I had first come to Kraków on business in 2000, the same year Kraków was named a European Capital of Culture. It was winter and bitter cold with a light dusting of snow softening the sounds of what was already a quiet medieval off-season town that hadn’t found its tourist stride yet. I didn’t think much about traveling to Poland when I left on the trip, but I left vowing to return someday. I distinctly remember my first serving of crimson borscht, the comfort of fresh pierogis, the sharp bite of kielbasa with mustard, the sour pucker of a sauerkraut salad, and the hot sweetness of a Grzane Piwo or two.
I loved my short time in Kraków and knew Tawny would love it too. As I had been here on business I didn’t have a chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and I felt my trip was incomplete. I vowed to return someday. And that day started today.
We arrived in Kraków early in the morning thanks to the ungodly hour of a Ryanair flight from Berlin. Luckily our Airbnb (Newcastle – Luxury Old Town Apartment) was ready and waiting for us. It couldn’t have been more conveniently located just steps from St. Mary’s Basilica with a view of the Wawel Castle. It was our first stop. Unfortunately, we found that the famous St. Mary’s Alter by Veit Stoss was currently being restored and wasn’t viewable. But we could hear the hourly golden bugle playing from our room from early morning until late into the night.
After viewing St. Mary’s we split up to explore more of Kraków. Clara and West headed to one side of Market Square (the largest medieval square in Europe) and we the other. We entered the Sukiennice (once the global center of international trade, now more a touristy set of indoor booths selling trinkets to the tourists) to expore treasures like amber from the Baltic Sea, carved wooden boxes, pisanki, and a variety of other souvenirs. We bought a few keepsakes and then strolled the square exploring up and down side streets within what was once a well-fortified walled city.
As we relaxed into the day at a sidewalk cafe Clara and West contacted us. They suggseted a bar for us to meet at on the way to Kazimierz – The Jewish Quarter. We caught up with each other and decided to find nearby Record Dillaz!!! record store to see if we could find some items on our list before dinner. Tawny found a somewhat rare original pressing of Prince’s first album in great shape and added it to our collection.
We then found Alchemia, a vegan and vegetarian-friendly bar, and restaurant that looked good. Unfortunately, for all the health consciousness on the menu, the thick haze from the smokers left us choking as we tried to find a table. We couldn’t find one, and we couldn’t take the smoke. We headed next door to the restaurant only version where we could enjoy some interesting variations on hummus dishes before heading back to our apartment. We had a long day planned for tomorrow with an early tour out to Auschwitz-Birkenau followed by the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and we wanted to get our rest for would prove to be a somber and emotionally draining day.