Days 5 & 6 in Europe: Poland’s royal capital, Krakow

7 Oct

Got up early Tuesday morning and flew from Berlin to Krakow via Stuttgart. Was checked into my apartment inside the city’s Old Town by 1:30 p.m.

Krakow reminds me a bit of San Sebastian or even Venice without canals — narrow pedestrian-only streets that come alive at night with people out for a stroll, or to visit a bar or restaurant. All roads lead to the massive city square, the largest in Europe.

My first afternoon I actually avoided the square and headed instead for an area to the east, the Kazimierz neighborhood. This area was a bustling Jewish quarter of the city before World War II. During the war, there were a lucky few hundred who were saved from the Nazis by Oskar Schindler, whose factory was nearby.

Today Kazimierz has been reborn as a trendy place to live and play, with a thriving bar and hotel district. I enjoyed a couple of microbrews on the sidewalk outside the Mostowa Art Cafe. For my fifth straight day in Europe, it was sunny again and in the upper 60s.

For dinner I ate a very traditional Polish meal. See picture and description below.

On Wednesday, I slept in a bit late because my string of warm weather was clearly over. There was a biting wind and it probably struggled to hit 55. Oh well, it was a great run.

I spent the early part of the afternoon touring Warwel Castle, essentially the royal palace for Poland’s kings. The state rooms, royal treasury and armoury were fascinating.

Afterwards, I took a two-hour walking tour of the old town. Christian, our Polish guide, chided us for thinking it was cold. Cold is February. He spent a lot of time trying to explain Poland’s rather complicated history as a country. The Poles have never really been very good at holding onto what is theirs.

On Thursday: Visiting Auschwitz.

Enjoy the pictures, and click on them for larger versions.

An dilapidated cemetery near the old Jewish quarter.

A dilapidated cemetery near the old Jewish quarter.

Food trucks in Krakow's Jewish quarter provide comfy chairs too.

Food trucks in Krakow’s Jewish quarter provide comfy chairs too.

The bartender said this IPA was the best in Poland. It was pretty good, especially for only 3 bucks.

The bartender said this IPA was the best in Poland. It was pretty good, especially for only 3 bucks.

The sidewalk scene outside the Mostowa cafe.

The sidewalk scene outside the Mostowa cafe.

The second beer at Mostowa, a pilsner from Doctor Brew. Craft brewing is going gangbusters in Poland.

The second beer at Mostowa, a pilsner from Doctor Brew. Craft brewing is going gangbusters in Poland.

Busy artery in the Old Town.

Busy artery in the Old Town.

Yummy dinner for first night in Krakow: potato pancakes covered in pork stew.

Yummy dinner for first night in Krakow: potato pancakes covered in pork stew.

The market square at the center of Krakow's Old Town.

The market square at the center of Krakow’s Old Town.

There was a museum about John Paul II, whom the Poles revere, naturally. He's still the only pope I ever saw in person, in 1980 in Anchorage.

There was a museum about John Paul II, whom the Poles revere, naturally. He’s still the only pope I ever saw in person, in 1980 in Anchorage.

Inside the royal castle.

Inside the royal castle.

Tour groups huddled in masses before heading inside the castle.

Tour groups huddled in masses before heading inside the castle.

View looking out over the Old Town from inside the castle.

View looking out over the Old Town from inside the castle.

Our walking-tour guide gives us the details on Poland's 1,100-year-old history.

Our walking-tour guide gives us the details on Poland’s 1,100-year-old history.

A couple poses in market square for their wedding photographer.

A couple poses in market square for their wedding photographer.

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