Sunday June 15, 2008, Krakow Poland. Today it was overcast and cool all day. A welcome change from the hotter huimid days. I started the day at one of the main Tourist Information offices just outside the railroad station. I asked about 3 things that I thought about seeing in the city. 1) The Jewish section, 2) a planetarium and observatory, and 3) the sights of the city one should see in a remaining day in Krakow.
The term Jewish section, at least as I can determine, is a bit of a misnomer. While there was a large Jewish population before WW II, 90% of these people were killed. A majority of those remaining emigrated to other countries after the war. Now, although there are remnants of Jewish life -- 3 or 4 synagogues -- I was unable to ascertain how many Jews actually live here. Probably very few. There was an interesting newspaper article in an English language Krakow publication saying that, while there are hopes of a revitalization of the Jewish Section, not enough Jews are here to make it happen.
But, I did visit the Jewish section, called Kazimierz. I was able to find three synagogues. These are old buildings, one of the dating back to the 13th Century. A couple of them seemed to function as houses of worship, but during the week they were more like museums. I didn't see any of the grandure of those in Vienna and other parts of Europe. I inquired about a guided tour and found it would be very expensive because it would be a one-on-one. So, I bought a book of walking tours and spent about 2 hours looking around Kazimierz.
While I had taken the street car to Kazimierz, I decided to walk back to the city square. On the way, I stopped at Wawel Castle. It's a beautiful group of buildings that, at one time, was home of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Further along, I happened onto Kanonicza Street near the castle, The street is the last of the main road that leads to the gate of Wawel Castle. It is full of beautiful shops, hotels, horse-drawn carriages (now giving tourists rides), a museum or two and, of course, a church.
Along the way there were lots of cute shops, bistros, clubs, bars and attractions. Krakow is a beautiful city, and as mentioned earlier, not what I expected. There is an old world feel to it while it also embraces many features of the west. The Grand Square, while my hostel is situated, it also the site of the Bascilia of the Virgin Mary. The building dates back to 1478.
By around 3 p.m. I was pretty tired and decided to call it quits for the day. I went to the train station and bought a reservation to Warsaw tomorrow. I have a Eurail pass, but depending on the train, I'm charged a "supplement". In this case it was 5 Zlottys, about $2.50. I have a 9:55 a.m. train. I'm planning on spending 2 nights in Warsaw and then go on to Berlin. As Jennifer is joining me in Amsterdam on the 23rd, I plan to be there on the 22nd to get the lay of the land. That'll be a perfect ending to this 2 month adventure in and around Europe.