Poland

Poland

Feature Photo: Zapiekanka, a toasted open-faced baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese (or any number of optional add-ons), is the most popular street food in Kraków, utterly scrumptious. The rotunda in the middle of Plac Nowy is packed with zapiekanka vendors, but the best of the bunch is Endzior (Plac Nowy; 48-12-429-3754; endzior.eu), description of zapiekanka adapted from New York Times, “36 Hours in Kraków,” September 29, 2011.

Market and St. Mary's Church

Main Market Square and St. Mary’s Basilica

Kraków

The historic center of Kraków, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 13th-century merchants’ town has Europe’s largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces, and churches. Since this city escaped being bombed during the Second World War, remnants of the 14th-century fortifications and the medieval site of Kazimierz with its ancient synagogues in the southern part of town, Jagellonian University, and St. Mary’s Basilica, the Gothic cathedral where the kings of Poland were buried, on the Main Market Square all remain intact.

Hotel Copernicus

Luxurious, commodious, welcoming hotel right below Wawel Royal Castle, formerly a monastery with distinctive architecture and great creature comforts.

Restaurants

  • Restauracja Farina, ul. sw. Marka 16 (rog sw. Jana), restauracja@farina.com.pl , a delightful, contemporary restaurant with delicious fresh fish
  • The restaurant at the Copernicus is outstanding, an intimate space with just a few tables and personal attention from the talented chef who offers tasting menus with five, seven, or twelve courses, all delicious. The five-course menu—interspersed with surprises from the imaginative chef—is very satisfying.
  • Marmolada – Restauracja is a charming restaurant with delicious Polish cuisine, very lovely decor and pleasant waitstaff

Private Walking Tour

Alicja Zioto was an excellent tour guide arranged by JayWay Travel.

Sights

  • Main Market Square
    • Market with several booths specializing in amber, attractive and well-priced; I got a beautiful raw amber necklace for my sister
    • The market has several stalls specializing in leather goods, with additional leather goods shops nearby; we got soft leather wallets with lots of handy compartments for our son and son-in-law
    • Right outside the market, facing the square, is a marvelous gift shop, Ziomek, www.ziomek.net, biuro@ziomek.net, with a wide variety of gift items, especially for children.  I got my eldest granddaughter a lovely diary (she is an ardent diarist), my two younger granddaughters charming bracelets, and my little grandson a painted wooden horse with a mane and wheels—all loved by their recipients
    • St. Mary’s Basilica, where at noon a trumpet player appears at a high window to play music
    • Horse-drawn carriages waiting to take passengers for a ride around Old Kraków
    • Flower market
  • Kazimierz, the remnants of the Jewish neighborhood, with old synagogues and kosher restaurants, as well as the house where Helena Rubinstein, the cosmetics magnate, once lived (now a hotel)
  • Zapiekanki stands with delicious open sandwiches for which Poland is well known
Handmade necklaces from Gołogórski Galeria

Handmade necklaces from Gołogórski Galeria

  • Gołogórski Galeria, Grodzka 29, www.gologorski.com, is an amazing shop owned by a sculptor, Marian Gołogórski, who designs and crafts marvelous, creative jewelry; I purchased the two colorful, handmade necklaces shown above at a very affordable price

 

St. Mary's Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica

 

Horse & Buggy Drivers Waiting for Passengers

Horse & Buggy Drivers Waiting for Passengers

 

Flower Market, Main Market Square

Flower Market, Main Market Square

 

Wreaths at Flower Market, Main Market Square

Wreaths at Flower Market, Main Market Square

 

Bagel Vendor

Bagel Vendor (obwarzanek, Polish bagels)

“The first written records of the bagel date to the year 1610 [possibly as early as the 14th century]. They showed up then in the community regulations of the Polish city of Kraków, which dictated that bagels were to be given as a gift to women after childbirth. Back in medieval Poland, their round shape led to the belief that bagels had magical powers.” (Ari Weinzweig, The Atlantic, March 26, 2009.)

Hotel Copernicus           Hotel Copernicus (red brick building on the right)

 

Tasting Menu, Copernicus Restaurant

Tasting Menu, Copernicus Restaurant

 

View of the Danube River from Wawel Castle

View of the Vistula River from Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

 

View of Krakow Street from the Castle

View of Kraków Street from Wawel Castle

 

Bride and Groom at Wawel Castle

Bride and Groom at Wawel Castle

 

Professors' Garden, Jagiellonian University, Established 1364

Professors’ Garden, Jagiellonian University, Established 1364

 

Scene for Schindler's ListScene from Schindler’s List

Old Jewish Cemetery

Old Jewish Cemetery

 

Auschwitz (outside Kraków)

In all, 1.1 million people died during the four and a half years of Auschwitz’s existence; one million of them were Jewish men, women and children. Other groups of people who died included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsy families, homosexuals, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience or religious faith (including several hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses). More people died in Auschwitz than the British and American losses of World War Two combined. Auschwitz has become a powerful tourist attraction, with 2.0 million visitors expected this year.  As a result, the guided tour of the camp is crowded and rushed, though the quality of the guides is excellent.  The camp itself has been restored substantially since, according to our knowledgeable guide, the Germans rushed to destroy the evidence of their atrocities as the Russian Army advanced on Poland.  The camp feels somewhat sanitized, though no attempt to hide what occurred there is made.  I would recommend visiting another camp such as Dachau in Bavaria, Germany, or Terezín Memorial north of Prague.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz, Confiscated Shoes

Travel Agent

JayWay Travel, Central & Eastern European Vacation Specialists: www.jaywaytravel.com

Contact: Carmine Matarazzo
JayWay Travel Inc.
+1 914 500 8912
carmine@jaywaytravel.com
Central Europe Destination Manager: Nataly Karimova
With her educational background in hospitality and tourism and Prague guide training, Nataly is the perfect fit for her combined duties as Destination Manager and local representative for JayWay’s Central European destinations. Part of the JayWay team since 2012 and based in Prague for a decade, Nataly is originally from the Ukraine and has deep local knowledge of the city as well as the region in general. Nataly provided guidance for our entire Central Europe trip, including seasoned guides, automobile transportation with experienced drivers between places, and tips on sightseeing and restaurants. A skillful driver, Petr, drove us from Budapest to Krakow.

We engaged Adam Czopek, Auschwitz-Krakow.com, +48 530 901 101, office@auschwitz-krakow.com for our travel from Kraków to Auschwitz.  Our careful, knowledgeable driver was Mateusz Kowalczyk, whose father is the Mayor of his town.

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