Poland: Cracow - A Town Of Kings And One Dragon
Cracow presents a work of skilled handicraftsmen, not leaving anybody on doubts, that just these persons were really masters of their branch. Wawel Castle is a heart of the city, erecting above Wisla-river. Since 11th till 17th century, Cracow was a main seat of Polish Kings. In the castle, you can find the elements of Romanesque as well as Gothic style. At present, you can find there a Museum, keeping different historical treasures. Coronation jewels belong to most beautiful from all of them. On the other hand, you can enjoy a look at marvellous paintings and ancient furniture or Fleming tapestries.
A legend about a dragon is connected with the castle. Many years ago, this dragon decided to stay behind the fortifications. He started to devastate the town, and so, the people lived in continuous fear against him. On one day, Prince Crak decided to do something concrete. He served dragon wolf´s skin, filled in with sulphur. The dragon ate it and went to drink water from the river. At the same time, when he drunk, the sulphur started to react with water, and dragon exploded. So, even now, in order this event would not be forgotten, dragon´s statue, vomiting a fire within regular intervals, is placed there, close to the fortification.
In the castle, you can visit not only all rooms but you can have a look at dragon´s hole, too. Even a walk around the castle is very pleasant as the route along the fortification leads along Wisla-river. Its banks are bordered with kiosks, offering souvenirs to desirous tourists. And of course, Wawel Dragon, made from plush, is most popular figure in this respect.
Historical nucleus of the city is registered in UNESCO World Culture Heritage Survey. Everybody who had good luck and saw Cracow in past, knows, why. It is, first of all, extraordinary architecture what can be seen, in grandiose style, on the greatest medioeval European square, known under name of Rynek Glowny. This space of square form has dimensions of 200 x 200 metres. It is really heart of the city, where many of spacious streets fall into. You can find there the rest of medioeval Town Hall but as most attractive subject, it is, no doubt, Virgin Mary Church. The building has two high towers, one of them is higher and the music sounds could be heard from there each hour. The church comes of 1223, and was constructed in Gothic style. The church is proud on its rich internal decoration, with many colours and heterogemity of forms. Except the church, so called Black Madonna, a group of 12 figures or a beauty of decorated windows, will allure all visitors, no doubt.
On the opposite part of the square, the Ratusz - Town Hall - is situated. It is Polish slanting tower, its leaning out makes 55 centimetres. Former Drapery Hall and Market Hall -Sukiennice - served in past as a space for sale of cloths and textiles. At present, you can find there the kiosks offering souvenirs and typical products of Polish origin.
Behind Virgin Mary Church, another square - Maly Rynek (Small Square) is located. It is characteristic with its terrace projections in front of houses, synonymously presenting Middle Age time period.
In basement of Wawel Cathedral, the tombs of Polish personalities are placed. Even complete King´s Families are buried there, including other important personalities, such as writers or generals. Bell Zygmunt, made from bronze, casted in 1521, hangs inside the top of the Cathedral. Anyway, its sound could be heard on occasion of extraordinary opportunities only. One legend says that everybody who would touch the heart of the bell, he could expect fulfilling of his warmest wish.
Kazimier Quarter is Jewish one. It is formed with short streets and low houses. On some buildings, the plates, bearing the names of Jewish traders, are to be found. During the 2nd World War, the Germans took from there approx. 65 thousands of Jews into concentration camps. However, only one thousands persons returned. In this quarter, many synagogues and the oldest Polish cemetery (of 16th century) are located there.
Not far from Cracow, close to the town of Wieliczka - the oldest salt mines of the world are situated. In the basement, the labyrinths of salt corridors and lakes are created. You can also admire various statues and even restaurants, made from salt.
Regarding traffic, the most simple way would be, to let your vehicle parked at the surroundings, and use trams, minibuses or cabs (used by tourists, first of all),for transfer into city centre. The transfer in hackney-coach would be romantic drive, when admiring city sightseeings, and the cabman will show you most interesting places of Cracow. We drove by car and so, we could enjoy many one-way streets, when we managed to arrive just towards the castle, where we left our car, and continued ahead on foot.
Many people choose Cracow for weekend stay. You can arrive there by means of train or bus, or you can reserve a flight and land at John Paul II International Airport - Cracow-Balice. As far as the accommodation is concerned, wide choice is available, according to your wishes and possibilities (cheap hostel of top hotel - the choice depends on you). It is one interesting matter there, many hotels are functionning from former aristocratic palaces, and even these accommodation places do not belong to more expensive ones.
Night life grows mainly among University students but also tourists appreciate walkings in the streets in the night. As an entertainment centre, it is Rynek Glowny (Main Square), and its surroundings, offering big number of bars, discos, and calm caffees.
One thing is very pleasant in Cracow: it is a fact that you can respire a history from each part. All streets fit together, and some modern building would hardly surprise you with something special. Well arranged palaces and synagogues are located there, being able to take you into ancient past, and such impression is stressed with many horses, put to the carriage. Walking throughout city centre, you have the chance to admire many artefacts.
So, from this reason, Cracow is named as the King´s City!
Text/photo: Mária Koczová
Translation: ing. Jan Jonáš
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