Posts Tagged ‘St Mary’s Basilica’

The bus from Poprad took me generally north through or around the High Tatras, passing by lots of nice countryside, and to the southern Polish town of Zakopane. Entering the town, we passed a small parade of people in traditional dress and either on horses or in horse-drawn carriages. Once there, I changed some euros for złoty and bought a train ticket for Kraków. Most of the rest of the time, I sat in a café with a drink and my laptop.

I returned to the train station in plenty of time for my train and ate the food I’d brought with me. Earlier, there had been a couple in front of me in the queue at the station and they were asking the woman on the ticket counter if there wasn’t an earlier train. As I sat with my lunch, I saw that there was a train standing at the far platform. Once I’d done eating, I crossed the lines (something you can do in this part of the world) and found that the train was going to Kraków, even though the time was different from the one on my ticket. I got on and then got off again to ask a member of staff on the platform, and was told my ticket wasn’t valid as this was an express train. Express sounded good, so I went and changed my ticket – and got some change back.

In hindsight, the later train I’d originally got a ticket for must have been a super-express, no doubt arriving earlier, even though it left later (the train I took made some longish stops to change direction). Strange, however, that the woman on the ticket desk didn’t give anyone any option to get earlier, slower (and cheaper) trains.

I arrived in the city in the early evening and, after searching around a while for the stop, took a tram to the vicinity of my hostel, Premium Hostel. The hostel’s directions said to get off at the fourth stop, but this was incorrect; I walked a little further to just beyond the fifth stop. The hostel was nice enough – the furnishings were all in pretty good condition and the kitchen was clean and spacious (although the functional bits were a bit limited – there was only one fridge and that was packed with guests’ food). There was a Swedish guy and his son in my four-bed dormitory, who I chatted to for a bit.

I went for a walk to the main square and Wawel Castle (the ‘w’s are pronounced like ‘v’s). All very impressive and beautiful. I came back, picked up some food at a small, 24-hour supermarket on the way, prepared and ate it in the kitchen and went to bed. It was pretty warm in the room – which can be a big barrier to me getting a good night’s sleep – and then another guy came in and started snoring (once he’d got into bed and fallen asleep) loudly and continuously.

I tried to put up with it, but eventually decided I couldn’t, so I got dressed and asked at reception if I could move into a private (well, twin) room. The girl contacted some superior at another branch and then gave me the go-ahead. I spent that and the next two nights in my own room, although I ended up packing all my stuff up before check-out time each morning because I was told I might need to move again – but I didn’t – until my penultimate day, when I transferred back to my original room. The private room was only about £20 a night.

On my first full day in Kraków, I did a lot of walking around. I headed straight for the main square, Rynek Główny (‘Main Square’). This is a pretty huge and beautiful square dominated by three features – the long Cloth Hall or Sukiennice and the Town Hall Tower in the centre, and St Mary’s Basilica on the east side. All around there are shaded tables and chairs belonging to the numerous cafés and restaurants lining the square; I ate at several of these places.

I went up the Town Hall Tower, which contains a kind of mini-museum-cum-gallery. The way up is through original winding stone passageways and staircases lit only by occasional lights and windows. At the foot of the tower is a sculpture of a massive head … or a massive sculpture of a head – not sure which. A nearby sign-pillar was topped with a musical goat.

After that, I had a look in St Mary’s Basilica and then walked towards the castle. On the way, I stopped at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul – which stood out for having a very good – and free – audio guide that directed you to various parts of the church before describing them. I don’t like donating to churches, but I left a złoty or two.

Wawel Castle stands on a promontory, Wawel Hill, overlooking the river, the Vistula and is surrounded by a big wall, grassy slopes and a few trees. I walked around the area, passing by a few souvenir stalls by the riverside and found a statue of the Wawel Dragon – a statue that actually breathed fire every few minutes.


I went into the grounds on another occasion. I didn’t get a ticket for whatever was in there that required a ticket for entry, but I went into the catchily entitled Cathedral Basilica of Sts Stanislaus and Wenceslaus and had a wander round the spacious, grassy courtyard. I didn’t explore it as much as I would have liked – something I’ll have to do if I ever go back to Kraków.

After walking by the dragon statue, I went on to have a look around the Kazimierz area, site of various churches and synagogues and a Jewish Cemetery. Then, back along the river, into the Augustinian Monastery and the adjoining Church of St Catherine and St Margaret.

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