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Krakow, Poland highlights

October 29th, 2007

krakow wawel castle_8Remember that old saying, “Fly the straight and narrow or else I’ll send you to the salt mines!”? Okay, maybe that’s just my history, but nevertheless, 30 minutes outside Krakow are its famous Salt Mines. Today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you walk through chambers full of carvings, statues, and even chapels—all made of salt!

I talk about this next site on the Planty Park page, but it’s worth repeating. Beneath the Franciscan Monastery there rest more than 1000 mummified remains of friars and laymen of various church status. It seems the atmosphere in the crypts is perfect for mummification. Better than Egypt, in fact. For nearly 200 years church patrons & friars were laid to rest in the crypts sans coffins, on the bare floor, covered only by a layer of sand, their heads propped atop a board. Between this and the Dragon’s Lair, you’re kids will remember this vacation for years and years. Ul Reformacka 4.
The Czartorsky Museum has Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” and Rembrandt’s “Landscape with Good Samaritan”—among other art goodies. Ul. Sw. Jana 19.

Krakow Daily Walks
City walking tours are excellent ways to get a feel for a city and learn about its history, sites, restaurants & pubs, and the lay of the land. All for a few dollars. Krakow Daily Walks run from April 1st – October 31st and offer three routes. Walk #1 takes you through medieval Old Town, the Wawel Hill and its castle. Walk #2 takes you through Kazimierz, the most well preserved Jewish Quarter in Europe. Walk #3 leads you through Wawel Castle’s Royal Chambers and the Cathedral. Prices run 45-60 PLN apiece.

krakow planty_4Krakow Cafes and Restaurants
From traditional to truly fusion and avant-garde, Krakow has exploded on the European culinary scene.

In the morning or all day long, try Bagelmama, where fresh bagels are the order and fillings outnumber a typical Dagwood sandwich. Open daily from 10am. Podbrzezie 3.

Unless you live in Chicago or New York (huge Polish populations)—or perhaps you have a Polish grandmother— you have not tasted fresh pierogi until you’ve come to Poland. Zapiecek dishes out meat, cabbage & mushrooms, buckwheat & liver, broccoli, or Russian varieties of the little stuffed dumplings. Prices are about as cheap as they come: 6.40 – 7.40 PLN (about $2 US) for a plateful. You can even watch the chefs prepare the pierogi as you wait. Open daily, 10am-9pm. Slawkowska 32.

MOMO has a bright, large dining room to complement its vegetarian cuisine. All the food comes from Mamma Earth (as in…soil), so you’ll not find meat, fish, eggs, or canned or preserved products. Open 11am-8pm. J. Dietla 49.

Krakow Nightlife
Klub Prozak (get it?) is the place of choice for party nights. Two basement levels, 3 bars, a warren of passageways to explore, and 3 dance floors where “top world” DJs (their words) spin house music, electro, funk, new jazz, and “old school.” Live drums accompany the rhythm of the blow-your-hair-back sounds. Open Tues-Sat, 7pm-Morning. Pl. Dominikanski 6 (downstairs from the Kebab joint on the corner).

krakow st annes_5Krysztofory is both an avant-garde art club and music club. It’s cozy, chill, loud, and filled with art. Open 11am – morning. Szczepanska 2 (just west off Market Square).

Czasem Trzeba has Rock’n’Roll with a Pop understudy. Local Krakow bands perform live weekly, and Wednesday is karaoke night. The basement is pretty basic, like from one of those college parties you never wanted to leave (but neither pass out on the floor). Open Mon-Fri, 2pm-whenever; Sat & Sun, 4pm-whenever. Mikolajska 14 (just east off Market Square).

Krakow Transportation
The city tram is useful and easy to figure out. Most of your time will be spent in the Old Town (inside the Planty) or a few blocks outside the Planty ring. This means you can walk Krakow pretty easily. Cabs are plentiful and cheap—and the drivers won’t swindle you. Grab a tourist guide as soon as you hit town to get a feel for the town.

(return to Krakow, Poland main page here)

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