When I left Wieliczka the driver was waiting for me to take me to the city center again. While sitting in the car I made almost the same experiences like sitting in the tram and riding through the city and suburbs: It looked all like well maintained and clean. There was no trash laying around like it is in Germany’s cities or somewhere else. The worst place I have ever visited was Kerala in the South-West of India, therefore I won’t return to this Indian destination again.
Back in Kraków my tour guide Sylwia Cetera (if you would like to get her email address, please get in touch with me) awaited me at 14:30 hours for the guided German language City tour. Friendly and very open, as most of the people have been that I met during my visit, she invited me to be her guest. She introduced herself and gave me some background information about the tour. Because of the fact that I did see some areas of Kraków a little bit by myself already, I pointed at several destinations which I have been most interested in: Wawel, Clerical area, University, history in general, and daily living.
We started on Wawel Hill, which is a Jurassic limestone rock, which provided a safe haven for people who have settled here. In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors (Boleslas the Brave, 992-1025 and Miesco II, 1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.
Medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight.
At the Katedra Wawelska where we couldn’t get in because of renovation works we entered the large courtyard of the Cytadela Twierdzy in its amazing Italian Renaissance style with arcaded galleries (completed about 1540).
During my city tour we visited the University, strolled through the clerical district, enjoyed the beauty of Renaissance and Baroque architecture as well as the art of street artists blowing soap bubbles.
During this period the Juliusz Slowacki Theatre was constructed. It is located at Holy Ghost Square. The theatre was built in place of an old hospital that was run by the Order of the Holy Ghost. The building is an example of the Polish Eclectic architectural style. In 1850 a fire spread through the city and caused substantial damages.
In 1876 prince Władysław Czartoryski gave the city some of his artistic and patriotic collections. Three years later, the National Museum in Kraków was established. Kraków became the centre of museology in Poland. Famous artists such as Jan Matejko and Stanisław Wyspiański worked in the Old Town, which was also the place where numerous political independence movements were born.
After three interesting hours of sightseeing my brain system showed me an overload alarm because of too much information. I quit the tour and entered the catacombs (Rynek Underground) located below the Cloth Halls where I could hear and read more about Kraków history.
This museum takes visitors four metres under the surface of the market square to explore the recently excavated medieval merchant stalls, predating nowadays Cloth Hall. The entrance fee is included in the KrakówCard and tickets should be reserved in advance to avoid long queues or the disappointment of no ticket availability. A reservation can be done either online or from the information office that is confusingly located on the opposite side of the Cloth Hall facing the “Head” sculpture at the tower of the old town hall. The museum entrance is located on the opposite side facing St. Mary’s Basilica. It is strictly forbidden to use tripods for photography while visiting the exhibition. Touch-screens and holograms are highlighting a fascinating look into life before Kraków received its charter. In addition to the multilingual displays, audio guides are available in English, German, French, Russian, Italian and Spanish.
This museum is challenging and I would recommend to stay there for at least two hours to make the most out off your visit. Because of the fact that I was already exhausted, I decided to go back to Kazimierz to have dinner at a local restaurant that is not so crowded by tourists. I am a tourist too, but the average behaves really strange: Everyone should remember – wherever we are, we are foreigners. No need to be rude or even high nosed. We are friends among friends.