Tuesday 4th January, Krakow... no, really.. Krakow!
, Poland, Poland
We finally made it to Krakow! After the slight hiccup in our plans yesterday, Maria and I ended up spending last night in Warsaw, 300 kilometres away. We trained back to Krakow today, at great cost to the travel budget, and arrived after dark. Of course it is after dark all the time here at the moment, unless you count those few hours of dull greyness around lunchtime. I'm exaggerating of course, but not that much. You have to make the most of those few hourse of daylight, cause once night falls, it's dark for a long time!
Krakow is the only place on this trip
where we haven't been able to find some Couchsurfers
to stay with. So in the rain we set off to find a nearby hostel. The first one we found had no private rooms left, and since this was going to be our base for two nights I really wanted somewhere we could spread our junk all over the room and not worry about getting in other people's way. The receptionist was really helpful though, and marked on a map the locations of three more hostels within reasonable walking distance. We settled on the closest one, bargained for a bit of a discount price and dumped our backpacks.
The room was clean and spacious,
in fact configured with two single beds and a double, and the location was perfect- just five minutes west of the bus and train stations, and just outside the old town. BY the time we'd showered, and strewn our clothes, books and miscellaneous items from one corner of our large room to the other, the rain outside had eased. We headed into the Old Town, and were surprised to reach the Old Town Square Rynek Glowny
, after what seemed like just a few minutes walking. Rynek Glowny is the largest Medieval town square in all of Europe- 800 metres wide and 1200 metres long.
The oldest city in Poland,
Krakow is the only decent sized city in Poland that escaped being almost levelled in WWII, saved by a sudden encircling manouevre by the Soviet Red Army which forced the German forces to evacuate the city. It's a stark contrast to Warsaw, which suffered total devastation during the war, more than half of its poulation dead, and eighty-five percebnt of buidlings destroyed. The history of this part of the world is just fascinating- I'm learning a little as I travel, but it's inspired me to try to learn a lot more.
The Old Town of Krakow
was one of the first inclusions on Unesco's World Heritage list in 1978, with its Gothic cathedrals, Wawel Castle, and the now eerily silent Jewish quarter. At the beginning of WWII, Krakow was home to about 65 000 Jews, some thirty percent of the city's population. Today, the Jewish population of Krakow is less than two hundred.
We followed the narrow bench-lined path
that ran through the Planty
- a strip of parkland that completely surrounds the Old Town, which offered a great view of many of the Old' Town's illuminated buildings and monuments.