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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Travel Tuesday: Why Should One Visit Kraków?

Dearest travellers,
Dear friends,

You know that there are a few things that enriched us, that fill our souls with glee, you know that travelling is one of them. If you think about it, as you grow older and wiser, you realise that you don't need things that are material, what you really need and what your sould craves for are experiences and memories that you can never forget. You don't need a mansion, you need a weekend break in a place you have never been. In the end it's not like you will be able to take your Ferrari or your iPhone 7 to the grave... but you can take your thoughts and feelings and memories anywhere. And the best part is that no one can take them away from you. So... basically what I am saying here is that you should travel. Travel as much as you can and as often as you can. Check as many cities and countries as possible and in that way you will know more of the world but also of yourself! If you don't have the money or time for it, don't worry you don't have to go half way around the world: discover your city, your hometown, the regions around it... the places you have never been to ;)
This year due to the LadyBug Baby happening we have not been able to travel abroad that much so we have been blessed with a bit of travelling inside the Polish borders. Of course Warsaw was on the list a couple of times, especially with the Titanic Exhibition going on... and we also had a short day trip to charming Tarnow. But above them all I am still discovering bits and pieces of Kraków.  Even after more than 5 years there are parts that I have not yet put my finger on... Kraków is like that... magical :) and it unfolds itself slowly to the one who really cares for its stories and legends. So without any further ado let me tell you why one should visit Kraków:

1. Kraków is the city of the Polish kings. It is where most of the Kings of Poland had their coronation. That was performed on the Wawel hill, at the Wawel Cathedral - also the resting place of the Kings and Queens.

2. Kraków has the largest public main market square in Europe! (that gets overflooded by tourists each and every summer...)
3. Kraków has the oldest bookstore in Europe! That would be the Matras Bookstore and Coffee Shop at Rynek Główny nb. 23 - the bookstore changed names and ownership but it has always been at that address since 1610.

4. It is said that the Florianska street in Kraków is the most expensive street (when it comes to buying & renting) in Europe... now that may be possible as it's a fully pedestrian street that is always full of people, no matter the time of day or the weather or... anything ;)))

5. The well preserved Barbakan - the beginning of Kraków's Royal Route. The Barbakan of this magical city is one of the 3 structures of its kind still standing in Europe (that is not a reconstruction!) and it's the best preserved one. You can visit it along with the last part of the defence wall that still stands - Florianska gate.

6. Mankind made mounds - have you ever saw the movie "The Man That Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain"? I always think of that when I visit one of Kraków's mounds. It has 4 of them and to should visit them all, but the best views are offered by the Pilsudski Mound (180 degrees view over entire Kraków) and Krakus Mound (view over Podgorze and Kazimierz district).
7. The Royal Route - coming from the Barbakan, going under the Florianska gate, on to Florianska street until it reaches the St. Mary Church (Kosciol Mariacki) and you can see the great Main Market Square, on to Grodzka street until the end, where you reach the Wawel hill with the castle andthe cathedral.

8. The Wawel Cathedral - resting place of the Kings and Queens of old. It also holds the largest bell in the city, and as far as I know the biggest one in Poland! It's name is Sigismund Bell and it takes several people to manage to get it ringing! It is said that if you touch it you will have good luck and if you are a maiden you will get married soon ;) Also, at the entrance of the Cathedral you can see the famous dragon bones being hung up - there is a legend about the Kraków dragon ;)

9. Kazimierz district - the most full of energy, life and joy place you will ever find! Be it night or day, be it sunny or rainy day, Kazimierz is considered "the place to be" if you wish to have a good time. It is the former Jewish district - filled with small streets and colorful kamienice that hold a lot of handmade shops. You can easily get lost there...
10. The Wisla (Vistula) river - one of its best views is provided from the Wawel hill, the outer courtyard of the Wawel Castle. In the summertime or in late spring - early autumn when the weather is fine you can take a water tram and enjoy slowly the views of the 2 banks of the river. It's quite an interesting site even when it heavily rains! It gets bigger and bigger and sometimes we even have floods so that the pedestrian walkway is taken over by the water - but that's still an interesting sight to behold! The power of nature!
Czartoryski Museum
11. The Kraków National Museum - if you are a fan of art or history than you must check out at least one of the branches of the Kraków National Museum. For the ones in love with paintings I recommend the Jan Matejko House on Florianska and the 19th Century Polish Art Museum on the 2nd floor of the Sukienicce. For the ones that love history - the Central Museum next to the Blonia. For the ones in love with Egypt and Greece and The Book of Dead - a must see is the Czartoryski Museum next to the Florianska gate.

12. Blonia - a vast land piece, long and wide, used for patriotic manifestation and picnics or just walks with the dogs or the little ones. It was used the Pope Paul the 2nd and Pope Francis were here. It's one of the few places that can hold thousands in the open air. Plus it's very close to the Old Town and it's located next to the Park Jordana (Kraków's version of Central Park).
Charlotte's 7th Heaven Breakfast
13. Amazing places to have breakfast/ lunch/ dinner - let me tell you about the best breakfast options in the Old Town (in my humble opinion). Good food at a low / fair price can be found easily. And you can have a coffee or a sweet treat in a 15th century cellar!

14. Collegium Maius - the old campus that is built on the old Jewish district. It is also the place where Marie Curie wanted to study but she was not accepted as she was a girl :( but Pope John Paul the 2nd did ;) If you reach the inner courtyard at 11, 13 or 15 o'clock you can also hear the clock chime and sing Gaudeamus Igitur and one of the Polish traditional songs. A very small version of the Prague astronomy clock ;)))
15. One of the 7 chakra points in the world - located in the inner courtyard of the Wawel Castle, at the corner where you would enter to see the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. If you believe in that kind of energies than for sure you know of it. People come from all over the world to touch the wall in that corner ;)

16. The Lady With The Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci's - the second most well known painting done by this great artist. I also believe it's better than Mona Lisa - but I'm not a specialist... you visit it and let me know what you think!

17. Traces of the Communist times - take a tour of the Nowa Huta district. Why are all the blocks of flats the same? Everyone had to be equal and everyone working in the industry had to have the same type of housing,  the same salary, the same conditions. Everyone knows the Ronald Reagan square and if you are a fan of the "oldies and goldies" you can book a tour in a Lada car ;)
18. The Milk Bar - a typical Polish thing ;) coming from the Communist times as well. Cheap and good meals for everyone. Self service places with standard meal options ans traditional style Polish food. One of the best ones in Kraków can be found on Sw. Tomasza, in the Old Town. Milkbar Tomasza has also the best English Breakfast in town - it has been agreed by the English expats living in Kraków.
19. The Hejnal - is one of the first things that one experiences in Kraków. The trumpet on top of the St. Mary Church (Kosciol Mariacki) plays it each hour. The shifts are 12 hours and the ones that play are volunteers from the fire brigade/ department. The trumpeter plays 4 times per hour, once in each and every corner: north - east - south - west. Wave to him ans if he waves back you will have good luck ;)

20. The wooden painted altar made by Veit Stoss - stolen and taken into pieces by the Nazis when they took over Poland,  it was found and reconditioned ans brought back to its original place. It is also the largest Gothic altarpiece in the World and a national treasure of Poland.

There are many more reasons why someone should visit Kraków, but some are meant for you to discover them on their own. Kraków is magical, one of a kind, and it unfolds itself to each and every one in a different way. If you wish to know more or if you have any questions... let me know :) I would be happy to help you discover Kraków's beauties!

Yours very sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves Kraków