Krakow, Poland We are now experiencing a real change of pace and place. After our idyllic stay in Cornwall, we took the train back to London’s Paddington Station, where we immediately boarded the Heathrow Express and found our way to an airport hotel where we got ready for our early morning flight to Krakow.
We had time to get settled and then do some walking around in the city center, in what is called the Royal Way Walk. Every Polish king from 1320 to 1795 would walk this path on the day he was crowned, and would be carried on it the day of his burial.
Krakow has had the misfortune to be very attractive to invaders, and the Central Asian Tartars did a lot of damage in 1241. After they were gone, Krakow built some impressive fortifications in the shape of a city wall, a moat, and a Barbican fort to defend the main entranceway. By 1500, it must have been a real deterrent to any more medieval rapacious Tartar types. Later, it was less effective.
Poor Poland has been besieged by so many evil empires. But to see Krakow today is to see a city proud of its past but firmly standing the present.
The city was spared destruction during WWII, though it suffered in many other ways. Consequently, many lovely moments of past architectural glories remain. And the churches…many churches.
One special place we saw was Jama Michalika – Michael’s Cave. At the beginning of the last century, this café was the center of the Young Poland movement, the Polish version of Art Nouveau. The impoverished artists papered the walls with their works in lieu of paying their bar tab, and sometimes painted the walls themselves. It is an amazingly preserved replica of the time.
Of course time has moved on and very un-Polish brand names crop up all over, along with a sense of Krakow attitudes. I also had a couple Starbucks pictures somewhere.
At some point we will visit St. Mary’s Church, sitting on the main market square where a church has stood for the last 800 years. The square itself is magnificent, being the real center of Krakow life. It was established in the 13th century, after the dreaded Tartars were finally ousted. The central statue commemorates the “Polish Shakespeare.” The tiny church at one end of the square is 10th century Romanesque, and the major building is the Cloth Hall, where the cloth sellers of the Middle Ages had their stalls. It burned in 1555 and was rebuilt in its current form. It is still a charming functioning marketplace.
We didn’t notice any signs of the Ukrainian refugees who are currently in Poland until a young man approached us and asked us in English if we would take a picture of his family. They are Ukrainian, and are sheltering here in Poland. We had a touching conversation with this young man, here with his non-English speaking mother and two younger brothers. They wanted a picture to send home. We took one just for us.
Don’s Food Corner
After a month of fish and chips, etc., we weren’t ready to jump into Polish cuisine after a somewhat exhausting day of travel. Instead we succumbed to a touch of home: Kentucky Fried Chicken, KFC.
The offerings at this centrally-located outpost of KFC, just down the street from McDonald’s, seemed somewhat different than what we remembered. However, it’s been quite a while since we visited a KFC.
We got what looked like a mini-bucket of chicken that was assembled based on how many people were in the party and not by the number of pieces of chicken. In fact, the young lady taking our order was puzzled when we asked what parts of the chicken were included in this bucket. She had no idea. It was just a selection.
Well, OK. I have to say it was damn good. There was a breast. A few wings. And some chicken strips. They pushed different dipping sauces, but we prefer KFC in its original pure state. There is no need to camouflage that breading and those eleven herbs and spices — which I think is mostly salt and pepper. Lots of salt and pepper. Lots of salt and pepper on something deep-fried? What can go wrong?
The French fries were pretty good, too. Plus, it was cheap. Just over ten dollars for all that chicken, fries and drinks. (Pepsi, not Coke.)
There’s a reason the Colonel is so popular all over the world.
Sadly, however, while KFC was crowded, the beautiful, traditional Michael’s Cave a block away was completely empty.