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!).
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.
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
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
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.
Check out my last batch of Kraków photos tomorrow. Until then…
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- A weekend in Kraków | Day 1 – Jewellery box city (daily-norm.com)
- A weekend in Kraków | Day 2 – Kings, Communists and the Kazimierz Ghetto (daily-norm.com)
- A Weekend in Kraków | Mariacki Sunrise (daily-norm.com)
- A Weekend in Kraków | The traditions and innovations of Kraków’s food (daily-norm.com)
- A weekend in Kraków | Photography Focus 1 – Urban details (daily-norm.com)