Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is a city that was on our original list of places to see while living in Europe, and even though Jon had been there before, he was more than happy to explore this vibrant city once again. I didn't really know what to expect when planning our trip to Krakow, and one of the main reasons we wanted to visit it was because of its close proximity to Auschwitz, which I also wanted to see. We didn't include our visit to Auschwitz in this blog post - it deserves a post of its own and the nature of the visit is obviously vastly different than the time we had in Krakow.

We planned this trip with our friends Charlie and Ayessa (they used to live in Naples, but now live in Lisbon). We met up in Munich airport during our layovers and made our way to snowy Krakow. We were welcomed right away with coffee and tea at our lovely B&B in the heart of the city. With snow gathering on our clothing we walked to Rynek Glowny, the main market square in the center of the city. A large Renaissance building named Cloth Hall dominates part of the square where merchants sell a variety of Polish arts and products.

Cloth Hall

Daytime shot of Cloth Hall

Jon and I in the square.

Just outside of the building stands the Adam Mickiewicz statue, erected for Poland's national poet.

It was snowing!

St. Mary's Church commands the square with its presence and was built by the citizens of Krakow starting in 1355. We attempted to go inside, but when regular services are being held one cannot go in during these times unless you are going to pray.

Throughout the weekend we continued to walk the streets of Krakow, eventually coming to Wawel Castle, which stands about 150 feet above Krakow and was built in the 10th century.

View from the castle

We also made our way to the old Jewish quarter known as Kazimierz. Before the start of World War II there were about 65,000 Jews living in Krakow (about 30% of the population) and most of them lived in this area. The Jewish population of this thriving district was destroyed by the Holocaust, but traces of this community can still be seen. Small synagogues dot the streets, serving as a silent evidence of what this area used to be and the importance of the Jews here. Holocaust memorials and plaques are abundant here with family and friends hoping to keep alive the memories of those who perished during that time. We appreciated the history of the Jewish Quarter and reflected on the unimaginable events that took place here during the war.

This used to be a house for Torah study. 

Holocaust Memorial

Remu Synagogue

Old Jewish Cemetery 

Aside from walking around the city we spent a lot of time eating! We ate so much that the four of us joked that we were having two dinners every night. Polish food is extremely tasty and we jumped right in and ordered some specialties like beetroot soup, pierogis, anything with mushrooms in it, cabbage, and a lot of meat dishes.

Pierogis filled with mushrooms and cabbage

Jon's flaming meat dish

We also went to a vodka bar that has over 100 different flavors of vodka. We tried flavors such as hazelnut, caramel, mojito, apple, black currant, raspberry, and honey. You should have seen our faces when we received the bill... 12 shots of vodka set us back only 10 euros! We debated staying for another round, but we had second dinner reservations that we had to get to.

Our vodka shots
Team Roth and Team Toler!

All in all we were very impressed with the city of Krakow. We didn't realize how vibrant the city is, and how its effortless beauty would be around every corner. Combining these features with good friends led to a fantastic weekend!

1 comment:

  1. When you said that you and Jon were going to Krakow, Poland, unfortunately, the first thing that came to my mind was the concentration camps. I thought that every city in Poland was dark, dreary, bleak, and sad. What a surprise it was when you came back from Krakow and told me how beautiful this city was and how friendly the people were. I was certainly not prepared for this revelation, but definitely happy to hear it! When I started reading your blog and seeing the pics, I knew that this was a completely different city than I thought it would be! The Cloth Hall is absolutely stunning and has a very commanding feel to it! It's hard to believe that merchants sell their merchandise there! It seems like there should be a president who lives there! It didn't matter whether the Cloth Hall was seen during the day or night because it looked gorgeous either way! It was so nice to see the pics of the Jewish Quarter and the synagogues. The Holocaust Memorial really got to me. Of course there are lots of memorials and tributes to the victims in many other places, but seeing it in Poland where most of the concentration camps were, was very important and something I thought would never happen. I was very happy to see this. Now about the food! I'm coming to the conclusion that no matter where you go in Europe, the food is amazing! Am I right?!! Those pieroges look absolutely delicious! And the vodka shots - very colorful!! Glad you had a great time! It's always nice traveling with good friends!