Episode 8 : Europe 2016 - Our Day in KrakówThis is the 8th post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic. Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of images from our day in Kraków.
I always enjoy my time in Poland, a fact which my wife — who is actually from Poland — finds terrifically baffling. I suppose I’m not a big fan of my hometown either, and would find it strange to hear from anybody who traveled out of their way to visit Taunton, Massachusetts. Okay, it’s pretty bizarre, come to think of it. I don’t care, I really enjoy Poland.
I particularly fell in love with Kraków when I first visited the city in 2001, freshly engaged to Pausha and abroad for the first time in my life. I spent a month kicking around with her in Warsaw, though my role was largely to distract her from the work she was supposed to be doing. I had a second-hand copy of James Michener’s Poland and I had already read Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw by Norman Davies. Where the subject of Poland was concerned I was fascinated, and still am.
A Brief (and pilfered) History:
The earliest known settlement on the present site of Kraków was established on Wawel Hill, and dates back to the 4th century. Legend attributes the town’s establishment to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a ravenous dragon, Smok Wawelski. Many knights unsuccessfully attempted to oust the dragon by force, but instead, Krakus fed it a poisoned lamb, which killed the dragon. The city was free to flourish. Dragon bones, most likely that of mammoth, are displayed at the entrance of the Wawel Cathedral.
Before the Polish state had been formed, Kraków was the capital of the tribe of Vistulans, subjugated for a short period by Great Moravia. After Great Moravia was destroyed by the Hungarians, Kraków became part of the kingdom of Bohemia. The first appearance of the city’s name in historical records dates back to 966 (!!), when a Sephardi Jewish traveller, Abraham ben Jacob, described Kraków as a notable commercial centre under the rule of the then duke of Bohemia; and mentioned the Baptism of Prince Mieszko I as the first historical ruler of Poland. Mieszko took Kraków from Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.
Back to the Story
Kazdyn and I only had a few days in Poland this summer and we kept quite busy. I’ve already written about our time in Katowice, visiting Auschwitz, and the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle. We had one day set aside to drive into Kraków and the weather gods smiled upon us.
We drove into Kraków and parked up on Wawel Hill, which offers access to an incredible view of the Wisła River and to Wawel Castle itself, so we started there. I’ve been to Wawel now 4 times and it always looks different to me, being as it is in a near-constant state of renovation and modernization. It’s sort of fun to go back through my photos over the years, especially one series of images I’ve taken of Pausha sitting in the same spot. On this trip we didn’t have Pausha with us so Kazdyn graciously stood in for her.
From Wawel we worked out way down the hill towards the Old Town
There’s a lot to be seen on all of the little side streets and alleys and we hit them all. I then dragged poor Kazdyn around for a half hour looking for my favorite restaurant, which I couldn’t find as they didn’t have their trademark wooden statue outside holding its menu.
The restaurant is called Chłopskie jadło, which means, simply, “peasant food.” Really. And it’s so good!
From there we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, occasionally stopping for a beer and to rest up. It was a hot day and we grew tired pretty quickly. It had been my intention to stay into the evening and shoot the city at night, but we both were pretty tired after 2 solid weeks of non-stop shooting and we elected instead to head back to Katowice for dinner and some late-night shooting there after a nap.
Here are some images from our day in Kraków and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.
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