Visiting Poland; The ex-capital Krakow
Poland has built up quite a reputation for itself; particularly in Britain. For some reason people regard it as a country trapped in its past; and a horrific one at that. With its “Eastern European” label western society forgets that Poland is one of the most vibrant and beautiful countries in Europe as well as being a country at the focal point of global history.
For a tourist, Poland is the optimum destination for people with a low budget and an interest in a historic country where history and culture walk hand in hand. For security, that is not getting lost in its endless farmland and having a focus point for your trip, it is a good idea to visit a city in Poland. And what better city to visit than the beautiful ex-capital Krakow.
A Brief History
Krakow has always been a centre of artistic and cultural charisma and has a history bathed in economic importance. It was the capital from 1038 to 1596 and after the Nazi invasion of Poland became the capital of Germanys General Government. In 1978 the cities entire Old Town was granted the title of a World Heritage Site.
Krakow and Auschwitz
From personal experience I know that Krakow is a beautiful place to visit where not only did I feel safe, but I felt pretty happy (cliché I know). I visited the city as a 16 year old on a school trip and came away from the city sure to remember the city for a lifetime.
The most dominating attraction in Krakow’s centre is the main Market Square looked over by the majestic St Marys Basilica. From this beautiful church sounds a trumpet call on the hour during the day, a fitting welcome to a city with a history washed in war and nationalism. From this square is the opportunity for endless days spent meandering the streets and beautiful buildings built around it. The market is a feat in itself. Situated within a long central building in the square, the market resembles a long tube following the line of the building with market stalls built into the walls at each side selling all manner of arts and crafts bathed in the yellow glow of hanging lights that send you back into Poland’s medieval past. One stall vender sells beautiful hand crafted chess sets for low prices, a momentum worthy of your visit to this artistic city. Outside the market interior stand majestic buildings and a dominating tower that it is possible to walk up at certain times in the day for an awe inspiring view of Krakow Old Town.
A recommended activity is to climb onboard one of the ornate horse drawn carriages that are situated in Krakow’s market square. These carriages take you on a tour around the most attractive areas of the old town where it is possible to get a real feel off the history that Krakow is steeped in. Another attraction is the huge Wawel Castle that sits on a hill overlooking the old town. Entertainers surround the castle and it is possible to take a look around the stunning building observing the old courtyards and a beautiful church situated right next to the castle gates.
A short bus journey from the city of Krakow is the menacing Auschwitz compound. For an insight into the darkest times of Poland’s recent history a trip to Auschwitz is recommended as it is important to remember the crimes of the past so that they will not be repeated in the future. With easily accessible guided tours by English speaking guides and a respectful gift shop selling memoirs of the prisoners, Auschwitz is both harrowing but greatly insightful. Open access to the three compounds that are known in general as Auschwitz is available.
Overall Krakow and the country it is situated within are beautiful places with enjoyable attractions. Visiting is a pleasant experience with the welcome from the cities inhabitants being a pleasant surprise. Auschwitz is harrowing but important to visit and the city of Krakow is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits.