Written 14th June
We have decided that Sundays are the day to hit big cities - less traffic, less frenetic, working, rushing about (from other people obviously ;) ) and most importantly, free parking! - and once again this has proved to be the way forward - hurrah!
We found a nice little pavement spot almost immediately - five minutes walk from the castle, in a line of other pavement-parked cars. perfect - and set off towards to Jewish quarter.
First up we followed our noses and the noise to Plac Wolnica where we found some sort of regional food market in full swing and munched our way round the free samples of bread, smoked mountain chese and various sausage and meat and fish offerings accompanied by a full brass band playing various light jazz classics - excellent.
Munchies satisfied, we set off on our walking tour.
New Jewish cemetery first,
followed by some synagogues,
the new market square, a cappuccino and some chocolate cake (lunch!) and some typical streets. We didn't go in anywhere, mainly as Will didn't have any sort of hat or headcovering. We think you can borrow or rent them inside places but decided that we had a lot to see so moved on. Jewish Quarter:Tick!
And so to the Old Town. Krakow is famous for its castle, its mediaeval old town and the fact that these buildings were not destroyed during the two wars of last century, like most of the rest of Polish towns. From our walking tour though, it does appear that most of it was destroyed and rebuilt at some point or other so there was a lot of 'here is a church, it was built in [some long time ago], then destroyed by some invaders, then rebuilt in a different style and given another purpose, then it was burnt down in the great fire, then it was rebuilt in a completely different style, then it was given back to the original people'. And there are a lot of churches, a lot a lot. But its all very lovely.
And so we found;
The Slowaki theatre - apparently considered to be one of the examples of european theatrical architecture.
The monument to the battle of Grunwald - when Polish and Lithuanian (then part of poland) troops defeated the Teutonic knights in 1400-and-something.
The Barbican - built in 1498 it was the most important element of the defensive system of the town, guarding as it did, the main city gate.
The Florianska Gate - built in the 13th century with a 17th century baroque roof.
Some typical streets
with the covered street of the Sukiennice or Cloth Hall
and stunning altar and interior.
The tallest tower belonged to the city and was used as a watch tower with a horn being blown if enemies were spotted so the gates could be closed. There is still a horn blown every hour on the hour which stops mid-call in memory of a guard who was struck by an arrow. I was expecting some urgent fanfare with a sudden squeaky stop but it is more of a lethargic 'you-might-be-interested-to-know' sort of call and to be quite honest, if someone got close enough to shoot him with an arrow, I would say they were already inside the gates and he must have ben sleeping on the job... But there is a real trumpeter up there, which we weren't expecting.
The tower which is all that remains of the old town hall
And then the Franciscan Church, the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, the Church of St Peter and St Paul and St Andrew's church.
I told you there were a lot of churches!
And eventually to Wawel Castle.
There has been some sort of settlement on the wawel hill since the 8th century, with the polish kings having their throne here for 700 years from the 10th century. The castle buldings have been extended, added to, repurposed, demolished and reconstructed many times over the years, most recently by the austrians who built the very functiinal looking baraks amid the towers and spires.
but we weren't really in a castle frame of mind so wandered round the courtyard and hill a bit
Krakow: done! It is a lovely city and apparently has a great nightlife so would be a lovely weekend minibreak destination with lots to keep you busy.
Next stop: Carrefour. We have found that it is only france where everything seems to stop on a sunday and the further east we have come, the more sundays are shopping days like any other.
We had intended just to stop in for a few essentials but ended up at the frozen pick'n'mix section - this is a new one, frozen veg, fruit, chips ect that you can by by the scoop load - where we found dumplings. Well, that sounds more interesting than onion risotto!
So here we are, parked in a petrol station TIR area in Wieliczka waiting for it to stop raining so we can head out to the salt mine this morning.
In other news, we have been back in touch with our new swiss van-dwelling friends who are a bit ahead of us - traffic in Krakow on a saturday is apparently horrible! - who have warned us about the expensive parking actually at the mines - which is why we are in this nice petrol station - and we are going to meet them near Auschwitz tonight for dinner.
We have also had a nice email from someone called Sara who saw Jules in Krakow and wrote to say hello. Sadly we're not headed towards where she lives (c150km in the wrong direction) but we've asked her to tell us what we had for dinner so we shall see.... :)
Now, we just need it to stop raining for long enough to get out and then underground without getting too wet....