to Poland: Day II

View from the Wawel Castle of Krakow.

Day II started out with Krista, Kristi, and I hurrying as quickly as possible to get to the morning version of the Free Walking Tour (again, highly recommended: http://freewalkingtour.com/). We had met our charming guide the night before when he joined us on the ‘unofficial’ part of the walking tour. He had made us all promise that he if stayed out that late, we had certainly better be up in time for his tour the next morning. Let’s call him Peter, as once again, I’m not sure of the Polish pronunciation or spelling. (Sorry Peter. I know you’re the most famous tour-guide in all of Poland.)

Tour guide Peter giving a riveting explanation of the Bravery statue.

The morning tour is called the Royal Krakow tour, and it takes you around the main part of old Krakow. We got the low down on all sorts of architecture and the crazy stories behind them. For instance, why the Bonerowski Palace hotel (a 4 or 5 star facility) changed it’s name to Boner Palace Hotel and then back again to Bonerowski Palace (you don’t have to use too much imagination for that). Another fun tidbit: why do the grimacing, goofy faces on top of the Cloth Hall look so realistic? Here’s a hint, it was built during the Renaissance and has to do with the drunken Polish men leaving the bars at the time.

Cloth Hall in Krakow.

Or, why is it, that, to this day, one firefighter’s job is to blow an abruptly cut-off song on his trumpet every hour from the tower of Saint Mary’s Cathedral? Guess you’ll just have to go to Krakow to find out.

Somewhere up in that tower, a tiny trumpet is peeking out of windows to play a tiny tune.

Our guide also pointed out that over the centuries, Polish artists’ juvenile sense of humor with body parts (or historians’ desire to find something juvenile and funny in art) hasn’t seemed to wane. He illustrated this by walking us around a large monument in the middle of the square so that we could view a warrior statue and his sword from a new perspective. He also explained that the statue’s title, ‘Bravery’ can be used in more than one sense, poetically of course.

Profile of the Bravery statue on left side of the main monument.

Peter also pointed out all of the references to Pope John Paul II, which pepper Krakow like the not so very well hidden eggs in a 3 year old’s Easter egg hunt. We were told that in Poland, Pope John Paul II is still referred to as “THE Pope” and that if we valued our lives, we would not say anything against him to other Poles.

This is an effigy of Pope John Paul II but, according to Polish law, it can’t be a statue.

Peter then took us to the chateau where we got to look at what is probably another beautiful cathedral, but the main structure is hidden under a hodgepodge of supplementary chapels built onto the main structure. I quite liked the extra, mismatching chapels, each beautiful in their own right and historic period, which seem to bubble off the cathedral walls as if competing to be ‘oooed’ and ‘awed’ at.

One of the chapels and the cathedral.

 

This dirty wall in the Wawel castle has nothing to do with the castle or Polish history, but everything to do with the Hindu Goddess Shiva and the seven chakra points on your body. So why is it in Poland? Well.. why not?

Peter then finished the tour by telling us about the fearsome Wawel Dragon, which lived in a cave underneath the castle and devoured virgins. The king, who “also had a taste for virgins,” finally sought an end to the foul beast. You’ll just have to go on the tour to see what happened next…

RAWR! I’m a scary dragon.

After the morning tour, Krista, Kristi, and I met up with Jen G. and Anna. Krista and I hadn’t seen Jen since we arrived in France a month before, so it was a great reunion. She seemed to be absolutely in love with Poland as well, having just traveled over the more northern part of the country with Anna. Anna took us to eat some delicious pierogis and tea at a quaint lil’ Polish restaurant.  Afterward, she helped us figure out how to use the train for the next day’s adventures. Quite honestly, without Anna and the other fun Polish people we met in Krakow, this trip probably wouldn’t have been nearly as marvelous as it was. A big shout out for all of their help!

Kristi, Jennifer, and Krista on the castle grounds.

After lunch, us four American girls explored the city a bit more, did some souvenir shopping, ate more pierogis, and finished the day portion of the events by making sure Jen got on the right train back to Anna’s town.  After this, not quite ready to settle down to bed, Krista, Kristi, and I met up with some new found tourist friends from the day before, ate some more Polish food, found a bar with a great live band, and after an impromptu game of tag, finally settled back into our own hostel beds for a good sleep.

We knew we’d need our rest for what we were going to do the next day.

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