After visiting with family in my hometown of Belchatow, my wife, niece, and I spent the rest of the trip in and around the city of Krakow. If Poland is on your list of places to visit, this city will give you the most sightseeing bang for your buck.
Like the capital Warszawa (Warsaw), Krakow sits on Poland’s largest and most important river, the Vistula. It was home to Poland’s kings until the 16th century, and much of the grandeur befitting a former capital remains, notably in the form of the former royal palace, the Wawel (pronounced VAH-vell).
This historic city is in remarkably good condition, something that it owes partially to historical circumstance. While much of Poland was bombed to rubble during the Second World War, Krakow remained largely untouched, and no major battles were fought around it. Thus visitors today to Warsaw will see an “old town” rebuilt from scratch in the aftermath of the war (although lovingly and painstakingly so), while Krakow is the real deal.
Here are a few shots from the Wawel, mostly in and around the Royal Cathedral.
The other notable church in Krakow is St. Mary’s Basilica, which towers over the main square and from whose spire a distinctive bugle call plays every hour. The distinctive, mournful melody ends suddenly, as if cut short. Legend has it that a bugler in the 14th century was sounding the alarm to the town after spotting the approaching Golden Horde. A Mongol arrow was said to have pierced the player’s neck, prematurely silencing him and beginning the tradition. The truth may differ from the legend, but the trumpet call has become a symbol of the city, and by extension the nation. Today it gets broadcast over Polish radio daily at noon. You can hear it here.
The interior of the church is seriously impressive, containing among other things the largest medieval altarpiece in the world.
Here’s a few shots around town I managed to get.