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In order to make the most of our day and beat the expected heat (near 90 degrees), we started our explorations shortly after 8am. En route to our first stop, Libby picked up the most delightful iced coffee… like a Starbucks Frappuccino but better. We then traversed the historic core of the city in order to begin Rick Steves’s walking tour of the Old Town following the Royal Route through town to Wawel, the hilltop site of Poland’s most sacred cathedral.

Our walking tour began just outside of Florianska Gate in the Planty (a green park—built where the fortifications of the city once stood—that surrounds much of the Old Town… our hotel, overlooks part of the Planty on the other side of town). Passing through the gate, we walked toward the main square, explored it in more detail, and then headed down Ul. Grodzka toward Wawel. Along the way, we stopped into the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and its next door neighbor, the Church of St. Andrew (intimate in scale, but very impressive). We then hiked up the hill to Wawel for an impressive view of the Vistula River, explored the castle grounds, and visited Wawel Cathedral. For me, the most striking item was a small display on the altar containing a vial of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s blood—a kind of modern-day relic—that presumably will be venerated by the faithful for perhaps hundreds of years to come (much like people stand around looking at parts of old Saint So-and-So, fragments of the Cross, or whatever today). Krakow really is the “Rome of the North” (and often cited as the most Catholic city in Europe’s most Catholic country). As a retired Catholic, I felt very much at home. :-)

Wavel Cathedral

Wavel Cathedral

After our visit to Wawel, we returned to our hotel for a quick pit stop for Emerson (the benefit of having a really good location) and then headed back to the main square to visit St. Mary’s Basilica, which had been closed earlier in the day for church services. I must confess—having seen a lot of churches that all sort of blend into one another—that “there’s something about St. Mary’s” that I really liked. Sure, it’s a Gothic masterpiece on the outside. But, the interior of the church had a certain joyfulness and vitality lacking in so many of Europe’s great churches. Indeed, I was somewhat reminded (especially by the ceiling) of the beautiful mosques that we visited in the Middle East this year. More celebratory than somber: seems like a better way to honor God.

Interior of St. Mary's Basilica

Interior of St. Mary's Basilica

After the church, we had lunch at a wood-fired pizzeria. The pizza—as all food in Krakow seems to be—was excellent and affordable (our sit-down lunch, including drinks and tip, was less than $20 for the four of us). We then strolled back to our hotel for Emerson’s afternoon nap while Mom headed out to explore more of the city.

We regrouped in the late afternoon for some souvenir shopping before heading to dinner. We ate at a place called Marmolada, which provided another good meal at a very good price (though not up to Miod Malina’s level of excellence). After dinner, we had some delicious ice cream (at $0.50 per scoop) before returning to the hotel. Later tonight, I plan to head back out to try some night photography.

There’s much to do in and around Krakow and this trip has only scratched the surface. Moreover, we’ve found that we really like Poland and would like to explore more of this country. As such, we’ll add Poland to our ‘return visit’ short list (which, I must confess, is ironically rather long).

Tomorrow we drive back to Germany to spend our last couple of days on the continent in Berlin before heading back to London and then on to home.

Update: I was so pleased with the results from my little Cannon S100 Point-and-Shoot and a tiny Joby GorillaPod, that I came back to the hotel and revised today’s post to include a sample:



One Response to “Day #15: Krakow, Poland – At Leisure in Krakow”

  1. Dick says:

    Nice night shots –

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