Saturday 12 midday.
Another hot and sunny day,. Taking the advice of silCA, I asked the receptionist about markets and discovered one right nearby on Stara Klepaski.
First, out of curiosity, I call in the white church opposite the apartment on Kuniki street ,called ParfiiSW Floriana…… WOW! this must be one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Lots of gold but without going over the top.
The market is a traditional one, with locals buying their meat and vegetables for the weekend. There are lots of hardware stalls which I find fascinating. I like to browse and find all the hidden surprises these stalls bring.
I set off on a “Royal road” I saw in the map I got from tourist information, following the steps of kings. Through the main market square.. Looking in the Cloth House, which dates back to the 14th century. A trading place where there are still stalls selling jewellery, scarves, trinkets and nic-nacs . The stalls are ornately carved on the sides a bit like choir stalls.
I head towards Wawal castle, but get side tracked into a bike shop and end up hiring a bike from hireabike.com at 3 Grdzka street..
I cycle up to the impressive castle , perched on a cliff and described as ” the defining landmark of a city” and “for Poles this castle and cathedral complex is a symbol of national strength and patriotism” It certainly looks proud in the sunshine today, lots of people visiting.
I walked around, but decided to go inside another day as I could see all the people cycling along the river below.
I love cycling. Cycled up and down both sides of the river. Got the hang of pedalling backwards for the brake, on this Dutch bike. Now I am sitting in a boat turned bistro/pub called theMAURITANIA, (with the poshest toilets you hav ever seen on a boat!) I am having a break and a snack. Cheese, ham and pineapple toasty and coffee
I watch trams ramble accross the nearby bridge and people walk across the modern one behind me. Lots of passengers on the pleasure boats going up and down the river.
Four East European men at the next table are laughing, families and couples stroll or cycle along the the riverside.
The sun is shining, music is playing Peace in Poland Life is good.
Love from Krakow.
I had a craving for a cake, so cycled around the Jewish quarter again. This time taking in more of the area. Shabby chic, is the only way I can describe it. Some of the buildings are very grey and look like they have not changed in 70 years., it was a bit like one of those films that are in black and white, to denote the past and which suddenly become in colour when it brings you up to date. So many ghosts, so much history.
I could not find a suitable place for cake, so I cycled back to the bike shop near the main market square and now I am sitting having indulgent chocolate and honey cake with a cup of tea in the cool atmosphere of cafe Zakatek in the alley next to the bike hire shop on Grodzka street.
My evening meal was a picnic in the park that surrounds the old city. People watching again I wonder how many are tourists. One thing I like about Krakow is that most people are speaking Polish. Sounds strange, but you go to other cities and there are so many tourists that English is the main language you hear. Although I once got into a taxi in London and the driver remarked that I was the first English speaking passenger he had picked up that day! LOL! Polish is a strange language, I keep asking the receptionist to teach me words, but they sound a bit like English on the wrong speed like one of those old record players.
Later I attended a classical concert at the church of St Peter and Paul on Grodzka street.. Thoroughly enjoyed this. The Cracow chamber orchestra played popular opera and classical music, although as often happens in these church concerts, unless you are at the front you cannot see and I had a man who probably doubled for the green giant in front of me! Still the acoustics were wonderful. cost 50 zlotys around £12 50p.
As I wandered through the main square on my way back “home” there was another free public event. Thjs time a modern ballet with very dramatic music and special effects.
So for an early night. Another surprise awaited me. They had changed the towels, emptied the bin and put the pots I was saving for a bigger load, in the dishwasher . In apartment rental I am used to you do this yourself!
love from Krakow.
SUNDAY 10th July 2011.
It is already 33 degrees when I reach Radio Krakow theatre at 22 Slowakiego, about 15 minutes walk outside the old town walls.
I found details of a free concert this morning on this website.
The concert is excellent. Jazz and rock. Different musicians come and go . It is held under a canopy in a courtyard of the modern Radio Krakow building and presumably is being broadcast.
Music transcends any language and my soul is lifted by these fantastic musicians. As I look around the audience, most of whom are over 60, and the majority are women, I wonder at the changes these people have seen in their country in their lifetimes and what they think of them.
On the way I passed what looked like an old prison , with watch tower and barbed wire on top of the walls. It gave me a chilled feeling and I felt that evil had been perpetrated there. Evidence of Polands repressive past is everywhere.
Later I googled the place and found it was the notorious Montelupich prison used by both the Gestapo and the Soviets.
After the concert , feeling renewed, I make my towards the old town down Labowsky street. At number 21 I came across a very old building with an attractive cake/ice cream shop called Lady Coastal.
Well I cannot resist nice cake and the lady serves me with the biggest slice of lemon meringue with a yummy biscuit base. Somebody had to try it…
I make my way back to the main square, Renow Glowny, ( got it right) to return the lock key to the bike shop that I had accidentally kept.
Then I listen to more jazz. This time a small band and a female vocalist, in Ratusowa, an outdoor cafe on the square, while I nurse a green tea in the shade of an umbrella. At times like these I miss my husband to share all this wonderful music.
I join the freewalikingtours trip to Nova Huta. The guide is Meciek, the same guide who took us around the Jewish quarter and ghetto on Friday. We catch a tram to Nowa Huta. The new town created by the communists as a communist utopia to be copied elsewhere.
Just returned from Nowa Huta tour. Meciek again provided a very interesting and informed tour. Explained all about how the place had been built, why it was created. Why it was created in the way it was. The political, economical and social effects. All with enthusiasm and humour. He really is very good at his job.
REALLY, REALLY enjoyed it, despite the over 30 degree heat. I learned so much about communism and the decline of communism. The tour ended at a former comunist cafe where he provided a shot of vodka for everyone and we all ate a typical Polish meal. I had dumplings with cabbage and meat. there was Polish music and some of the other customers got up dancing.
The food was 10 zlotys, (£2 50p )and the tour was 50zlotys (£12 50p) bargain for 6hours of entertaining and informative tour.
I think Nowa Huta is so much part of Polish history it is a must for any visitor to Krakow. But go with a guide, otherwise all you will see is grey communist apartment blocks.
We were a small group. I got to know some interesting people, mainly travelling solo around Europe and some just on a trip like me. At the end I hugged and kissed the young woman I had been talking to and I don’t even know her name! I hope she has a wonderful life.
love from Krakow.
Eating places in the centre of Krakow are in abundance. From greasy kebab houses, pizza parlours and McDonalds, to mid range cafes serving, what I would describe in England as “pub grub” mass produced catering often heated in a microwave, or Italian restaurants. Perfectly edible food but not really home cooked. I have not seen many higher end restaurants…. well just one and it was empty.
Don’t get me wrong I am no foodie and food is not the focus of my holiday but, and this is where the Parisien comparison comes, I am used to good quality, freshly cooked to order, food in ordinary cafes. and I didn’treally want chicken and chips again.
SO, I ate again, round the corner at JAREMA on Plac Matejki. Just outside the city walls opposite the Barbican.
This restaurant seems to provide traditional Polish food, freshly prepared. The service is good and they had a piano and violinist playing for atmosphere.
I had a complimentary starter of bread and “dripping” sounds awful, but the “dripping” had bits of meat, possible pork, in it and tasted good spread on the bread. This went well with the main meal I ordered.
For a main course I ordered black pudding with apple and onions, ( god help my artery’s!) which was creamy, minced black pudding offset by slices of tart apples, onions cherry tomatoes with some drizzle of a cheesy souce and lettuce. Very delicious it was too. For this I paid 25 zlotys. (£6 25p aprox)
I passed on the puds. One large chocolate and cherry cake in a day is enough!
I don’t know if this is Polish haute cuisine. Certainly there is a substantial element to Polish food, lots of dumplings, potatoes, sausage and fat. There was obviously some herbs and garlic in the meal because I can still taste it .
I than had a walk around the centre. No outdoor performance tonight. Then I discovered that in the main square are doors and alley to lots of clubs , hidden at the back and in the cellars of the buildings.
I found HARRIS PIANO JAZZ BARat number 28 Rynek Glowny, the main market square. It cost nothing to go in, down some steps in the cellar a band were plying real doodly-do jazz and the place was packed! I stayed for a while, but it was too doodly-do for me and so I walked home. But I will go again tomorrow.
On the way home, I came across an amazing, colourful, fountain show on Plac Szczepariska, at the end of the street of the same name. The water danced and changed colour. Bloomcounty, your children will love this , children were running in and out of the water jets and having a whale of a time.
Love from Krakow.
Tuesday 12th July.
Ok Ok! after 5 days here I have finally found some good food, thanks to your recommendations, but I go home tomorrow! …so of course I will have to return to continue my gastronomic explorations on another visit.
It seems the best food is to be had in Kazimierz area (the Jewish quarter)
I took your advice casey128, and today I tried the cafe called POLANKOWSKY at 39 Miodowa street in the Kazimierz district …and very good it was too. It is a self service restaurant, they tell you as you go in. Although is is part of a small chain of cafes, you get the feeling the food is made in the back. There is a buffet with main dishes, vegetable dishes and salads, but it would seem you can also order off a menu. I had a yummy taster of potato soup with bacon bits, then I had, what at home I would describe as potatoe hash. Every culture has it’s variation, a stew of potatoes, tender meat, mushrooms herbs and peppercorns. Delicious. I wish I could be here longer to sample their other dishes.
Yes people shared tables and the decor was interesting. The shelves at the sides of the shop were filled with pickle jars, real cabbages, apples and leeks ?? what is that all about?
They didn’t do puddings so I left that till later. I did try their “compote” a drink made from “fruit boiled in water and sugar added. Refreshing enough, but water is too.
I walked around the corner to SZEROKA street. Described by our guide the other day as, the main trendy square of the Kasimierz, for a cup of tea at Rubenstien, where Helena Rubenstien the cosmetics queen is alleged to have been born. Now a trendy hotel and cafe.
Sometimes you have an experience so uplifting that you just have to share it and tonight i couldn’t wait to ring my husband to tell him about the amazing concert I had just attended at the Katarzyny church, 7 Augustianska street and Skaleczna street, in Kasimierz at 7 p.m. (free admission). by the USA’sPortland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra.
These young people were all between 14 and 18 but they played like professional musicians and their music touched something deep inside me.
Again I got the information from this website which has been so useful on this trip.
The day started with me looking back at all your suggestions for ten best things to do in Krakow and aiming to do what I had missed.
So, as my apartment is north of the city walls I started north and worked my way south.
The pharmacy museum was not opened till 12midday, so I passed that by. Maybe come tomorrow..
Next was the town hall tower, which I climbed. I would not have known this was possible if it hadn’t been for CheshireBurt. Great views of the square and an interesting historical display, but not for the mobility challenged as the stairs are narrow and steep. Cost 4 zlotys for seniors. (£1)
I strolled south towards the castle peering in big old doorways looking at internal courtyards and admiring ornate ancient doors. What history had passed through these portals made me feel very insignificant.
At the bottom of Kanonicza street opposite the castle is Centrum Jana Pawla 11. ( centre of Pope John Paul 2nd) who of course was Polish and once the bishop of Krakow. This centre gives a very interesting overview of this Pope his life and his connections with Krakow. People in Krakow seem very proud of their Pope and there are statues of him everywhere. There is also the house where John Paul lived as a young priest and a bishop.
This afternoon I visited the castle for the third time and finally got to go inside. In the Royal apartments are beautiful chandeliers, incredibly detailed ceilings, magnificent carved furniture, tapestries marble, gilt and amazing inlaid doors everywhere. Typical examples of how the other half lived, in days gone by, while the peasants toiled in the fields and mines.
The armoury is full of their version of weapons of mass destructions and the armour they needed to protect themselves. Fascinating if you are into that sort of thing.
After the concert tonight I returned to the square on SZEROKA street to have a pudding. The square was now in full swing with diners,at candle lit tables . I had a pudding at ARIEL, a “Jewish” cafe, of an ice cream fruit and cream desert. Not sure if it was Kosher but hey ho!, it tasted good.
I could hear the “Kiezmer ” music from a trio in the cafe next door from an excellent trio.
I passed “once upon a time in Krakow” a well known bar/ restaurant and lingered listening to the music there. Almost tempted to go in but I wanted to negotiate the trams back home as the receptionist had briefed me this morning.
There doesn’t seem to be a general map of tram routes readily available, even the receptionist looked it up on-line. It was easy to usethe tram. I had got a ticket from the machine this morning and just validated it in a machine when I got on the tram. The I just looked out for my stop somewhere familiar near Red Brick apartments and rang the bell to get off.
So, just need to pack now and decide what to do in the morning. Hope to try one of your recommendations, brozlington , before I leave.
love from Krakow.