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.
Wasn’t familiar with the band Bear’s Den before this tweet by Belgian radio station Studio Brussel earlier this evening. They caught me bringing back the intimacy The Boss generated on some of his best (imo) records genre Nebraska. Liking it.
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;
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;
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.
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.