Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Nov 24, 2009

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Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Friday, October 9, 2009

Krakow (pronounced Crack-oof) was a nice town we stayed in for 4 nights. According to the Polish people we met at our hostel in Seville, Krakow is the main city on the south side of Poland while Warsaw is the main city on the north side of Poland. And apparently they are very opposite cities. We didn't go to Warsaw for this reason. (Very business-y, fast-moving, clone buildings, etc, from what we heard.) We chose Krakow and are glad about it. The main town center is inside what once was a big moat and now is a loop park around the old walls, called The Planty. There are also remains of ancient city walls in places.

We spent the first full day walking around the Main Market Square- the biggest medieval square in Europe- seeing and exploring. As soon as we entered the square (literally a block and a half from our hostel, Tutti Frutti, we almost walked into a movie set. There was some movie being filmed in part of the square. There were hundreds of people (extras) dressed in early 1900’s clothing waiting for the director to call action. When he finally did, they all started chanting and waving flags and their arms in the air. They even had a crane holding an old car up so the men around the car could pretend like they were carrying the car through the crowds (with two men inside the vehicle). It was really cool to stop and watch the movie being filmed for a while. (Later we saw a dozen or so people in HBO jackets so we’re thinking it was an HBO show getting filmed.) I guess we’ll find out in a few months, but who knows.

We went into the big building in the center of the square, Cloth Hall, which used to be the market for locals in the old days and is now all touristy booths selling Polish souvenirs. Then we saw the Town Hall Tower, now a tourist information office. We continued our walk to St. Francis’ Basilica, the church Pope John Paul II used to pray in when he was a bishop in Krakow. We got to see his old favorite seat in one of the back pews. We then walked all the way up to the Wawel Castle Grounds, on Wawel Hill. It’s a castle with Poland’s national church, Wawel Cathedral (like the Westminster Abbey of London, England because it has royal tombs and crypts). It also has an old castle square with a chakra area. Chakra is a Hindu belief that an energy field connects all living things. According to believers, there are seven chakra points on the surface of the earth that mirror the seven chakra points on the body where the energy is most concentrated. The seven strong chakra places here on Earth are Delhi, Delphi, Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome, Velehrad, and Wawel Hill. There is a specific part of a wall inside the castle courtyard covered in smudge marks from people who press their bodies up against the wall to try and absorb some good vibes, or whatever it would be called. Of course we had to try it out. I didn’t feel anything different though. It was funny to see people pressed up against the wall. Apparently the Wawel Administration is creeped out by all this so they try to do things to discourage people from standing against the wall: there are all these standing signs pointing ways to the gift shops and restrooms and things to try and divert people from the area. People still just climb behind the signs anyways.

Seeing as I’ve just written a lot about only part of one day here, I’ll go faster now. We also saw some other churches in town, one huge one called St. Mary’s Cathedral. It’s done in a gothic style. We also went to the Jewish Quarter one day. There are only a couple hundred Jews left living in this area- there were thousands and thousands before WWII and the Holocaust but since then they’ve either been killed or moved away. We saw a big cemetery with thousands of gravestones all crooked and half broken. This was one of the graveyards Nazis raided and drug away thousands of gravestones to use for cement in their concentration camps. Since then Polish citizens have tried to put the gravestones back but there is no way to tell where most of them go. So they made a stone, mosaic wall of all the gravestones they couldn’t find the graves for. The wall goes around the inside of the cemetery.

We already posted the Auschwitz blog entry- this was actually a day trip we made while staying in Krakow.

Overall, I liked Krakow but didn’t feel like there was much to do here after we saw all the sites. It wasn’t like how Prague was to me- a never-ending town of wonders. It seemed much smaller than Prague. They are very different cities, with much different history though, so I guess it’s not right for me to compare the two.

It was colder in Krakow and even rained for a day. It was the first time we wore our rain jackets.

All for now I think. Budapest is next. (Although technically we are running behind with the blog and we are actually on a train that just left from Budapest and headed to Vienna). Oh, and I’m sure Andre would have written something for this blog but he’s currently passed out, snoring, and wearing my girly sleeping mask (he won’t know I told you because I’m betting he won’t read this entry till the end).

Love, Michi
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