>Movies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwfIf1WMhgc Schindler’s List
*Where we stayed: http://www.letsrockhostel.com/