Last year I had to teach a class of prospective tourism students how to make presentations, and among these were several Poles. Two did presentations on Krakow and one on Zakapone and both places sounded really interesting. As they turned out to be.
Our apartment in Krakow was off the main square in the old town, which wasn’t bombed during the war but has clearly been restored since then. Round the square the buildings are mainly stuccoed and in an Italianate style,
We spent a long time at Wawel Castle – the Cathedral (in the background of the picture above) is on the same site - not far from the main square. There's a whole collection of buildings, added to over the centuries and very much restored, but most parts are very old, some dating back at least 800 years. According to http://www.krakow-info.com/castle.htm,
People lived on the Wawel Hill at least as early as fifty thousand years ago, in the Paleolithic Age. In the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, i.e. some three thousand years ago, the settlement was apparently bustling with trade, with assorted crafts and with farming. It was at the turn of the past millennium when the rulers of Poland took up their residence here. During the early 16th century King Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) brought in the best native and foreign artists (Italian architects and sculptors, German decorators, etc.) to create the splendid Renaissance palace-cum-castle which survived, little changed, till now.
We were blessed with lovely warm weather for our entire trip and enjoyed wandering around the grounds, drinking in Polish history. We had a highly enthusiastic and very helpful guide for some parts of the Castle visit and then, for the State Apartments, a hilariously fierce one who whizzed us round at lightning speed without giving us time to look at anything and glared sternly at the three very well-behaved small children in the group, hissing at their rather posh English parents to control them, even though they were being perfectly good. She also seemed to take pride in telling us all the least interesting things she could think of. “Ziz building,” she barked, “has been restored by the Polish government so ze plasterwork is 11 years old.” (Hmm. We have some paintwork in our house as old as that. Should we start giving guided tours?) “Zeese pots” – she pointed to some nice blue and white jars on shelves on the wall – “are very cheap imitations of Chinese porcelain.”
When I blogged about our trip to Rome, people asked for fantastic food experiences (which didn’t stretch beyond margherita pizzas for a vegetarian like me). So I made more effort this time. Wawel Castle has a very nice outdoor café which sold us cake.
Daughter 2 and I decided to share a piece of “fruit cake” between us. It arrived on two plates and even a half portion was amazingly substantial. It wasn’t what we would have called fruit cake but it was delicious, in a sort of school-dinner-trifle sort of way: jelly, sponge and artificial cream with a few sultanas scattered on the top. This sounds horrid but it was quite yum. If you like school dinners.
The central courtyard of the Castle, which isn’t actually falling over as it looks in my photo, is very large and impressive.