It took us five hours to get to Krakow (Cracovia) by train, when it usually takes 2 and a half hours. Just like the train from Varsovia, the delay was due to the railway construction. Although we took the second class accommodation, which was a 6 capacity compartment one seat was empty so Mel had a bigger space in front of her. The seat was comfortable and they give you a refreshment with a biscuit, in an ICC train.
We did not have any difficulty finding the apartment since I have already mapped the address. Again we had the apartment on the third floor, but a much bigger one than the two others we occupied in Poznan and Varsovia.
After some tea, we soon found our way to the Town Square Market (Rynek Glowny) a 16 mins walk from the apartment. We took delight in watching the horse-drawn carriages and the wooden tricycles with a lot of people hovering around while several groups were doing their street performances. We could not wait to take pictures. The Square Market is home to several buildings among which are as follows.
The first picture on the left is the Florianska Gate built about 1300 as a rectangular Gothic tower of wild stone, and is 33,5 m tall. This served as the main entrance to the Royal Road that leads to the Market Square. In the center is a background picture of St. Mary's Basilica. it is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is 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. The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.
The Altar of the St. Mary's Cathedral
Krakow's Gothic Masterpiece by Veit Stoss
Krakow is blessed with masterworks by the greatest sculptor of the Gothic art, Veit Stoss (or Wit Stwosz, circa 1440 to 1533). He lived and worked here for 19 years, and he sacrificed twelve of them (1477 to 1489) to carve in wood his best work ever: three-story-high altarpiece in the basilica of the Virgin Mary's at Krakow’s central Grand Square.
The 42-foot-high and 36-foot-wide Veit Stoss' magnum opus is the largest Gothic sculpture in the world. It consists of 200 fine limewood sculptures treated with color and gold foil. The central part, with huge lifelike statues of the saints, depicts dramatically the Virgin Mary's Quietus among the Apostles. Looking upwards one sees the Ascension of Our Lady and Lord. And at the top there is the Madonna’s Heavenly Coronation by the Trinity. The wings are covered with relief scenes from the life of the Holy Family. At the base of the altarpiece one finds the family tree of the Virgin Mary's. (Source of Info: Krakow Info)
The third one in the picture is the town hall with a clock.
|But the most attractive building is the Cloth Hall (Sukienniece pl.) and is probably the most known silhouette on every poster of Krakow. The atmosphere is wonderful with cafés decorated with fresh flowers. Inside the Cloth Hall are several small shops selling amber, souvenirs, and other small stuff.|
While in the train, we met a Polish girl, named Beata, who speaks Spanish and she recommended us a place for salad buffet called Chimera Restaurant where they served salad, juice and vegetarian food and she also mentioned not to miss the Franciscan's Church because of its amazing stained glasses.
It was worth following her recommendations. But our concept of salad buffet where you can eat as much as you can is not the same in Poland. There they make you choose between a small plate and a big plate, with the corresponding prices of course, and then you are given five choices among those that are displayed in their counters, which are served by someone from the restaurant. Cabbage is common to serve in restaurants both the green one and the red one.
The salad was fresh and the price was good. It had an interesting sign for the toilet and you use a plastic coin that they provide the clients who want to use the John.
The following day, we went to the oldest Polish market, which was just two blocks away from the apartment and which we can see from the balcony of the apartment. It was filled with different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh cheese, smoked/dried fish and some kitchen tools. There were a lot of old people selling second hand items and flowers on the sidewalk.
Mel decided to rent a bike and take the green route, called Planty, gardens which were planted on the site of former walls and moat which encircles the old city in about 4 kms. She rented the bike for eight hours while Ron and me continued on foot visiting mainly churches and the Jewish town. Mel was off and on meeting us mostly by chance, sometimes from a phone call from us when it was time to eat. The town seemed too small for her to go biking. She already had visited the Jewish town ahead of us and went all over the city and still was wishing there was more to take the bike. For some time we got her busy having strong coffee and a piece of cake. Although she ordered two cups of dark coffee, it came only about two tablespoons in a small cup, so she ordered another two more. She has low blood pressure anyway, so no worries.
The trams are the most common means of transport inside the city and they have old ones and modern ones. In Krakow, there are machines in the trams that will enable you to buy your tickets at the same price as when you buy them in the kiosks close to the railways. In Varsovia, you pay more if you buy them in the trams from the driver. There were times we did not have any tickets and we were lucky that an inspector did not present himself. And the first time we bought the tickets, the inspector was there to check that we had them. They have time duration so tickets are available by minutes with 15 mins. as the minimum charge. But their transport is cheap, about 25 cents for the minimum. A lot of places are best accessed by foot since public transport cannot enter certain areas.
In the Jewish town, what amazed me was the Gothic brick church with a pulpit of boat-like structure and the lavish ornaments as well as its pious visitors. This is the Corpus Christi church of mid-14th-century grand Gothic. Rich interior. The 1634 high altar. Superb stalls of 1629. Mid-18th-century pulpit in the form of a boat. Lucas Cranach's Madonna of c.1520 in an upper chapel. Adjacent monastery of 1405. (Source: Krakow Info)
More to go in Travel to Cracovia Part II.