Saturday, January 12, 2008
Walking tour of Krakow
Me at Wawel
Looking down on the Vistula from Wawel
At Wawel castle
Inside St Mary's
Fountain outside St Mary's Church, Krakow
The cloth hall, Krakow
We arrived at our hostel, then, at about 7 am on Friday morning - very tired after our night on the train. Luckily enough, it came highly and justifiably recommended and has a 24 hour reception, so they very kindly let us into our rooms straight away for a much-needed few hours' sleep before heading out to explore Krakow.
Basically, this consisted of walking all day - through the market square, which is apparently the largest in Europe, about 200 metres long, and holds lots of cool market stalls inside what I think is the Cloth Hall (arggh shades of Ypres just saying that!) - mostly jewellery although unfortunately nothing that I could imagine on my charm bracelet :( . Also in the square is St Mary's Church, which is gorgeously over-decorated inside, with a great altar screen. I got busted taking photos and had to pay an extra 5 zlotys for the privilege. This is manifestly unfair because, while I would gladly try to get away with such things on many occasions, this time I genuinely hadn't seen any 'photography permits required' signs, so wasn't even TRYING to be sneaky about it. Other highlights included lunch at a Polish restaurant, consisting of borsch (no sour cream though, grrr) and pierogi - Polish versions of pelmenni, and if you don't know those either, then they're along the lines of ravioli or tortellini, 'dumplings' filled with (in the versions we had) meat, cheese and potato, or cheese and spinach - yum!
After wandering through a suprisingly big and seemingly authentically Polishy market, we took a bit of a wrong turn on the way to the Old Town and ended up walking for miles in slightly the wrong direction. By the time we got to Wawel - the castle / cathedral complex up on a hill, it was starting to get dark and you could no longer buy tickets to tour the exhibits inside the castle. However, the layout and basic idea is like Prague - it's more a complex of buildings surrounded by ramparts than the castlelley castles you might be thinking of, so you can go inside the walls and walk around the complex for free - some nice views of Krakow from up there.
After that, we went down the hill to the old Jewish quarter, an area which we had been promised was full of bustling student life. Hmmm, not so. After a couple of drinks in a bar whose main attraction was starey old Polish men and strangely-compelling ski-jumping on the TV, we found another pretty much empty restaurant - an 'Argentinian grill', oddly enough - for dinner, and then just headed back to the hostel, exhausted, thereafter.
Basic theme of the day is that Krakow is pretty, but at least on Fridays in January, there's not a whole lot going on. That said, I'm putting it on my list of places I would quite like to live.