This trip was kind of planned spur of the moment (at least compared to our trips to Greece and Prague/Vienna which were planned months in advance). Like I said in my last post, our main motivation for visiting Krakow was to see Auschwitz, but this beautiful city exceeded our expectations!
We really enjoyed the location of our hotel because it was within easy walking distance to the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz) and right in the middle of the Old Town. Plus, our room was so cozy!
|Our room at Hotel Senacki|
We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and enjoyed our first stroll through Krakow's Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) on our way to lunch. This square is enormous! And even though the high-season for tourists was pretty much over, there was still a lot of activity - wreath and flower stalls, pigeons, and vendors selling obwarzanek (yummy!). I'll admit, I had to look up the spelling of that one... but no research necessary to know if it's worth tasting - just don't call it a bagel...
|Standing in Rynek Glowny with St. Mary's Basilica in the background|
We walked around the neighborhood and wandered across the Vistula River to Podgorze, the site of Krakow's ghetto and Schindler's Factory Museum. Ghetto Heroes Square, right in the middle of Podgorze, has a monument consisting of several empty metal chairs. The Jews were rounded up from the ghetto, leaving everything behind to sit and wait here for transport to death camps. Just down the street from here is Schindler's Factory - now, an amazing museum.
On top of describing the inspiring story of Oskar Schindler, the museum is an interactive timeline of Krakovian life during the events leading up to and during WWII. It has all of these touch screens if I wanted to learn more about a particular topic and different themed rooms (the German invasion, a 1940's tram car, life in the ghetto etc). My favorite room was the Room of Choices. The rotunda's cement walls are covered in real-life accounts of people that were opposed to the evil all around them and chose to help. It reminded me that we are the choices we make.
This one was a favorite. There's no doubt in my mind that my siblings would have done the same for each other.
We ended the day walking through the drizzle, contemplating the history lesson we just had and preparing for the day ahead of us at Auschwitz.
The day after our trip to Oswiecim, we wandered around the Old Town. We strolled through the Planty...
Reminisced about college life at Jagiellonian University (Copernicus and Pope John Paul II studied here!) ...
|Jagiellonian University's beautiful courtyard|
Played knights versus dragons outside the old city walls...
And pretended to be princesses that lived in a castle (okay, maybe that was just me)...
|Walking into the Wawel Castle grounds|
One of my favorite sites of the Wawel Castle grounds was the cathedral. I know nothing about architecture, but it's obvious that this one is made from a dozen different styles... and it just works!
|The castle grounds|
The clouds did bring rain. Lots of it. So we made good use of the gigantic shopping mall near Krakow's train station. Somehow, Jeffrey walked away with more merchandise - that never happens! We enjoyed a delicious meal at an Argentinian steak house on our last night and woke up to a winter wonderland the day of our departure. We were only there a few days but flew back to Norway with a greater understanding of Polish culture, the country's struggles during WWII, and an appreciation for this beautiful, hopeful city.