kraków was the first stop on my polish odyssey, just a mere hour or two over the czech border. i visited eight years ago, but it feels like an eternity. back then, i remember thinking at the time how polish was the most incomprehensible language i’ve ever seen or heard and that it was nearly impossible to pronounce or decipher any of it. but after living in the czech republic for almost two years, i was pleased to see that many words and phrases are similar and communicating hasn’t been a problem. it feels good to have this slavic language knowledge, although i am still an amateur… a learned amateur, perhaps.
the first thing i noticed about poland (or at least, kraków) was how darn modern it was. many of the czechs i know think of poland as a backwards country with terrible roads and less quality groceries than they have. so far, i know none of that to be true. poland seems deliciously “with the times” and firmly entrenched in the twenty-first century: the fashions, the shops, and hey, even the people. krakówians seem to be a happy bunch! i encountered plenty of smiling strangers and the young people here seemed happier. it’s been a very pleasant discovery.
this is just the tip of the polish iceberg, and i’m so excited to visit other towns, both big and small, to see if this holds up throughout the rest of the country in different regions.
but more about beautiful kraków. it’s got to be one of the most charming bigger cities i’ve visited in a long time. the main square (rynek glowny) is still my favorite and is surely a sight to behold. i was excited to see alex’s reaction the first time he stepped onto the square. it’s awe-inspiring to say the least. i think it’s because it’s so large and vivacious. plenty of old-fashioned horse-pulled carriages, too many fantastic street musicians, many towering buildings of all shapes and sorts… so full of life. you could sit at one of the many cafes lingering over a kawa for an hour and be completely entertained by the excellent people-watching.
although i do love the main square, one of my favorite places in the city is the mary magdalene square and the st. peter and paul church that overlooks it. what a building. i’ve never seen a more beautiful looking church in my life, straight up.
it’s lined with statues of eleven apostles and the cream and gold colors of the front facade go together than anything else you could imagine. shout out to anda who just got married in this church last saturday! i can’t think of a better place to tie the knot… what a life, indeed.
one thing kraków’s got going on (if you couldn’t tell already) is churches. they’ve got more churches than any other european city besides rome– makes sense for one of the most catholic countries in the world, right? and with all the churches, you get nuns. i think i saw five (separately) in my first two hours in the city. nuns get around: you see them on buses, hiking in their habits, in large groups, in small groups.
my top experience was heavily enjoying an al fresco dinner & drink in kazimierz listening to the live klezmer music. if you want a “pinch me, i’m on holiday” experience: this is made to order. balmy august nights demand this kind of atmosphere. or they should!
i could’ve stayed in kraków for ages, especially since there are so many sights to see that have popped up over the past decade (like the fantastic museum at oskar schindler’s factory– yes, the real schindler factory!). although other polish places beckoned, i was dragging my feet a little bit walking to the bus station. it was kind of a polish paradise. the socks have been charmed right off my feet. if you have visited kraków before, you will be surprised at how the city is evolving and all the fun things there are to discover there.
but i tell ya, i have to get it together before i go too much further. three days in a row of eating pierogies for multiple meals and lody (ice cream) for lunch has really taken a toll on the ol’ system. but can you blame me? i was too excited: poland! the homeland! (below, wawel cathedral: a hodgepodge of architectural beauty)