Of history and grandeur

Of history and grandeur

Krakow, the former capital of Poland and the cradle of Polish culture, endured two world wars, seen enough pain to crumble, yet, came out unscathed....

The itinerary one must follow if on a short visit to Krakow, the former capital of Poland

Krakow, the former capital of Poland and the cradle of Polish culture, endured two world wars, seen enough pain to crumble, yet, came out unscathed. Krakow is ancient, historic, elegant, unique and lovable. If you cannot spend much time here, these are the “must sees”, to get the best out of the visit

Main Market Square

Surrounded by centuries old townhouses and palaces, it is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. Admire the facades, portals, windows and roofs of these antique buildings with their excellently preserved and meticulously recreated interiors. Eat at the numerous cafes and restaurant gardens encircling the square. Romantic horse carriages transport you to a bygone era. Indulge in the all time favourite “people watching” or simply get entertained by the antics of buskers fooling around.

The World of Historic Cellars

The cellars stretch under the tenement houses of the Old Town, forming an unusual gathering of Gothic corridors and vaulted rooms, which accommodate numerous restaurants, clubs, theatres and cabarets. The Main Market Square has over 100 such cellars where numerous concerts are held, usually jazz, as the city is called the capital of Polish Jazz.

Schindler’s Factory Museum

German businessman Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1,100 Jews, who worked at his enamelware factory in Krakow during World War II. The museum combines photographs and artifacts with interactive components, sound, set-piece reconstructions, film and photo projections, supported by a brilliant 35 minute film with English subtitles where former Schindler employees recount memories of those horrendous times. Peep into cramped family quarters or the hideout of underground resistance fighters.

Wawel Castle and Cathedral

The interiors of the Castle feature must see exhibitions like the royal chambers, Flemish tapestries, Eastern art, war trophies, and archaeological discoveries testifying to the more than one thousand year presence of Christianity in Poland. A walk within the castle walls is rewarded with impressive arcaded courtyards, and the cathedral, where Polish kings were crowned and buried.

Musicians in front of a restaurant in the Jewish District, The Planty: a favourite walking place for Krakovians

Plac Nowy Jewish Market

A historic Jewish market in the pre-war days, with its rotunda serving as a kosher slaughterhouse, presently butcher shops still exist inside, while fast food windows line the exterior. In the evenings, Plac Nowy turns into one of the best drinking destinations in town.

Kazimierz- Jewish District

After decades of ruin, Kazimierz came into lime light with Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning “Schindler’s List”, which was shot here. Today it is a bustling, cheerful place, full of cafes and throbbing life.

Walk along its streets, amidst synagogues, exclusive hotels, restaurants, handicraft workshops of purses, bags, boots and leather engraving. Experience the old world charm of quaint Jewish eating places with lacy furnishings, wooden figurines and street musicians.

Sukiennice Cloth Hall

A 14th century major centre of international trade where travelling merchants met and bartered. Later eras saw Sukiennice as the source of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków exported textiles, lead and salt. Amid grand history and great cultural value, this stunning Renaissance structure still pulsates today, selling souvenirs for tourists.

The Planty

A unique park, designed in varied styles, adorned with numerous monuments and fountains, it was built on the site of the old moat that once surrounded the city’s former defensive walls. A favourite walking place for Krakovians, close to Florian Gate and Barbican- the sole remains of the city’s fortification system. Planty runs almost entirely along the Royal way – the oldest and most well known tourist routes.

fact file

Travel: Daily flights to Krakow from major Indian cities. Shengen visa like other European countries

Stay: Excellent Boutique Hotels, close to the Main Market Square (Pod Roza, Unicus, Stary, etc)

Explore: Music Clubs/ Night Spots with a flourishing nightlife, as this is a city of over 2,00,000 students.

Eat: Pierogi- Dumplings with varied stuffings like fruit, cabbage, mushrooms, meat, buck wheat or cheese, smoked cheese, Wadowice cream cakes and don’t miss flavoured vodkas!

Getting around: Best option is walking. Buses for slightly longer distances.

By:Vijaya Pratap

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