If Wawel Castle is for Poles what Prague Castle is for Czechs, then we can easily compare the Main Square in Krakow (Rynek Glowny) to Wenceslas Square in Prague. It is the beating heart of the city. There are several important monuments, like the 14th-century Basilica of Saint Mary with a magnificent 13m-high carved altar, the 70m gothic Town Hall Tower, the 16th-century historical marketplace, or the monument of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. But there are also ample shopping and dining opportunities. Or you can just walk about. Before Christmas, the square hosts the popular markets. Our “secret tip” is the underground. Three or four metres under the surface of the square, you can admire 4,000 sq. m of an interactive exhibition entitled “Following the traces of European identity of Kraków” about the history of the city and its ties with European trading centres. There are medieval tools, coins, ceramic figures, decorations, dice or personal care items used more than 600 years ago. There are also Tatar arrow tips or oriental beads and medallions.
The long tours of the monuments of Krakow might make you hungry. If you prefer something quick, try one of the restaurants of the chain Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa (Vodka and Beer Drinking Facility). Where else can you taste Lolek, spicy Bolek or Rumcajs. These are the names of the sandwiches there… The names of local “shots” are just as intriguing – for just a few złotys, you can taste a Mad Dog, Cape, Flavoured Icicle or Chernobyl. If you want to enjoy your meal somewhat longer, perhaps having some culture along your food and drink, check out the Jazz Club U Muniaka, next to the basilica.
Krakow itself has a lot to offer. We have not yet mentioned the remains of the town fortifications (called Barbakan), the Florian Gate, the Church of St. Wojciech or the Czartoryski Museum where you can admire Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine. But it would be a shame not to venture outside the limits of the town. You can visit one of the oldest salt mines in the world in Wieliczka, just southeast of the city. Its history reaches as far back as the 13th century, and it was added on the World Heritage List in 1978. Mining ceased just a few years ago. There are an astonishing 300 km of tunnels. The route accessible for tourists is only 3,5 km long and presents the history of salt mining, as well as statues of historical and mythological characters carved into salt blocks, an underground lake, halls, a chapel, a restaurant and even a hotel! The mines are sometimes nicknamed the “Salt Cathedral”.
Text: Petr Manuel Ulrych
The article is to be find in magazine of Leo Express.