Over the last couple of posts, I have shared quite a sombre side of my Krakow experience. And it is true that the dark period in Krakow’s past is an essential part of understanding its character and place as an historic and cultural centre of Eastern Europe.
But Krakow is also filled with a sense of warmth and joyful spirit. The people are friendly. Its medieval history is stamped indelibly in its glorious architecture, cobbled streets and picturesque plazas. It has a wonderful – and accessible – music scene, delicious food and a rich spiritual lineage as a main centre for Catholicism in Europe.
For my part, it would be a shame to let a dark past overshadow your armchair tour of this beautiful and soulful city. I had such a great time that it would be remiss of me not to encourage you to visit. And what better way to wrap everything up than by giving you a list of my favourite bits and a few recommendations to boot. So here goes…
Generally food is tasty, filling and good value and the best local tipples are beer and vodka. (The Poles are not hugely into wine, but this market is growing.) Suffice to say I ate and drank well.
I tried both pierogi and borscht for the first time on this trip – with great success I must say. And my top dining out tip? Miod Malina (translates to Honey Raspberry) a short walk from Rynek Glowny towards Wawel Castle. I sat outside and enjoyed a glass of wine and three delicious courses to the strains of a classical string duet…for about £20.
Spacious, cheerful and unbelievable value – that’s Hotel Benefis. This small 4 storey hotel sits across the river from the main hubbub of Krakow but it’s only a 15 minute walk to Rynek Glowny. I had a large 4th floor room with a balcony and a view of the spires of the Wawel Cathedral, Main Square Tower and Mariacka Basilica for slightly less than the price I paid for a box-size room in Rome. Oh and the staff are great.
|Hotel Benefis – highly recommended!|
Without a doubt, music be the food of Krakow and play on it did from the bugler’s haunting hejnal from the tower of Mariacka Basilica each hour, an impromptu choir outside the Church of St Adalbert in Rynek Glowny and any number of concert options for a bargain price. You may sniff at the leaflet bearers and their nightly programs as ‘tourist-y’ but for the equivalent of about £12, it is possible to enjoy a healthy dose of the remarkable talent available in this incredibly musical city. Here’s just two:
Day 1: Chamber music at the Church of St Peter and Paul
The Thursday billing was Classical and Film Music so there was the well-known – Mozart, and Vivaldi, Over The Rainbow and Schlinder’s List – and some new discoveries for me. As I sat in that glorious church, the haunting notes of Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In America filling the nave, I felt moved and incredibly blessed to be there.
|The Church of St Peter & Paul|
Day 3: Chopin at Bonerowski Palace
Chopin is one of Krakow’s most famous sons and every night you’ll find concerts throughout the city featuring his music. The deft fingers of Pawel Kubica introduced me to my first Chopin on a sparkling Saturday evening that had been left refreshed by the day’s rain.
|The salon at Bonerowski Palace|
Aside from music, there are many other treats in store if you get yourself to this delightful city. Mariacka Basilica, with its uneven towers soaring above Rynek Glowny, is glorious inside and lush with intricate detail. Rynek Underground is a fascinating museum located under the Cloth Hall in the Main Square which traces the archaelogical history of Krakow. And make sure you wander past The Papal Window and give a nod to Poland’s other favourite son, Karol Wojtyla, who moved to Krakow to attend university, joined the underground seminary during the occupation and rose through the ranks of the Catholic church to be elected its 264th pope, John Paul II, in 1978.
|The Cloth Hall in Rynek Glowny. There’s a market inside but its real treasure lies underneath.|
So that’s it. Four days in Krakow filled with amazing and moving experiences that I’ve done my best to share with you through this series.