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Posts tagged ‘Jagiellonian University’

A weekend in Kraków | Day 3 – Stars and studies in an enlightened city

The problem with long weekends is, they’re not actually all that long. True, they extend the usual concept of an all-too-short weekend by a day or two, but two nights spent away is just over too quickly. Such were my thoughts as I arose on this third and final day (more of a half day really) in the incredible city of Kraków, and dragged myself away, kicking and screaming from the sensational panorama over the Rynek Główny , a view which I had been enjoying from our hotel room with such a passion over the previous 48 hours.

But within that view and outwards into the city beyond, there remained much to see before we faced the inevitable flight home. First up was to head inside the centrepiece of the square which, up until now, I had only gazed at longingly from the outside. The Mariacka Basilica is a masterpiece from the outside; its gothic spire topped with majestic spiked crown completed with golden balls and glimmering details. But the majesty does not end there. The inside of the church is a thing of such splendour that it cannot fail to take your breath away. The gothic architecture, so often left austere, has been painted a rainbow panoply of colours – in between red and green striped ceiling ribs, the stone vaults sparkle with golden stars set within a midnight blue sky; on the walls and columns, every surface is painted with rich patterns and interlaced with more sparkling gold; and through the colourful stained glass, light gleams and glimmers in the space, bringing the multi-coloured abundance of colourful décor to life. The most annoying thing of all was the ban on photography – but as you can see, that went somewhat ignored, as I began photographing surreptitiously (hence the rather questionable quality of the shots!).

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Feeling, as a result of this daring contravention of the Mariacka rules, a little revolutionary, it seemed only appropriate that the next point of call was the café Cukiernia Noworolski, in the arched porticos of the Cloth Hall, where Stalin himself used to sit and sip a coffee while admiring the view which he is claimed to have saved from Communist destruction (we could otherwise have been looking at a panorama of decaying factories and cramped pre-fab residential blocks)…But after one coffee sat in the same spot, I could easily see why the once leader’s heart of iron was just a little melted by this view – a perfect vista of the Mariacki towers, and the best vantage point to see the windows open and the hejnalista poke his trumpet out on the tolling of each hour. But with those hours ticking onwards and our flight home uncomfortably close, we could not linger. For from the starry skies of the mariacki to the starry heights of Kraków’s enlightenment, we still had its university and its elegant theatrical quarter to explore.

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For Kraków is a city visibly proud of its rich cultural and educational heritage. In the centre of the Rynek Główny stands a statue of Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, surrounded by some of the most famous characters from his tales, while just east of the square, the pleasant leafy district enclosed by the semi circular “planty” park, enveloping the city in its green embrace, also includes yet further examples of Kraków’s elegant artistic offerings – it’s stunning copper roofed Teatr im J Słowackiego, the beautiful gold plated grecian-styled Palace of Fine Arts, and then beyond the seat of enlightenment itself – the Jagiellonian University.

Mickiewicz, the theatre and the Palace of Fine Arts

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The university is one of the oldest in Europe and can lay claim to an impressive alumni: Nicolaus Copernicus and Wisława Szymborska (Nobel laureate prize winner) studied here, the former Pope John Paul II, and of course, most important of all, my partner studied there too. So with him as my guide, I was led into the heart of this ancient university, the tourist circuit centring in the oldest core – the Collegium Maius, with its old yet pristine gothic arches, open cloisters, and of course the touches of gold which, like the city around it, dazzle and sparkle upon the architecture.

The Collegium Maius

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So from my first view of the city to my last, Kraków was consistently a city of insuperable elegance, packed full of historical and architectural treasures which each of the innumerable visitors flooding into the city each year cannot help but admire. And admire I did, with photos aplenty of new art works inspired – Kraków will live long in my memory and surely require a return visit sometime very soon. But for now, in those last sweet moments before our departure home, there was just time for one last coffee alongside the Rynek Główny, perfectly poised to watch the hussle and bustle of the square; the horses and carts; the pigeons in flight, and the Majestic Mariacki stood over it all. The perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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Check out my last batch of Kraków photos tomorrow. Until then…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

A Weekend in Kraków | Mariacki Sunrise

Going to sleep in a hotel bedroom when you have a stunning view outside the window to enjoy is always difficult – shutting your eyes in sleep seems somehow treacherous and wasteful, when such an awe-inspiring sight is all yours, unprecluded, to be enjoyed for a series of days. And this was no more of a problem than at our hotel room in the Wentzl Hotel in Kraków, which afforded us such an incredible panorama over the full 200m width of the majestic Rynek Główny, that I never wanted to drag myself away from the window, even when sleep was beckoning. And all of this, as well as the sheer excitement of being in a completely new place, must have made me sleep uneasily. For every so often I would wake up and open my eyes – unable to resist the temptation to take another peek at that view, just to make sure it was still there.

While a few such glimpses were met with dark skies, when I awoke at around 6am, I was greeted with a view so beautiful that I find myself compelled to devote an entire post to it –  Kraków at 6am, the dark silhouette of the iconic Mariacka Basilica against a lightening pink sky – a view  in transition that just took my breath away, and had me jumping straight out of bed to take in every detail. For the exquisite details of Kraków’s architecture were not lost despite the early hour. Even in this low light, the architectural spectacle of the Mariacka’s elaborate spires were captured against the light sky; the delicate shapes, the balls and the flags becoming even more noticeable when seen in this flattened one dimensional silhouette.

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What made the view, and my experience of it at this time even more special was first of all seeing the city, otherwise a bustling centre of tourism and a magnet for international students (who attend the famous Jagiellonian University) so quiet and tranquil, with just a few street sweepers already setting up the square for the influx of visitors due that morning, but also for my being able to hear, so clearly through the crisp morning air, the sound of the Hejnalista trumpet player ring out across the square.

The Hejnalista is a trumpet player who, every hour, 24/7 (yes, even through the night), plays the “Hejnal” – a short tune which is played on a single trumpet from the windows of the Mariacki Church lookout tower, once in each direction, north south east and west across the city. The tradition, which is one of Kraków’s most unique and defining customs, recognises the 13th century attempted invasion of the city by the Tartars. The watchman who was on duty that night had noticed a group of Tartars approaching the city ready to invade, prompting him to blow a loud, clear warning on his trumpet to alert the inhabitants of Kraków. Just at that moment, and wanting to stop him from scuppering their invasion, the Tartars shot the watchman in the throat. While the city was saved, the watchman died from his wound. The Hejnal tune which is played today finishes abruptly at the end of the melody, marking the moment in which the watchman was struck by the arrow in mid-play. It’s a touching legend, and a charming tradition, which really added magic to my awakening that morning, as I watched Kraków slowly lighten against the rosy pink sky.

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I leave you with my photos of that beautiful morning – undoubtedly some of my favourite shots of the city.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.