Trip Start Aug 28, 2011
Trip End Sep 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
U Pana Cogito Hotel Krakow
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Sunday, September 4, 2011

Although we tried calling to ensure there was a vacancy before we arrived, for some reason we couldn't get through on the number listed for the hotel in my guidebook.  So we decided to just input the address into the GPS and let it take us there.  The hotel we chose was reasonably priced, in part, I think, because it wasn't located in the center of everything but just outside the main tourist attractions.  It's a renovated villa complex set back a little from the side street on which it's located.  We drove right by it without seeing it and had to turn around to make a second pass before we found it.

They had a vacancy and we settled in quickly then set out walking for the Old Town.  We found our way into the square where the dominating feature is the 70 meter (230 foot) high Town Hall Tower, built in the 13th century.  It's the last surviving piece of the original town hall which was demolished in 1820; apparently to "clean up" the appearance of the square.  The original town hall's cellar had a prison that included a medieval torture chamber.

Another imposing feature of the square is St. Mary's Cathedral.  A lone trumpeter plays every hour from the top of the higher tower and he cuts off the last note before finishing it.  That's done to recall a legend regarding an assault on the city by the Tartars in the 13th century.  According to the legend, a trumpeter was sounding a call to arms from the tower when a Tartar marksman shot an arrow that hit the trumpeter in the throat, cutting off his call to arms. 

Part of the old town wall remains, including the Floriańska gate which dates back to the early 14th century.  This gate was once the main entryway to the Old Town and part of the original medieval fortification system.

Vendors are set up everywhere in Old Town (tourists are well known for wanting to spend money) and a couple of painters have set up shop at the old town wall, using its broad expanse to display their paintings.  I was more than a little surprised to see in Old Town a "librerķa" Spanish for "bookstore".  I took a look, thinking I might check it out but it was closed. I wouldn't have expected to see a Spanish language bookstore in Poland.  They can't get many Spanish speaking tourists, I wouldn't think. 

As we walked back to our hotel we looked across the Wisla River to the Wawel Castle and made plans to visit the castle tomorrow.  We left camera gear at the hotel and walked to the Kazimierz district for dinner.  Kazimierz is the former Jewish quarter of town and isn't easy to describe.

It also dates back to the 14th century so its streets are narrow, winding and cobblestoned; typical for all medieval streets.  Jews first began gathering in Kazimierz by choice and then the town issued an edict that forced them to stay, turning the area into a walled ghetto.  In the early 19th century Jews were given the right of abode and the walls were torn down.  Nazi occupation of Poland resulted in the death of almost all of Kazimierz' 60,000 Jews.

Today the area is simultaneously trendy with fancy restaurants, cocktail bars and shops and dirty with graffitti'd walls.  We found a nice cafe that featured Polish food that had outdoor seating on a small alleyway.  After dinner we wandered back to the hotel to call it a night.
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