Friday, October 24, 2014

Poland – Guide #3 in Krakow

At 2pm Sunday afternoon, Driver #2 promptly loaded us into the van and drove us from Auschwitz to Krakow where we arrived at 3:30pm. Driver #2 let us know that our guide, Anna, would meet us at 5pm. Since we had no proper meal for the entire day, we quickly made our way to a sidewalk café. I could not resist a second coffee of the day and ordered a café latte. We immediately realized that Krakow was special with the picturesque streets and buildings.
It tasted as wonderful as it looks!
Guide #3 – Anna from Krakow

Shortly before 5pm, we met Guide #3 of the weekend, Anna. Anna was an attractive and friendly young woman who greeted us warmly as she explained she would walk us through Krakow for the next 3.5 hours and then escort us to the train station.

Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral 
We climbed Wawel Hill to Wawel Castle which is adjacent to Wawel Cathedral. Anna explained how Wawel Castle had been modified many times due to fires, conquerors making changes or Polish kings "remodeling." As a result, the architecture reflects many time periods and styles.
The first castle tower we encountered. The Gothic Wawel Castle was built in the 14th century.
Wawel Castle overlooks the Vistula River. We see the castle defensive wall and the lovely grassy banks of the river. 
Approaching the outer castle courtyard …
Wawel Cathedral has been the primary burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century thus there are multiple burial chambers as seen in this photo.
Castle gate leading to the arcaded courtyard.
…. And the arcaded courtyard is an example of Renaissance art although the tall upper tier is uniquely Polish. It was raised to allow larger windows for more light in the rooms of this level.
Front of Wawel Cathedral.
The massive bones hanging left of the heavy cathedral door are said to protect Krakow from destruction which may be true given the centuries of partition especially during WWII. Legend says they belong to Smok Wawelski, Wawel's fearsome dragon. They are likely belong to a blue whale or woolly mammoth or rhinoceros.
Walking Krakow

As dusk approached, Anna led us from the castle on the hill into the heart of Krakow.
The narrow streets pull us in as we try to absorb all the interesting details assaulting our eyes and ears.
Krakow is known as the city of churches with 120 Roman Catholic churches. St. Andrew's Church, built between 1079 and 1098, is one of the best-preserved Romanesque buildings in Poland. Notice the defensive windows along bottom as it was also a fortress church.
The Saints Peter and Paul Church is entirely in Baroque style built between 1597 and 1619. The statues of the apostles are in straight line parallel to the street. The builder did this to create an illusion because the church building itself is not parallel.
As part of Jagiellonian University, this door leads to Collegium Juridicum which is a Gothic structure built in the 15th century. This university counts Pope John Paul II as an alumni.
We were excited to shop in this candy store. Wawel chocolates are made in Krakow  - so many varieties!
Krakow’s market square is humongous! At the top of every hour for hundreds of years, the Trumpeter of Krakow sounds the trumpet from the top of St. Mary's Basilica's tallest tower. Anna made sure we heard the 7pm blast.
We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon in Krakow with Anna. She shared so much of the local history and told us many stories and legends. It was quite the counterbalance to our morning tour of the concentration camps.

However, our day was not quite over. We made our way to the Krakow train station and found our compartment. Unlike the morning train, this one was completely full and our compartment of eight seats was all occupied. We did manage a short nap on our way back to Warsaw. We arrived late at 11:30pm and there was no sign of Driver #1 as promised. Non-pulsed, we simply found our way through the underground tunnel to the hotel.

Sleep came quickly after such a day.

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