Krakow #1: Around the Old Town


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Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland » Kraków
December 19th 2019
Published: May 12th 2020
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I was very impressed with the train I took to Krakow. I had opted for the faster, newer train and it was immaculate. Even though I was in second class, it was really nice, there was even a free drink for passengers, but I missed it as I didn't realise it was free. I travel too much on budget airlines, so I am totally conditioned to saying no to things as I think they will cost money. The train was also pretty empty and quiet, perfect. I arrived in Krakow in about two and a half hours. I headed to the place I was staying, which was only about a ten minute walk from the station and just dumped my stuff, unable to check in as it was too early. I was staying on the edge of the Old Town, so I headed through the park to take a walk around. I wandered down the street past Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, that was a beautiful building. I really liked the buildings here, they had a real old world charm to them. I didn't have any plans for where to go, my only plan was to wander around and get a feel for the place. I came to Mały Rynek (Small Market Square) first. This was quite cute, although the square was empty. I would have expected it to have had some stalls in it. I came to the back of St. Mary's Basilica. I thought about going into the Basilica, but since you needed a ticket and you had to buy it at the office opposite, I decided not to bother. I continued around and came to the main Market Square. It was filled with little stalls, some selling food and drink and others selling gifts and the like. I thought about getting some food from one of the stalls, but nothing really jumped out at me.

In the centre of the square, there is the Cloth Market. This market dates back to the 13th century and is filled with little stalls on each side. I had a walk through and looked at some of the stalls, but there wasn't much of interest for me. I could see a solitary tower just ahead so I headed over to get a bit of a better look. I found it unusual that the tower was separate from the Cloth Market as I would have expected it to be on the top of the market to give a better vantage point for those that had needed it, but as I later found out the tower is the only remaining part of the original town hall. The tower dates back to the 14th century, the original was destroyed in a fire caused by lightening and was rebuilt in the 17th century. The Town Hall Tower was kept when the rest of the building was destroyed in the 1820 as part of a plan to open up the Market Square. On my way into the tower, I admired the two stone lions guarding the entrance. After paying the entrance fee on the ground floor, I took to the stairs. They were a bit narrow, steep and windy, but not too bad. There were about three floors to visit, which broke up the journey up the stairs. The first floor had a small exhibition about the Polish army, which I had a look at, but there was quite a lot I didn't understand. The second floor was quite bare apart from a set of stocks and a small stall selling bread, I think. The top floor had the inner workings for the clock on the tower and also a viewing platform. The views across the city were pretty amazing. Although it was a bit of a hazy day, I'm not sure whether it was the weather or pollution, I loved seeing all the rooftops and the churches in the near and far distances. I liked the pinky-purple hue that the sky had. I was also happy that the tower wasn't too busy, so passing others on the stairs wasn't annoying.

I was hungry by this point so I went in search of some lunch. I had seen a place earlier that looked good, but I don't know if I used the wrong door or something, as there were no staff in the dining room and only one table taken. I waited for a couple of moments, but no staff appeared, so I headed back out. I had seen another promising place. La Petite France, so I headed there. The restaurant wasn't too busy when I got there and I found a table and had a look at the menu. I ended up opting for the two course daily special and a large bottle of water as I was really thirsty. The first course was the soup of the day, I had asked what it was when I placed my order, but hadn't understood what the waitress had said, so had smiled and nodded. I'm not a huge fan of soup, but it was pretty nice as it was creamy and peppery, although I'm still not sure what it was, maybe watercress or some other generic vegetable. The main course was really nice. It was chicken in a light mustard cream sauce with rice and salad. It was tasty and I would eat it again. I finished off my meal with a coffee to keep me awake, since I'd had an early start that morning.

I wandered the streets of Krakow's Old Town some more. It was nice just to wander up and down and get lost a bit. I headed up one of the streets and came to St. Florian's Gate and the Barbican. I could see that the free walking tour was just starting and thought about joining it, but I didn't really want to commit to a tour lasting a couple of hours and was happy just to wander myself. I liked the pictures that were for sale lining the inner side of the city wall. It made it look really pretty. I also enjoyed watching the kids skateboarding on the small quiet square in front of the church. I continued on and came to what I think was Plac Szczepański and the 'Krakow' sign, which I tried unsuccessfully to get some photos of as there were people posing in front of it. I wandered back into the park surrounding the Old Town and then wandered by the university. Here, I came across Zaułek Estreichera, which was a small courtyard filled with busts of famous people. I don't know whether these people were famous for being from Krakow or having went to the university. I really liked how the sun was setting so early here. It made the sky and the streets look really pretty.

I headed back to my hostel to check in and take a rest. I had done quite a bit and wanted to put my feet up for a bit. Later on, I ventured out as I wanted to see the Rynek Square all lit up at night. It looked really, really pretty and it was a lot busier. There were a lot of people out enjoying a drink and some food from the many stalls. It was nice to wander the streets and see Christmas lights. Krakow looked very festive. Later, I headed to the mall attached to the supermarket. I had a bit of a wander around the mall, none of the shops looked that interesting and there were a few restaurants that were busy with the after work crowd. Since I wasn't too hungry, I went to the supermarket to get some supplies for a light dinner and the next day. Back at the hostel, I was really impressed with their kitchen/dining room as it was really big and since there weren't too many people using it, not at all crammed.


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