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Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Christmas card from Krakow, Poland

My dear friends,

Would you just look at that! It's the very 6th of December! Do you know what that means? It's Saint Nicholas Day today! I hope you are all ready with squeaky clean shoes/boots as presents or wooden sticks (according if you were on the good/bad kids list). But guess what? Poland, implicitly Kraków, is quite different when it comes to Christmas traditions... 
Main Square Christmas Tree 2015
Kraków can rightly aspire to the title of the best place to spend Christmas. Considering the slavic roots, the cold/frost/snow, the dropping temperature... the weather is always a bit chillier here... so you will rarely have a Christmas without snow. It usually starts snowing in mid-November and the temperature fluctuates... some days you will have sun some days you will have fog and snow... Fog is also a constant in the month of November when medical advice is to stay indoor. December is better as the air clears up from the wind and snow. 
Galeria Kazimierz Outside Decorations 2015
Yuletide also somehow lasts longer in Malopolskie voivodship - Malopolska region. You can see bright lights, Christmas trees and hear carols as you pass the many churches inside this magical city. The Christmas is much more important to Polish people than the Easter; for Romanian people, for example, it is quite the other way around. Plus, as another difference, Santa Claus = Saint Nicholas as he always comes with the presents on the night between 6 and 7 December (that's a right! Tonight!). When it comes to Christmas day, 24th and 25th of December is spent in the family. Quality time while eating and singing carols. No presents involved! The next day is for visiting neighbours and relatives - more heavy eating... ;)
Galeria Krakowska Interior Decorations 2015
Kraków - as I was telling you before - is a perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Starting in the Main Market Square you have the Mariacki Kosciol (Saint Mary Church) that dates since 14th century. Go inside and listen to the mess and think of the many blessings that God graced you with throughout this year. I bet there are many things you can give thanks to! Including the fact that you are in such a delicately colored church that withstood 2 World Wars! 
Entrance to the Galeria Krakowska 2015
Head outside towards the Sukienicce... you are in Europe's largest Main Market Square! Rynek Glowny has a Christmas market that is open from the last week of November till Christmas day... but it usually runs longer, until the beginning of the next year ;) enjoy there the luck products and make sure you taste the yummy oscypek - mountain cheese - z zurawina - with cranberry sauce. The outside is hard but the inside melts due to the grilling and the smokey flavour combines perfectly with the sweet sauce. You can also try the pierogi or the kielbasa (sausages homemade and very much yummy and made usually out of pig meat). 
Oscypek - traditional Polish mountain cheese @ The Christmas Fair 2015
If you are at this time in Kraków you will for sure bump into the Kraków's traditional Christmas cribs - known by the locals as "Szopki". They are created to resemble the architecture of Kraków, usually in the shape of the Mariacki Kosciol; extremely colorful and very detailed! Any krakowian can come and submit their own creation, near the Mickiewicz statue, and the people come see them and a just jury grades them. The best will forever be displayed at the City of Kraków Historical Museum at the Rynek Główny 35 (open from 9 am to 6 pm from Monday to Thursday and Friday and Saturday between 9 and 7 pm - admission 9/6 zloty) ;) actually December 4th marked the 73rd Annual Kraków Christmas Crib Competition & Exhibition! Make sure you are in the Main Square as awards will be granted and you need to take pictures of that! Also, this year the city will hide some Szopki aaround the city - find them! :)
Christmas Decorations in Galeria Krakowska 2015
Of course the Main Market Square Christmas Fair is imperative but a couple of minutes away, close to the Galeria Krakowska, you can enjoy the Galician Advent Fair! The small market square with wooden houses arranged next to the ice ring is magical during afternoon and early evening. The ice ring will get crowded due to the placement of the market... but I urge you to try it nonetheless. It's good fun :) there are live concerts from folk bands to local artists and the vendor booths are open from 10 am to 10 pm daily! This year it will be open between 26th November and 24th December so hurry up! :)
Empik Christmas Decorations Display 2015
If you are during Christmas in Kraków you need to be sure you are stocked with everything you need during the 25th and 26th of December. These 2 fine days, national holidays, shops are closed - including the Galeria's, the malls... - but some restaurants keep their door open to the tourists. You still need to eat somewhere ;) but it is better to check in advance what is open. Gas stops are usually open as well and a number of chemist shops (polish - apteka) are designated to serve certain regions. 
Zakopane - on top of the Gubałówka - in mid-November 2015
To get along even better with the locals, try to learn a bit of Polish... I mean the basics, if you have the time and patience with this parseltongue ;)) if not, try at least to sat "Merry Christmas" - "Wesolych Swiat"! I know... that's hard, so you can now feel my pain ;))) kidding aside, try to get a good acomodation. The public loc transport is awesome and also most of the times you can reach the places you want by foot. But if you really want a central location I can recommend you 2 lovely placea: Globtroter Krakow in Plac Szcepanski, a stone throw away from the main square & Zamkowa 15 on the other side of the Vistula, very close to the Manggha Museum
Galeria Krakowska 2015 - Interior Christmas Decorations
I would love each and every one of you would come visit Kraków. Once every season, so you would grow to love it like I do :) I have friends who some and visit us on a yearly basis, to see us and fall in love again and again with Kraków.  I urge you to do the same :) I would be glad to help you in any way I can, with any bit and piece of information. Just drop me a line, I am here for you :)

You can also check out this Christmas card from Wroclaw, Poland & this Christmas card from Hamburg :)
P.S. I need also to mention here how much both of us - me and my awesome other half - love postcards. We have a full collection from around the world. If you wish to exchange postcards let me know ;) we can send each other one, for Christmas! Then you will know you got a Christmas card from Kraków.  Your second one; consider this one as the first! ;)

P.S.S. All pictures were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera, a present from my awesome hubby :)  and they were taken late November & early December > all modifications (cropping and resize) were done on the phone itself.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves postcards :)