Kraków started as a Stone Age settlement on Wawel Hill. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Kraków had its Golden Age with many buildings and works of art created during this time.
Here is my teeny-tiny family (I zoomed out to show the scale of this thing) in front of the Kraków Barbican. What's a barbican? A barbican is a fortified outpost connected to the city walls. This one was built in 1498 and is one of only three left in Europe. This one is the best preserved. Obviously.
It even has a moat. It is pretty impressive. Obviously.
The old town of Kraków is still surrounded by intact city walls. I love old town city walls. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes they let you know that "everything you need to see is right in here, contained by these walls." Makes it kind of nice when you are traipsing around Europe on foot with four children and a dog.
The beautiful old town section of Kraków.
This is St. Mary's Basilica, built in the 1300's. It is a Roman Catholic church, which brings me to an interesting point. Poland is the most Catholic, and most ethnically homogenous country within Europe. On the day we were in Kraków, the streets were bustling with Roman Catholic clergy walking the streets. Priests, nuns, and monks in robes with rosary beads clicking at their sides.
One of the things I love about exploring these old cities of Europe, is that you never know what you are going to get. Little treasures hide around every corner. Like this gate to a small courtyard beyond. Look closely at that top step. Look how worn down it is. How many people have stepped there and crossed through? What were their stories? I, too, stepped through the gate and added my story to theirs.
Like any self-respecting, old city in Europe, Kraków's skyline is dominated by a castle on a hill. Here is Wawel Castle.
Here is a view of the steepled skyline of Kraków from Wawel Hill. Just beautiful.
By now our McDonald's fix was wearing off, when what should we happen upon when we turned a corner? A little outdoor celebration with booths of food.
Here is our plate of pierogi. Pierogi are Polish dough dumplings stuffed with meat, or onions, or cheese, or all three, then boiled and then fried. They are pretty tasty. The locals running this festival welcomed us in and cleared a spot for us to sit down and eat. (And of course what is any European meal without sausage, as seen in the background of this picture.)
We enjoyed our Polish lunch of pierogi, sausage, kebabs, and vegetables, and we went on our way exploring more of Kraków with our bellies and hearts full.
Here is a section of the Main Square of Kraków. It is the largest medieval town square in Europe.
This is the Town Hall Tower. It was built in the 1200's and its cellars used to hold a medieval torture chamber. Spooky.
This building framed by the amazing blue sky is the old Cloth Hall. Built in the 1400's, it was center for trade and barter for goods like silk and spices from all over Europe and Asia.
We spent two wonderful days in Poland. One day at Auschwitz reflecting on the atrocities of history, and another day in Kraków, celebrating the beauty that can survive centuries of war and occupation.