Krakow

03/06/2011 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Following the concrete blocks of Warsaw, Krakow presented us with a nice change of scene. Although the Nazis did occupy the city during World War II they didn’t blow it all up and as a result Krakow is quite an attractive looking place to visit.

Krakow’s main claim to fame is Rynek Główny (Main Market Square) which, at 40,000 m² is the biggest medieval town square in Europe. At the centre of the square is Sukiennice which is essentially an indoor market selling clothing, fabrics and “I ♥ Krakow” T-Shirts.

Wieża ratuszowa (Town Hall Tower), which dates back to the 13th Century is the oldest building in the square. Also of note is Kościół Mariacki (Saint Mary’s Basilica) and a statue to celebrate the works of the Polish romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz.

Around the edges of the square are many bars, cafés and restaurants. It was one of these restaurants where Chris and I went for our evening meal. Here we indulged in some fine cuisine, several glasses of beer and talked of philosophy (as you do). There seemed to be a direct correlation between consumption of beer and the quality and coherence of the conversation.

By the second day the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The clear blue skies had been replaced with dark clouds and rain. Chris and I decided to brave the elements and headed out in our rain coats. It is all but impossible to look in anyway “cool” whilst wearing a raincoat, especially if you already look like an obvious English tourist. Hoping that the weather might improve we headed to a corporate coffee shop, where we had some corporate lattes and corporate sandwiches. The sandwich looked like something you might find at the side of the motorway and tasted much the same (probably).

Once we’d finished our drinks we headed outside again to find that the weather had not improved. Feeling slightly narked we headed back the hostel where we did some planning for the rest of the trip.

By the evening the weather had improved slightly so we headed out to find food and somewhere to watch the Champions League Final. After a short search we were able to find a restaurant which was showing the match on a massive projector screen. The food was pretty good and was helped largely by the 1 litre jugs of beer which we were drinking from. Obviously this would never be allowed in England at the risk of people “having a good time”.

The football didn’t really go the way I wanted, but I was pretty drunk by the end of the game and didn’t mind so much. The result just confirmed my belief that Barcelona are far and away best team and the world and that everyone else (including Manchester United) have a lot of work to do if they are to catch them.

The next morning, feeling slightly worse for wear, we headed out in search of something to eat. We decided to go for the healthy option of a kebab, which turned out to be a pretty good choice and was ridiculously cheap. Afterwards we took a walk along the Vistula River towards Wawel Hill. Along the way we passed by a sculpture of a dragon which at first I thought looked pretty shitty, but managed to change my mind when it started breathing fire!

We made the climb up Wawel Hill to the Castle and Cathedral. From the top you get a good view of the city and the river down below.
Interestingly the Cathedral, which is of Gothic design, has two domes although only one of them is gold. Perhaps they were working to a tight budget?

In the evening we went to a traditional Polish restaurant called Chłopskie Jadło . Here we had one of the best meals of the trip so far. We both started with beetroot and potatoe soup, for the main course I had pork roulade with dumplings and Chris settled for beef wrapped in cabbage with rice. Had we known how large the portions were we probably wouldn’t have bothered with the starter. The food was fantastic but I regret to say that neither of us managed to finish the main course (a very rare occurrence for the both of us). The quality of Eastern European food has been a very pleasant surprise during this trip. Most meals consists of a combination of meat, cabbage, potatoes and dumplings, and although they don’t look particularly attractive they certainly do a good job of filling you up. It’s a cliché to say it but this is good hearty honest grub.

On the way back to the hostel we found large numbers of Wisła Kraków football fans to be roaming the streets. Despite seeing their team lose 2-nil the fans were all in high spirits. It was the last game of the season anyway and Wisła had already wrapped up the title a few weeks ago. One group of fans, who all looked to be in their late teens and early twenties were being followed by a couple of police cars. The mood of the group seemed to be very light hearted until one of the police cars pulled over, a cop jumped out (with truncheon in hand) and proceeded to bundle one of the fans into the back of the car. I took this to be a little heavy handed, but perhaps I am being naive and this was just some traditional Eastern European policing.

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