Zakopane has always fascinated me, more than any other mountain village I visited. Part of that fascination is that typical style of the wooden houses, rich in ornaments. I noticed today that two of the more beautiful exponents of that style are actually created by the same architect (annex painter, writer,…) Stanislaw Witkiewicz, who in late 19th century mixed traditional mountain-style with Art Nouveau.
Krakow is a city of contrasts, it’s well off population versus the homeless in the parks, the clean(ed) streets versus the omnipresent air-pollution, its cruel past versus its peaceful party life today, the old rundown buildings versus the beautiful renovated, and finally, its rich historical patrimonium versus the hyper-modern project developments, so stimulated these days.
In next weeks, months we try to visit (and document) some of the historically significant placges. Places where you feel, you breath history. One of the more appreciated is ‘kawiarnia’ Europejska. Competing with neighbour Hawełka for title of oldest restaurant on Krakóws market square, it features the interior of an English bar, a breakfast inviting to read the daily papers and a solid Polish lunch / dinner menu. Comes recommended.
Father Bernateks bridge, in Krakow better known as the ‘Lovers Bridge’ thanks to its impressionant collection of love locks, is since recently the decor of an open air exposition by the sculptor Jerzy Kędziora. Some nine sculptures of acrobats defy the laws of gravity and amaze you while crossing the bridge on foot.
Nightly view on Sukiennice, the Cloth Hall on Krakow’s central market.
Well, CNN thinks so, the Guardian does, and did already, the Urban Travel Blog described, the Unesco protected the old town and awarded it the city of literature title.
Once the political, economic and cultural hub of the Polish Kingdom, Kraków’s never fails to wow visitors. At its centre is the great Market Square (Rynek Glowny), the largest of its kind in all of Europe, and a veritable hub of local life that teems with flower sellers, crafts shops and sprawling café terraces.
Things to do during your stay:
- Strolling around the old town, follow the green belt and run into the great Barbican fortress;
- Follow the Royal Road from the market square to the majestic heights of the Wawel Castle on the hill;
- Go underground. Literally.
- Visit Oskar Schindlers factory;
- Check out the buildings of the Jagiellonian University (founded in 1364, more than 50 years before Leuven);
- You will find lots of banners for organised tours to the marvelous Wieliczka Salt Mine (with a church carved out in the salt) and the most infamous of the extermination camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, now a memorial and museum, in the town of Oświęcim. We visited both and highly recommend, however we never took the busses so can’t comment on those. Will try to get info on those.
- Visit Kazimierz. The old Jewish district and walled ghetto during WWII is today the place to be for the wackiest, most stylish independent stores, art galleries, bars and clubs in Krakow. Small, beautiful streets with lovely cafés and restaurants, Lonely Planet recommends Miejsce & Mleczarnia bars, our favourite is Eszeweria. For a visit back in time you go to the market square, in front of the Old Synagogue (worth a visit) and have a coffee at Dawnu Temu. We did check out the renewed Galicja Jewish museum and appreciated.
- For an overview of the city museums, check out their website;
- Ah, and of course you should see the Mariacki church. If you spend a few hours in Krakow, you will for sure get enchanted by the beauty of its uneven towers, be triggered by a trumpeter performing a five-note anthem, or heard rumours of Veit Stoss’ magnificent altarpiece.
There’s an excellent article on Culture.pl which gives a comprehensive introduction to the Polish kitchen. A kitchen with a very rich tradition, however crippled by the ‘somehow more limited possibilities’ during communism. You will find most interesting restaurants situated in Kazimierz. We are personally rather enthousiast about Zazie (reservation recommended), but you might also want to check out Old Town or Starka. For hummus you go to Hamsa. If all of them are booked, Tripadvisor offers some alternatives.
In the center we often pay a visit to Dynia, and for a good version of the traditional Pierogi, Barszcz or Zurek, we do appreciate Smakołyki.
Off the beaten track
If you are looking for alternative city guide, (with offline map & audio) and you happen to be an iphone / ipad-user, do check out the Infamous Cracow App. There is also a Facebook page, which includes links to stories in English about the tales in the app.
Upon his appointment to President of the European Council, the Polish premier Donald Tusk promised he would improve his English by December 14.
Well, it looks like he intends to keep his promise. Up to yesterday his twitterfeed read almost exclusively Polish, and then we got this one.
The day before, he had the brand new YouTube account “European Council President” uploading this interview.