As a rule, wherever I globetrot, I try to live as the locals do. They’ve got many years of knowledge on me and I can’t beat that. The same applies with where they choose to holiday when they’re doing it on their own turf. Cue Krakow, where for eons, Polish natives have been flocking to for a cultural fix. These days, the city which originated in the Stone Age, attracts more national and international visitors than any other city in the country. These people are keen to soak up some of that history. And so it was that I ended up in Heathrow terminal 5 with my best friend in tow boarding the plane to mydestination.com/Krakow.
Shortly after arriving in the country we hailed a taxi to our hotel which was located on a quaint, quiet street just south of the main square. Driving through the magical Stare Miasto (the Old Town) was an architectural visual treat as we were whisked passed stunning Baroque, Renaissance and looming Gothic buildings. Like Prague, Krakow has come through unscathed by war and as a result has retained much of its original medieval setting.
After dropping our bags off, we went for a stroll along the Old Town’s main square which is home to some 6,000 historic sites and more than 2 million works of art. Along the town’s main thoroughfare are paintings, sculptures, churches and theatres to explore as you wish and which illustrate the depth and diversity of the various ethnicities and faith.
The city’s piece de resistance is The Wawel Royal Castle; perched on a hilltop and looming impressively over the Old Town, the castle served as Poland’s political and cultural centre for hundreds of years until the end of the 16th Century. The palace is steeped in history and if you’ve only got a couple of days to spare then The Wawel will satisfy all your history and art cravings. Interestingly, some people believe that the castle is built on one of the world’s main centres of spiritual energy and visit with the intention of restoring their energies!
Another trip highlight was our visit to Lanckovona, an impeccably preserved 19th Century village where many painters and poets travel to in search of a tranquil environment and some inspiration. The ruins of a castle emerge from the trees and a superb view over the Beskidy Mountains stretches from the market square.
Most evenings were spent weaving our way around the Old Town and there are a plethora of bars and restaurants available to suit all tastes. Our favourite was Gruzinskie Chaczapuri, which serves everything from grills and salads to more local fare such as cheese pie, perfect after a long day of sight-seeing.
Monica Adorno is a snowsports writer living and working in London. She spent her university days hitchhiking across Central America and South East Asia. She plans to conquer Mount Everest and marry explorer Bruce Parry!