Kraków: Of Kings, Castles and Pierogi

After a goulash-filled week in Prague, my newfound travel buddy and I decided to make moves.

Three trains, one transportation mishap (we got off one of the trains a stop early, but it worked out!), many cat naps, and seven hours later, Andrée and I made it to Kraków, Poland!

Once the capital of Poland for more than 500 years, Kraków is now a bustling city of nearly 800,000 people and the cultural hub of the country. But Kraków is old—unbelievably old.

Stone tools dating back to 50,000 BCE were found on Wawel Hill, and the city’s name originates from Krakus, a mythical ruler who supposedly slayed the Wawel Dragon. The city was a bustling trade center in 965, and the castle was built in the 1300s.

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As an American whose country’s oldest buildings date back to the 1700s, this kind of history is hard to wrap my head around! All of Europe (and especially Israel) has been blowing me away with the ancient architecture!

The heart of Kraków is the Stare Miasto, or Old Town. Smack in the middle is Rynek Główny, the largest medieval town square in Europe.

Filled with vendors and local craftspeople, the square is surrounded by historic houses, palaces, towers and churches.

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St. Mary’s Basilica is a 14th century gothic-style church, famous for its trumpeter that plays on the hour (commemorating the trumpeter who was shot in the throat while warning on a Mongol attack in the 13th century).

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The square also houses the Cloth Hall, a merchant marketplace that’s been in existence since the Middle Ages. You can purchase babushka dolls, leather goods, amber jewelry and a variety of Polish knickknacks.

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One of the most famous sights in Kraków is Wawel Castle. I’ll spare you the history, as I feel like this is already a historically heavy post, but needless to say it’s very old and beautiful.

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While in Kraków, it was cold and raining and I was very sick (spoiler alert: I finally went to a doctor in Budapest and found out I had bronchitis). Sightseeing in these conditions was the most miserable day of my trip to date.

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The highlight of Kraków for me was the food! If you haven’t figured out by now, I live for beer, sweets and dumplings (check out my post on Prague’s culinary delights!).

The pierogi in Poland did not disappoint! I also sampled a few good soups, pancakes and treats along the way.

My favorite place in all of Kraków was Mr. Vincent’s, a Van Gogh-themed restaurant that we frequented.

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Although Kraków was cold and I was a sick puppy, I loved the history, warm food and kind people.

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