Picture Perfect Poland

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Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Monday, April 5, 2010

When I arrived in Krakow I could not wait to pull out my camera and go for a walk, this beautiful city that dates back to the 7th century is a photographer's dream.

              I started my adventure at Wawel Castle which was once the house of polish kings and is now home to the Polish Crown Jewels and National Museum.  The walled fortress also contains the Wawel Cathedral where the Polish Monarchs received their coronations and many kings, saints and famous people are buried.  The fortress looks like something out of a fairy tale with its perfectly manicured landscape and magnificent medieval architecture.

                From the castle I walked to Main Market Square in the heart of the old city.  Europe's largest medieval town square houses the remarkable St. Mary’s Basilica, a 14th century gothic church famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss.  Every hour a trumpet signal called the heynal, is played from the top of St. Mary’s highest tower and broadcast across Poland. The tune cuts off in midstream to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.

                I finished my day with a historical tour of Jewish Krakow. First we visited to the Old Jewish Quarter called Kazimierz where the movie Schindler`s List was filmed.  This was once a booming Jewish settlement until WWII when the Jews were forced into the Ghetto across the river.  With the success of the movie, important historical sites such as the Old Jewish Cemetery and Oscar Schindler`s factory have been restored and Jewish-themed restaurants have opened to capitalize on the tourist boom. 

                The next day was Remembrance Day so to honour the soldiers who lost their lives in World War II to liberate Europe from the Nazis; I decided to take a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau.  Auschwitz was the largest Nazi Concentration Camp; it was built in an old Polish Army barracks and received its first group of 728 Polish prisoners on June 14th 1940.  Soviet prisoners of war were soon to follow as well as German homosexuals and criminals then later Jews.  It is estimated that around 1.1 million people had died at the Auschwitz camps.

                To offset the sadness of the concentration camps, I decided to end my day with a tour of the Old Salt Mine.  The Wieliczka Salt Mine aka the Old Salt Mine or Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland is one

of the oldest operating salt mines in the world.  Visitors to the mine are brought on a 3.5 km tour to see the magnificent rock salt sculptures and churches carved by miners and contemporary artists.  Even the intricate chandeliers that hung from the ceiling of the salt cathedral were made of salt.  I will never look at table salt the same again.

                My three-day Krakow adventure ended with a longing to come back and spend at least a week visiting more of the nearly 6000 historical sites in and around the city.

Check out my Cracow Video

Check out my Auschwitz Video

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