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Kracow (Cracow) - Paris of Poland

I arrived in Kracow (Cracow) by an overnight train from Gdansk. Depending on the train the trip takes from 10 to 12 hours and it can be as cheep as 60 Zloty (about 15 Euro). More travel info can be found at the Polish Railway website PKP which is also available in English version, although I had some troubles searching the train connection database. 

The accommodation offer in Cracow varies from cheap hostels, from about 40 Zloty (about 10 Euro), to expensive hotels. If you are not a backpacker, want some privacy, while at the same time do not want to spend too much just for a few hours of sleeping, I suggest staying in one of several Bed and Breakfasts.  Polish B&B's are actually small, independent hotels where you can stay at discounted prices.  After visiting a few of them I decided for Bed & Breakfast on ulica Wislna 10 (10 Wislna Street).  They offer 30 rooms in two locations. Some of the rooms are located in another building around the corner at Ulica Sw. Anny 4 (4 St. Ann Street ).  Since the guests need to walk each morning to have breakfast at the main location, these rooms are discounted by 10%.  Since walking 100 meters before breakfast doesn't bother me at all, I took this location; especially that it is located closer to the Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) than the main building -- just steps away from most tourist attractions.

When it comes to attractions and the atmosphere I'd call Cracow "Paris of Poland".  The more time you have the more interesting places you will discover, but even if you spend here just several hours, you are bound to be enchanted by the city.

The Main Market Square is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Europe (200 by 200 meters). It was established over 750 years ago at the crossing point of a number of European commercial routes. In the Middle Ages Kracow was the richest city in Poland.  At present the Main Market Square is not a real market place any more, but a very popular and attractive gathering place for tourists with countless high quality restaurants, historical points of interest, tourist information centers, etc.  Also in the past the Market Square had some non-commercial functions.  For instance, on Monday following the coronation Sunday, the monarch would leave Wawel Hill  (pronounced "Vavel") and come to Market Square where he would receive the homage of the burghers of Cracow.  In April 1525 King Sigismund I received the oath of allegiance of Albrecht Hohenzollern.  That event is commemorated by a plaque embedded in the pavement in the southern part of the market.

The Royal Route is not a name of any street in Kracow.  That route was many times tramped by the royal pageants leaving the city or coming back to the castle. The Royal Route was particularly beautifully decorated to welcome the newly elected kings going to the coronation ceremony in Wawel Cathedral. That was also the route covered by the funerary procession of he Polish kings who died away from Cracow, and later in the 19th and 20th century, of other national heroes and poets. The route connects the main city gate (St. Florian's Gate) with Wawel Hill. Each tourist should walk along Florianska Street (ulica Florianska) and then along the eastern side of the Main Market Square, via Grodzka Street (ulica Grodzka) and Kanonicza Street to the Wawel Castle.

 Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) is one of the landmarks of the Market Square which divides the market into two parts. Originally it was build in the 13th century and later went through a number of modifications.  On the ground floor of the Cloth Hall commercial activities are in full swing as it was in the past. Upstairs there is a gallery of Polish 19th century paintings.

Collegium Maius (15 Jagiellonska St.) is the oldest school in Poland.  It was established by King Kazimierz The Great in 1364.  There were three faculties originally: law, medicine and arts. In 1397 the theological department was founded placing the Krakow school on equal footing with all European universities in these times.  The Krakow Academy very quickly became one of the most important schools in Europe.  In fitting memory of its founder, it was renamed the Jagiellonian University in 1881.  The Collegium Maius has a beautiful arcade court constructed at the end of XV century.  After the war the Collegium Maius was restored to its original glory and the Jagiellonian University museum was opened.  The entrance to the courtyard is open daily and closes at dark.

The core old town is surrounded by Planty which is a huge park, or rather a green belt surrounding the city center.  This park was established in 1822 to replace  the defense walls and the moat around the old city.  Today it is a spot where you can shelter from the hot summer sun and take a brake for a picnic.

See also: Honeymoon in Poland - Kracow


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