Thursday, June 28, 2012

Krakow, part 3

The following day, the sun made an appearance and we were able to shed our jackets thanks to temps in the low 70s.  We were footloose and fancy free since I hadn't arranged for a tour guide.  After breakfast in the hotel's kinda creepy but really cool renovated cellar - the little one gobbled up her warm crepes with nutella - we decided to hit a few spots not covered in our tour with Anna.

We walked from our hotel through the market square to see the only remaining section of the city's walls.  

We walked beneath St. Florian's tower (center pic above) to see the old barbican, a fortified outpost originally connected to the city walls back when it was built around 1500.  You can't tell it here, but the city walls are about 10 feet thick to keep out those pesky invaders.

Then we walked back to the market square so we could check out St. Mary's basilica with its distinctive twin towers that don't match in either height or design.  It's famous for two things - a massive wooden altarpiece and tower trumpeter.  

Since picture taking wasn't allowed in the basilica, I had to borrow a pic of the amazing altar from the web.  At the designated time, a nun came out to make an announcement and then she used a long pole to open the side panels, revealing all of the beautiful interior carving.  

I also took a pic of the doors on the entryway with their carved heads - interesting detail that caught my attention.

Every hour, at the top of the taller tower, a trumpeter plays a tune that breaks off in mid-song to commemorate the 13th century soldier playing a trumpet to warn of an impending Mongol attack when an arrow shot him in the throat.  A rather gruesome tribute, but sweet that it happens every day like clockwork.

We enjoyed a second meal at Hawelka on the square, entertained by the antics of the Euro Cup football (soccer to us Americans) fans.  There was a group of six drinking quite heavily in the outside dining area where we all had a great view of the square.  After getting really loud and obnoxious, ordering yet another bottle of booze which they proceeded to toss at each other and then breaking some of the restaurant's glassware, they were asked to leave.  I didn't have a good look at these rowdy folks until they all got up to leave and was a bit surprised to discover that they appeared to be in their 30s... surely a bit beyond the frat boy behavior.  They were already sloshed at 1:00 pm, so I hope they slowed down their consumption so they wouldn't be passed out cold by the time the game finally started that evening.

At the outside seating area of the restaurant adjacent to us, we watched the activities of some English football fans.  They proudly displayed their flag on some scaffolding and then broke into song and chants several times.  No flying booze and broken glass, which was good since this group looked to be in their 50s.

After lunch, we did a bit of shopping in the old cloth hall (pictured below with the little one).  I got a small piece of Polish pottery and some postcards as well as the obligatory magnet since I collect them.

We returned to the hotel to drop off our shopping loot and then had the concierge call a taxi to take us to the museum housed in Oskar Schindler's factory.  Below I included a pic of the entrance plaque as well as gate.

You don't get a big dose of the holocaust while touring the museum.  However, you do get a good feel for what life was like for the Jewish as well as non-Jewish residents of the city after the Nazis invaded in September 1939.  My favorite part of the tour was the videos of locals who worked in Schindler's factory - so interesting to hear their first hand accounts of life during the occupation.

For supper we ate at Miod Malina, a Polish and Italian fusion restaurant that was quite good - nice but not so nice that we felt out of place with the girls in tow.  The girls and I enjoyed fabulous salads and shrimp while the husband ordered borscht and golumpki, which are meat stuffed cabbage rolls baked in a tomato sauce.  It's a traditional Polish dish he just had to try.

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