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Highlights of Krakow

-Marty Way


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Those planning to include Krakow in their itinerary have probably found, in their research, that Krakow is a progressive, modern city with rich history dating back to the 1400s. The streets in the medieval ‘old town’ are arranged in a grid pattern, indicating some city planning, which was unusual in that era.

Online touristic research will also reveal a salt mine that must be visited and Kraków’s proximity to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. The district of Kazmierz may show up as a very trendy place to visit. There may even be a mountain to climb, called the Krakus Mound, from which to get splendid views of the city.
What follows are my casual trip notes.

Main Market Square and St. Mary’s Basilica

Visitors to Krakow will,for sure, pass through the Main Market Square. It is the most obvious starting point.
St. Mary’s Basilica, famous for its carved alter-piece is adjacent to the square. It is worth the eight Polish Zloty ($CAD2.500 to see the interior of the church and the alter-piece.AA7C485E-BFAC-45CA-84D3-283F0674F4ED.jpeg3A638F19-716F-4BDD-BBAB-E5005D674951.jpeg
There is compelling street art, shops and horse-drawn carriages for hire. CBB63ADB-6F17-4D55-BAB3-FA79BC10E6DA.jpegBA305998-9712-4D08-A815-9B1748DF9E46.jpegThe Wawel Royal Castle is a short walk from the main square.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Rock salt was mined from the Wieliczka mine since the 1300s but the operation was ceased in 1996. It now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and daily tours are conducted in the first three levels of the mine.
The three-hour tour begins by having patrons descend 384 stairs to a shaft 60 meters underground. As the tour progresses along its four kilometre trek through complex wooden structures that occasionally open up into massive vaults hewn from solid salt, transformed into chapels, underground reservoirs and interpretive displays.E6078D15-6D01-411C-87AF-3341D6680065.jpegD043F1A5-9C1C-4535-ADF2-D8797B49B12D.jpegA8EDEFFA-CE53-4F9E-A3B2-1CDB518CA24B.jpeg
The tour takes patrons to 130 meters underground but the mine has tunnels as deep as 400 meters. In its 700 years of operation 300 kilometres of tunnels were excavated in the mine.

Auschwitz and Berkenau

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. That is the rationale for making museums of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Berkenau.
The basic structures at both sites have survived and the tour is augmented by exhibits about the victims of the atrocities; chiefly the Jews, but also the Poles, Gypsies and Russians. There are exhibits of the apparatus of the camps as well as the personal belongings of left behind by the victims.
Although it is a sobering acknowledgement of a dark passage of human history the museum posits hope that humanity never again attempts genocide. (How are we humans doing?)

Kazmierz District

Kazmierz, the historical Jewish district is experiencing a renaissance with excellent hotels, restaurants, bars, public art and engaging street art. A young crowd keeps the bars and street life lively into the wee hours on weekends. (It is where we stayed)

The the nearby Courland Boulevard parallels the Vistula river for kilometers, for those who want a scenic walk, jog or cycle. The Father Bernatek’s Bridge has sculptures of acrobats within it rigging. ACE4B1EE-2740-4126-A79F-8932013708DC.jpeg790C49BA-D6B5-4922-AA07-5D63845FF003.jpegCEBF3FA0-E74A-4AA8-893B-F1770DF870B0.jpegWhen the bridge bounces, from pedestrian traffic crossing the bridge, the acrobats move.

The historic buildings (synagogs, markets, residences) are being repurposed for contemporary use, but with respectful acknowledgment of their historical significance.

Mid twentieth-century history was not kind to this area. Much of the Jewish population of Kazmierz either successfully evacuated or fell victim to the Nazis from 1940 to 1945 and the area was ghettoized. Here prisoners were assembled daily by their Nazi captors and a selection ritual sent some prisoners to slave labour and others to concentration camps. This is the venue of Stephen Spielberg’s movie, ‘Shindler’s List.’ Shindler’s factory is just down the road.

The Krakus Mound

This archeological site will be described in a separate posting.

Posted by WayWayFar 18:57 Archived in Poland

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