Thursday, September 26, 2013


We had a very busy day today,  there is so much to see and do in this interesting city.

We both had a great nights sleep, the bed here is wonderfully soft and comfy.  I woke up feeling MUCH better than yesterday, thankfully.

We had our morning coffee, and were ready to fix our breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit and toast.  The eggs were all ready to cook, so I set the skillet on the stove and attempted to turn on the burner.......hmmmmm.  It's a very modern glass 2 burner stove top, with electronic touch controls.  We touched and tapped those buttons every which way from Sunday--but could not get it to turn on!  So we had a meager breakfast of fruit and toast--which we burned.   Sheeeesh!

After that lovely start, the rest of our day was wonderful!

We had two things planned for today, to visit Wawel Castle (pornounced vavel--the w's are pronounced as v's) and a visit to Schindler's Factory.

We got a good start this morning, time wise.  David had mapped out our walking route up to the castle, which was not too far from our apartment.

 Here's our first view of Wawel Castle:

Wawel Castle was built in the mid 1300's, and rebuilt with additional structures in the mid 1400's.
Entrance to the castle:

We walked around to the entrance courtyard, and this is the pretty view looking towards the cathedrals:

A tower:

We had read up on the castle and had decided which areas we wanted to see, and we were able to buy tickets just for those areas.  We chose to see the State Rooms,  daVinci's "Lady With Ermine" painting, and of course, we wanted to climb the tower!

We had a timed entrance to the State Rooms, so we headed off in that direction first.  We walked into a covered passageway and through a big set of gates:

And into this big courtyard:

We toured the State Rooms, walking the long and winding route through the many beautiful and interesting rooms.  It was well signed, with everything having English translation.  Several rooms were furnished with original furniture, and it was quite interesting to see the differences between this castle and others we have visited.  It was not grand, ornate and over-the-top, there was no Baroque gold leaf, etc.  It was definitely Gothic in design, with massive pieces of very sturdy furniture.  One of the most interesting decorative items were the tooled leather walls in several of the rooms.  There were no photos allowed, but here is one I found on Google:

After the State Room tour, we were guided to a different area on the 2nd floor to see the daVinci painting.  We walked outside around the covered walk, where we spotted this great copper rain spout:

The small two room gallery housing the painting was VERY well guarded! We had to show our ticket at the entrance to the first room, then line up to enter the actual gallery, where there was an armed guard at the entrance and another at the exit.  I think they were very serious about protecting this painting!

The gallery was totally dark, except for spotlights on the painting.  It was stunning!  David said he still likes Mona Lisa better, but I was mesmerized!  We spent quite a few minutes in the gallery, with me looking at that amazing Lady from every angle.  WOW!

Of course, no photos were allowed, but here's one from Wikipedia:

Lady With an Ermine  by Leonardo daVinci, 1490:

After viewing that fabulous work of art, we wound our way thru the maze of halls and corridors, and out into the courtyard.  We walked out into the big outer courtyard, and next on our list was a quick visit to the Wawel Cathedral.

The cathedral was completed in 1364.  The main part of the church is quite plain, but there are several chapels that were added in later centuries, these are very ornate Baroque style.  No photos allowed, of course!

Father Karol Wojtyla (who later became Pope John Paul II, said his first mass in the crypt of the cathedral on November 3rd, 1946.

There's a statue in his honor near the entrance:

We walked through the church with about 1000 other tourists (that might be only a slight exaggeration!), and we also visited the crypts and discovered that Frederic Chopin's heart is entombed there--the rest of his body is buried in Paris!  Very interesting............

Next up:  climb the tower!  It wasn't a big climb--only 137 steps. It's the round tower in the second picture of today's post.

Here's David at the entrance to the tower:

Nothing too interesting on the inside, but the views from the top were nice:

 After our not so big climb, it was definitely time for lunch!  We decided we wanted to walk back into Old Town and eat at the market--there was some yummy looking food there yesterday.

I chose chicken goulash--really just chicken pieces with peppers and onions--it was pretty good.  I also chose a side dish of sauteed mushrooms--they were delicious!  The dark beer is mine, the red ale is David's--both were really good!

By now it was 2 pm, and we were undecided about visiting Schindler's Factory and Museum, but decided if we used a taxi instead of public transportation, we'd have plenty of time.  So we found a taxi stand, and off we went.  The factory is located in a very gray, shabby industrial area on the outskirts of Krakow.  We were glad we didn't try to walk--it was a long and confusing route!

Here's a picture of the outside of the museum, which has been restored, of course:

 The museum focuses on the lives of the Polish residents of Krakow, especially Jews, during the Nazi occupation 1939-1945.  The story of how Oskar Schindler saved many Jewish prisoners by putting them to work in his metal and enamel work factory is only part of the story.

It is a fascinating look into the cruelty, hardship and terror forced upon the Jews in Krakow by the German forces.  The story unfolds in chronological order, along a labyrinth route through sections based on dates, specific themes and personal testimony and interviews with survivors.  There are sound effects that add to the experience, everything from radio broadcasts, normal city noises, air raid sirens, etc.  One interesting point--one area is covered in tiles bearing the Nazi swastika--which initially I found quite odd, until I realized thousands of people a day are trampling on the tiles,  stamping out that evil symbol.

We spent almost 3 hours wandering through the maze of displays;  I can't say it was enjoyable, but it was certainly interesting, educational and eye-opening.  It was most definitely a sobering experience.

Although photos were allowed, I didn't take any while in the museum--I was too engrossed in the history and the horror of it all, and it just didn't seem necessary.

After our visit to Schindler's, we were exhausted and spent!  We hopped in a taxi back to our apartment and relaxed for an hour or so before dinner. 

We chose an Israeli restaurant that's right in our square, and we had a nice, relaxing dinner of Moroccan and Israeli food--an odd combination for sure!

The restaurant:

We started with hummus and pita bread, and it was just OK--I think my dear friend Donna's is MUCH better!  We then shared a bowl of Harira, a Moroccan soup with chickpeas, beef and orzo.  It was really good.  Our main dish (shared) was a Moroccan-style lamb with couscous, and it was wonderful.  The lamb was cooked in a sweet/spicy sauce flavored with cardamom and cinnamon--really tasty!  We each had a glass of Israeli red wine, and just like last nights wine--it was delicious.

It was a very short walk home, and early to bed for us.  Good night from Krakow!

Tomorrow in Krakow:  A day trip to Auschwitz, which I know will be a sobering and humbling experience.


  1. I think of so many things to say but by the time I get to the end of the blog, I have forgotten half of them! LOL Castle was beautiful, and your writing on Schindler's was interesting. How did such a thing really happen. It's good for all of us to read about and remember. I liked reading about your stove experience and how you burnt your breakfast. Its wonderful reading all about the things and places you see but my attention peaks when there is a picture of you, food or accommodations. Thank you for making such an interesting blog, filled with just about everything for everybody. I hope your cold is almost gone now. Did David get a cold too or just you? Love to you both...

  2. Sounds like you had quite a day. lol, were you able to figure out how to turn on your stove so that you can use it tomorrow? Your dinner looks wonderful---actually all of your meals have looked very tasty. I cant even begin to imagine how you felt as you were going through Schindlers Factory, i am sure it was a very thought provoking experience.

    Hope your cold is gone or at least almost gone and that Dave doesnt catch one too.