6 October 2006

Cracow

Here are some long-awaited photos of Cracow. These were mostly taken by Kate, as I was concentrating on film-based B&W pictures on this trip. Apologies once again for the length of this post, which has as usual taken several days to compile. Here it downloads in a matter of seconds, but no doubt everywhere else it will take at least the time it takes to make a cup of tea. Good luck!

Some general photos to begin with...

Rynek Główny (the largest square in Europe) and St. Mary's church.

Romantic carriage-ride through the city at night.

Church by night, with passing tram.

View of the city from inside the Castle.









The Castle

The Castle at Wawel Hill is very impressive, containing a large number of towers and the Cathedral. This was the first part of Cracow to be settled, and parts of this site go back to the 10th century, or even earlier. The site is on a hill on a bend in the river and naturally overlooks the whole floodplain and the city. The heyday of the Castle was in the seventeenth century, when most of the impressive apartments were constructed. The place was much-abused during the Austro-Hungarian regime in the 19th century, but has subsequently been restored to its former glory. A lot of very good quality work was done in the 1920s in the first flush of Poland's new nationhood.

Looking across the outer courtyard towards the cathedral.

Inside the impress- ively arcaded inner courtyard

Climbing the bell tower - a rickety wooden structure inside a brick tower!

Rather blurry photo of part of the interior of the cathedral.















Around the old town

The main town of Cracow was laid out in the 12th and 13th centuries on quite a regular grid plan, with the main street running from the Castle to the main square. This enormous square, Rynek Główny, measures 200m by 200m and contains some impressive buildings - including the medieval Cloth Hall and St Mary's church. The square is surrounded by cafes and eateries which are relatively expensive and snooty, compared to the various delightful and cheap places in the sidestreets.

Arcade of the Cloth Hall, built in the 14th century. The main businesses here now are those selling tourist trinkets.

The tower of the old Town Hall stands in the main square (the rest of the building was demolished in the 19th century).












Probably the most impressive building in the main square is St. Mary's church. The exterior is of brick (in Flemish Bond!), and incorporates two towers. From one of these towers a bugler plays a short call every hour. Sadly we were unable to climb the tower as it was closed in September. The exterior, however lovely it might be, does not prepare you for the multi-coloured glory of the interior...

View of the church from the City Museum.

This is what churches in England will have looked like before the reform- ation.





Around the outside of the old town runs a continuous ring of parkland known as the Planty. This actually follows the line of the original medieval fortifications and ditches. Only part of the original fortifications survive, in the form of the city gate and the Barbican outside it...

The old city gate

Inside the barbican

Just outside the Planty is the old market...

With many and various mush- rooms!









Kazimierz

Kazimierz was originally a seperate city, founded by the eponymous King in the early middle ages. Gradually it was absorbed into Cracow and became the main focus of the city's Jewish community. For most of post-medieval history the Jewish population was about 25% of the overall population of the city, most of them living here. Kazimierz has a nice feel to it, being on a smaller and more intimate scale than the rest of Cracow.

The old synagogue















This row of 'shop fronts' in fact turned out to be an excellent restaurant. Reconstructed in the style of four original Jewish shops, each part of the interior restaurant reflecting the different shops of the exterior. Needless to say Kate managed to ensure that we sat in the tailor's shop! We came upon it by accident on a Friday night (it was not in our guidebook), although subsequently discovered that it has had rave reviews. We just wandered in and had a very tasty meal. It is called 'Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz', and is well worth a visit. To our surprise, about halfway through the meal these guys (below) came in and provided an interesting selection of Jazz music which we washed down with Galician wine.

Swotting up, whilst awaiting the first course.

"Nice."













More food and other bits and bobs

Cracow has a really lovely atmosphere, very relaxed and friendly. We sampled various items of local cuisine, including much Vodka with our archaeological colleagues from the conference (detailed on a separate page).

Happiness in the vodka bar

Self-heating Hungarian soup for lunch!









On our last night we went for a meal which included this delightful starter of black pudding with apple sauce. The pudding itself was much less compact than the English version, very crumbly and with gritty inclusions. It was also quite spicy and very rich.

Yum yum.













I must also mention the Hotel Saski, where we stayed. This was a nice hotel, with reasonable food and qiute good service on the whole. Its main assets were being literally 50 metres from the main town square, and having a fantastic old-fashioned lift.

Slightly drunk person in the lift.
















Obviously I haven't mentioned much about the conference but never mind, suffice to say it was very good in fact. Looking at this blog it is amazing to see how much of the city we actually did see, as we were conscientiously attending the conference for most of the time! Finally, a view of the Polish countryside from the journey home. Very linear settlements and long strip fields, reminiscent of medieval English field systems. The tradition of small-scale private ownership remained intact in Poland, there was no collectivisation of agriculture during the communist period, and the landscape reflects that.

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