So, last weekend we made a quick dash up to Krakow, Poland. We’d always wanted to visit, both because it was supposed to be a fun tourist destination and because the husband’s Polish great-grandparents came from completely unpronounceable villages very close by. (Ay-yi-yi, Polish genealogy will drive you crazy!)
We just stayed for two nights, but I wish we’d planned to stay longer. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would! It reminds me very much of Prague, back when we first were posted there. Nicely renovated old buildings and ugly Communist concrete things are all mixed up with unrenovated houses and churches that date as far back as the Renaissance. Krakow is, in fact, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really has a unique, funky charm. And all the people we encountered were very friendly–at least compared to the rest of Central/Eastern Europe as I know it. We just loved the place.
Unfortunately, the reason Krakow is so well preserved is that Hitler liked it. The Nazis used it as an administrative center for a division of the Third Reich, and proceeded to round up all the Jews in the city. Krakow had always been a center of Jewish culture, and as many as 70,000 resident Jews were send to nearby concentration camps and murdered. (More about the Jewish Quarter in a later post.)
Now, Krakow is a bit of a party town, in part due to the presence of Polish universities, and in part due to increasing numbers of holiday-makers coming in from other parts of Europe to enjoy good beer and (it must be said, as even I noticed) some pretty good-looking local women. But, the Old Town is not nearly as crazy as Prague’s is by now. It’s still under control, and quite affordable. We ate and drank very well. I even learned to love pierogies. I’d only ever had the frozen ones from Costco. Homemade is a whole different story!
Here are some photos from around town, chiefly the Market Square, dominated by the 16th century Draper’s Hall. Click any photo for a slide show with captions. I also wrote up a review of Krakow with travel tips on our post community blog if you are interested in more practical information.