Judix2 travels to USOpen, Estonia & Poland travel blog

Horse-Drawn Carriages

St. Francis Church

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

??? Parade

Happy Hour

It is a beautiful warm day today so it is back to crop pants and sandals. Krakow also has a Royal Way Walk so we headed off to do this with Rick Steve's guide after stopping at the TI to pick up local maps. There we ran into Chatty Cathy who gave us a fast 15-minute talk on the history of the city. She could have easily done an hour if we didn't manage a graceful exit. First stop was the Babican just outside the Florian Gate, the city's main entryway. Here you paid the tax to get into the city. There was originally a moat and wall around the city, but by the 19th century the wall had fallen into disrepair. The citizens tore down the wall, filled in the moat and planted trees because it was cheaper to do that than repair the wall. Now there is a lovely 2-1/2 mile park surrounding the Old Town called the Planty. Just inside the Florian Gate there is a McDonald's where a gothic cellar was discovered. McDonald's excavated the cellar and used it for seating. It is the nicest McDonald's I've been in. Very spacious and lots of beautiful stone. We continued on to the Main Market Square to see St. Mary's Church as it turn out several tour groups had the same idea. So we kept going and will come back another time. We found a lovely small church, St. Adalbert, the oldest church in Krakow (10th century). Like St. Mary's, both churches look to be on an angle. But they were built east-west as was the custom and it is the square that is crooked. In the center of the square is a long Italian Renaissance-style building called the Cloth Hall because this is the place the cloth-sellers had their market stalls. King Sigismund the Old fancied all things Italian including his Italian princess wife. It is still a functioning market today but replaced with amber and souvenirs. Horse-drawn carriages are a big deal on the square and it appears to be a tradition for the bride and groom to ride in one. There are so many carriages and the horses are dressed in quite elaborate livery. The amazing thing is that there is no evidence that horses have been in the area. It is now time for lunch and we were trying to decide which cafe on the square to eat, a parade entered the square. There was a leader in costume, a military band and troops, flags and banners followed by several men in costume, a couple little cannons, and a large contigent of teenagers in white shirts, ties and black pants or skirts. From the other side of the square came a trio of soldiers carrying wreaths. Everyone stopped at St. Mary's and speeches on a loudspeaker started. Forty-five minutes later it was still going on and we've about finished luch when 3 cannon blasts went off. After another 10 minutes four more went off. And finally the kids dispersed and the band marched off playing. We never did find out what was going. It was a short walk from the square to St. Francis' Basilica where Pope John Paul II served as Archbishop and features some of Poland's best Art Nouveau in situ. It was a stunning church and the Pope's favorite place to pray is marked with plaque. Across the street is the Archbishop's Palace where the Pope lived as Archbishop and was his home-away-from-home when he was Pope. Of course, there is a picture and plaque on the building under his window. The tour book noted this church was on a busy street and that was accurate. In addition to cars there were continuous streetcars in both directions. It was a challenge to cross the street to get into the church. As if we hadn't seen enough churches, there were several more to see. There are 142 churches in Krakow proper, and 32 of them are in old town. We stopped at two more, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Baroque) right next to St. Andrews (Romanesque), visited Mary Magdalene Square where a church used to be before it burned down. Now it had the distinction of winning the Ugliest Statue award in 2002. (I didn't think it was so ugly). At St. Andrew's there was a notice that the nuns of the church were selling religious souvenirs and cookies so we decided we'd but some cookies. We followed the directions to a door on the side of the church where we had to ring a bell to get buzzed in, then a nun showed up behind a caged window. She did not speak English but she did speak Spanish, so we contined in Spanish to get our cookies. We had our choice of almond, butter or coconut. Along this steet there is also a "Milk Bar". In the communist era, the government used to subside cafeterias allowing lowly workers to enjoy a meal out for an extremely low price. The tradition continues with Poland still footing the bill. It is traditional food aimed at locals, not tourists, and according to Rick quite an experience. We are going to try it before we leave Krakow. By now we have arrived at Wawel Castle, the end of the Royal Walk, which we are going to do another day. It was time to get off our feet so we headed back to our apartment for Happy Hour on our terrace which was cut short when it started raining. We were both falling asleep so we decided we'd better to out for walk and some light dinner as it was too early to go to bed. Judi C. had forgotten her camera so went back to the apartment while I wandered around the square enjoying the scenery. Our apartment has an alarm system and Judi punched a wrong number and the alarm went off. She thought she got the alarm cancelled until she got a text from the owner checking with us as security was on the staircase in front of our apartment. It was back to the apartment to make sure everything was O.K. and then back out to find some dinner. We found a cafe with a singer and guitar player who were very good and we ordered mushroom soup. I've been pretty surprised how really good the food in both Estonia and Poland has been. But not tonight. One of their specialities was a large kabob served on an actual saber. They turn off the lights, turn on Polish music, and light the saber before serving. Quite a sight and fun to watch. JB

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