Krakow - Poland’s Second Largest City - The Traveller


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Krakow - Poland’s Second Largest City

Poland’s second largest city, Krakow, is a historic and visual gem covering both banks of the Wisla or Vistual River. At the foot of the Carpathian Mountains lies the metropolitan area which has over 1.4 million inhabitants and the city has grown from Stone Age settlement to the most important city of Poland. On Wawel Hill, it began as a hamlet and was reported as a trading center of Slavonic Europe in 965. Krakow reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre with the establishment of new universities as well as cultural venues at emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and through the 20th century. As the royal capital for over 500 years, this city has absorbed plenty of history as well as talent through the centuries and is presently a treasure trove of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Krakow’s centerpiece and the most sought after attraction site, is the Wawel Castle where most of the tourist find themselves drawn towards the Old Town with its soaring Gothic churches and gargantuan Rynek Glowny or the Main Market Square which is the largest in the nation. Outside the Old Town are the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz and its silent synagogues, reflect the tragedy of the past.

A Centre of Science, Art and Culture in Poland

Krakow is blessed with attractions and diversion of a modern variety with a good number of restaurants, music clubs and bars, tucked in its narrow alleyways. Krakow has been the centre of science, art and culture in Poland for over a thousand years and has plenty of attraction in store for the visitor. Wawel Castle is a symbol of national identity and this Renaissance palace was built in the 16th century, the original being smaller was built by King Boleslaw Chrobry in the early 11th century besides the dedicated chapel to the Virgin Mary. Kazimierz III Wielki had turned it into a Gothic castle and when burnt down in 1499, Zygmunt I Stary had commissioned the new residence. The current palace was restored back in place within 30 years, designed by Italian architects and inspite of further extensions and alteration, this three storey structure has been preserved till date complete with a courtyard arcaded on three sides. Most of the coronations, entombments and funerals of Poland’s monarchs and well known personalities over the centuries were conducted in this cathedral. As one wanders through this monument, it seems like a tour through Polish history with many outstanding artist leaving behind a wealth of magnificent work of art which has made this cathedral an amazing artistic achievement as well as Poland’s spiritual sanctuary.

Famous Ultra Deep Salt Mine

Southeast of Krakow’s city centre, some 14 kms, is Wieliczka, famous for their ultra deep salt mine which is operational for 700 years. Everything within its depth has been done by hand from salt blocks and it has an eerie world of pits and chambers. Moreover this mine has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978. The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady also known in those parts as the Mariacki or St. Mary’s Church overlooks the Rynek from the northeast side where the first church built on this site was in 1220 and was oriented eastward. After its destruction during the Tatar raids, its construction of the basilica began with the foundation of the previous church.

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