Cracking Kraków

After a three month stay in Canada, I’m on the road again! And after three years of being ‘homeless’, I’ve rented an apartment in Victoria, British Columbia. It was strange to be unpacking stuff that has been in storage.

But now I’m ‘settled in’ but not ‘settled down’.

Kraków has been on my list since I flew over Poland last fall. I’d been to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania but there was just too much backtracking to see Kraków, Toruń and Gdańsk before I went to Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. So here I am!

Kraków has a great Old Town that is very walkable. The streets are full of beautiful architecture, and not surprisingly in August, lots of tourists.

The main market square in the Old Town is huge.

Cloth Hall in the centre. It’s a replacement for a 14th century market hall that is now one long souvenir stall.

Around the square are dozens of restaurants, shops, churches. The open space between is full of stalls selling more souvenirs and food.

The Tower of the Town Hall is all that remains. It has an interesting ‘head’ sculpture beside it that is popular for climbing inside to take photos with your head sticking out!

The main church on the square is St. Mary’s Church. There are MANY churches. Poland is very Catholic, and Pope John Paul II was the archbishop in Kraków.

The Cathedral is on Wawel Hill, along with a castle. Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside. But I can report it was chock-a-block full of gold, wood carvings, and tombs.

Lots of churches!

In Oskar Schindler’s old enamel factory (see the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ if you haven’t) they have set up an excellent museum on Kraków under the Nazi Occupation of 1939-1945.

Raising the German flag over Wawel Castle.

Before the war, the Jewish population was about 25%, and most lived in Kazimierz. The area is just a 20 minute walk from Old Town. There are lots of hip shops and nightlife among the synagogues as the area was affordable for new entrepreneurs. But still some old pre-war signs.

Auschwitz is the German spelling of Oświęcim, a town about two hours from Kraków.

I took the train out for 9 zloty ($3 CDN) and the bus back for 15 zloty as it left right from the site.

It was a very emotional day, but so important to remember the million people (96% of them Jewish) who were killed here. It was a long day, and 31oC.

As the rail cars arrived, the were divided into two streams. Anyone who could work was sent one direction, and the rest (children, mothers, disabled, old) were sent immediately to death.

Their belongings were taken as they went for a ‘shower’. All the valuables they had brought for ‘resettlement’ were taken, and stored in two warehouses called ‘Canada’ because it was seen as a place of wealth and abundance. That really hit me, as we knew so little, and did so little to help. Most of the valuables ended up in Germany.

One place we could not take photos was of the masses of hair shaved off after death, and used to make fabric. There were huge bales.

Back in Kraków I enjoyed the coolness of the ‘Planty’, a park that was created around the Old Town when they filled in the moat.

The old walls and gates

The local market was great. I bought some great bread and fruit.

Signs I liked. I mean, isn’t a ‘burgery’ descriptive?

High volume beer delivery

Of course, perogies

But there was also a great vegetarian restaurant around the corner.

Corn pancake with warm tomato salsa.

Roast vegetable/feta quiche with slaws.

On every corner there are bagels.

And grilled mountain cheese, which is smoky, salty and a bit chewy.

Loved the quiet golf carts for hire

Tomorrow I’m off on the train to Toruń. See you there!