We arrived in Kraków in the early evening.
The next day (December 3) we went to the Kraków Jewish
Ghetto. 27% of the prewar
population was Jewish - virtually all died in the war. Only a small
section of the wall that the Germans built around the ghetto
factory is still a working factory.
Facts from our guide: At the start of WWII,
the city population was 300,000, currently it is 800,000. Kraków
was the capital of Poland until 1596. There was little damage to
the city in or after WWII. The Kraków City
Wall, that surrounds
the Old Town, has 47 towers. The moat was filled in and trees
planted so now a nice park surrounds the Old Town. Although buses,
taxis and trucks aren't allowed on the Old Town streets, cars are.
Old Town is nice but being 2.5 miles from our hotel, too far to
walk in the cold (although we did walk it once). We visited the Old Town
three times in three days. They had a great Christmas market in
the Market Square (the center of Kraków life for more than 700
years). In the square was St. Mary's
Basilica and in its tower,
every hour, a bugler played while turning to the four compass points. Inside the church was the awesome
Wit Stwosz altar that we were allowed to see being opened (done
daily). It's the largest altar of its kind in Europe.
Also in the square is Draper's Hall now used by local artisans.
On the north side of the Old Town was the Barbican,
the most important part of Kraków's fortified medieval walls.
The Barbican is the largest structure of its kind in Europe. The
construction was started at the end of the 15th century.
In the same vicinity is Walwel Castle which we
toured and the Cathedral where former Cardinal Wojtyla (now Pope John
Paul II) preached and where all
the Polish kings are buried.
About 15 km outside of Kraków we visited the Wieliczka Salt
Mine, in production for
almost 1000 years, producing about 700 tons of pure salt per day. We descended 490 feet
in a three-tier small elevator to see some sculptures of figures
and a cathedral area - all carved from salt. Amazing. There
are over 150 miles of tunnels and more than 2000 caverns on nine main
levels. Afterwards we ate dinner at a
local restaurant that served soup in a bread
bowl. All quite tasty.
Next day tour of Auschwitz
Our last day in Kraków consisted of returning to the Old Town and
attending a lecture at the Collegium Maius, the oldest university
building in Poland dating from the year 1400. Our tour group was
the first group of the year to have a lecture on the Golden Age of Polish Culture and Art
Professor Rawel Pencakowski took us into a beautiful wood
paneled room where the lecture was given. Most of us found it
quite boring. We then walked to the Jagiellonian
University Museum which is not often visited by tourists. We were wondering why we had to be
there exactly at 1100. It was then we saw the famous clock with the
moving Polish kings.
The museum had items from the time of Copernicus and
some astronomical instruments from the 1480s. Very impressive.
Some of us sat in the professor' s lectern in a great
That evening at dinner we participated in some folk music and
On December 6, St. Nicholas Day, we were off to Prague - 370 miles south.
Some pictures at the Poland - Czech