In Europe I believe that's quite a madness over the amounts and styles of Christmas Markets. Once December settles in the best place to go out to is your own, local, Christmas Market. It provides the fun and excitement for children of all ages, ranging from 0 to 99 years old ;) it's never too old to be a child! And I always like to say that one is as old as one actually feels, so if your heart is young... well... you know what I mean ;) you may physically get old but you can remain young at heart. For me Christmas was always a time when I could see people turning, even for a split second, in children again.
Watching the snow fall for the first time - the first snow in a crisp December, unwrapping the Christmas gifts, putting the decorations around the house... even thinking about these things makes one smile. It makes us remember of childhood, about the time when we were small and little things in life made us happy, the time when the worst worry was how we should dress the dolls or how much cereals one would be able to stuff at once in your mouth ;))) December comes with a clean white slate of wonderful times to come. Where best to discover them if not at a Christmas Market?
Christmas in Poland is lovely as every city hosts at least one Christmas Market - Krakow has quite a few of them, of all shapes and sizes, but my favourite ones are the ones in the main market square, right between Sukiennice and St. Mary's Church (or as the locals call it: Kosciol Mariacki) and the one next to the Galeria Krakowska and the old Main Train Station (Dworzec Glowny). The first one due to its size and the fact that you can get almost anything there! The first one due to commodity reasons and due to the fact that it usually has quite a decent skating ring that runs even later in the night.
My top things to do once the Christmas Markets are open are the following:
- get myself some (plenty!) of "oscypek" - that is the traditional Polish highlander cheese. My favourite version is the yellowy one, smoked and very salty. It the Christmas Markets everywhere you can get the regular oscypek grilled for only 4 zloty but I rather like the "upgraded" version wrapped with bacon and with a dried plum on top, for only 6 zloty ;)
- have some fresh mulled wine - you will spot the barrels with the "good stuff" in a jiffy as there are always large queues in front of them... hey, you can't blame people for wanting to get warm! ;) you can buy it in the plastic/paper cup or you can pay extra and get it in a ceramic mug that you can keep ;) it's a nice gift for yourself!
- listen to some live caroling - in the Christmas market near Galeria Krakowska they have a small stage buy I rather recommend you attend the larger stage in the main square, hosted by the national radio RMF FM.
- get some other traditional food fresh done there - the smells will definitely call you and drag your nose to the place of your choosing. You can eat traditional pierogi or some bloody sausage or some pig knuckle or... be brave and try the homemade bread slices with lard! I know... sounds scary but if it is fresh and nicely done you will want more! Plus that's a traditional Polish snack for before or during drinking parties ;) just so you know!
- immerse yourself in the crowd that flurries past the stalls - if you get upset due to all the hustle and bustle there is no point of you going to any Christmas Market. It's a given that it will be crowded and noisy so better relax and go with the flow. I love watching people especially the little ones and how their eyes light up from all the goodies on display :)
- handmade wooden Christmas decorations - you gotta get YOURSELF some! It's a must and if you have kids you'll be happy as they won't be able to destroy them anymore ;) they can pull down the Christmas tree as hard as they can! These ornaments won't pop and crackle and snap ;)
Usually the Christmas Markets in Poland start in the last week of November and lasts through December 26th at least - after that places usually get cleared up and stages are being raise for the New years Eve concert. But fear not! Most of the times the organisers, looking at the weather and - no doubt! - at how much money they make (especially from the tourists!), keep the markets open till January 6th - the Epiphany festival.
When it comes to the Christmas Market in the Krakow Main Market Square (the biggest main square in Europe, if I may add!) you need to know that the stalls are generally open from 10 am to 8 pm and this year 2006/2017 the cheerful atmosphere will last from Friday, November 25th till Sunday, January 8th ;) so make sure you come in time to catch this beauty!
When it comes to the Christmas Market near Galeria Krakowska, market known as the Galician Advent Market, located on Plac Jezioranskiego, otherwise will be open only until 24th of December and the stalls are open a bit longer - from 10 am to 10 pm. Probably due to its central location, next to the Galeria and to the main train and bus station. It's worth a look if you have time ;) and as I have said, almost every year there is a piece of ice for ice-skating ;)
Of course, maybe you will say that other countries are more popular when it comes to hosting Christmas Markets but trust me, nothing beats up a white Christmas in Poland! Pair that up with some mulled wine or hot chocolate (the best one is in Nowa Prowincja if you ask me!) and take some time to enjoy the local treats. You will see why people who come here once will want to come again ;) after all... it's #themostwonderfultimeoftheyear and Krakow is a magical place to spend Christmas! Have you been in winter in Poland? How was it for you? :)
Yours very much sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Christmas With All Her Heart