Poland has a number of great cities, but I think it’s pretty hard to go past Krakow in the country’s south as the best city going around. Which is why the Sunday Spotlight is shining straight at this lovely city, filled with alleyways and hills, with a stunning central city square where everyone congregates and meets up
From this Rynek Glowny (Krakow’s Town Square, one of the biggest in Europe and a great meeting point) you can circle around and explore the city. It’s not a huge city centre, but it is one full of character. Krakow has a decent tram system, and also a network of buses, but for exploring the central part of town I found that the old feet were the way to go.
In the centre of Rynek Glowry is a large hall where all manner of cloths are sold. There’s the impressive Statue of Adam Mickiwiez where I waited to meet friends, and the Cathedral of St Mary is a very interesting church indeed.
Not too far from the square, a brisk walk and a bit away is the Wawel Castle. There’s plenty to see and do there (museum, treasury), but for the locals it’s a great place to hang out and a hive of activity. It dates back to the 14th century and is considered one of the most important historical sites in Poland.
If you don’t mind a short bus journey, the Wieliczka Salt Mine isn’t that far from the centre of Krakow, and a tour around it is very rewarding. There are plenty of mine across not just Europe but the world you can visit, but Wieliczka is simply exceptional. With many scenes depicted through salt statues, an entire ballroom deep underground, so many levels, so beautifully presented it’s definitely a highlight of the town and region. If not all of Poland!
But the main reason I went to Krakow was to visit the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. It’s a strange reason to go somewhere, isn’t it? And why? I’m not Jewish. I don’t have any real connection with Auschwitz or the genocide, so what is it then? Morbid curiosity? We as human beings struggle to understand the actions of other human beings regularly, don’t we?
The place is serene, moving and thoughtfully maintained. It lets you imagine yourself in the boots of a prisoner there. And that’s the real benefit of a place like Auschwitz now being open the way it is. A time for human reflection, understanding and we can only hope, determination that nothing so evil will ever happen again. If you want to say that it has, countless times, I understand your point of view. But this still stands as why it should not.
So there you are, a more sombre thought to end this Sunday Spotlight on. Nevertheless, Krakow is a city that does not disappoint. It’s attractive, manageable with a wide array of different kinds of things to see and do. Thanks for taking this little journey with me, and may the journey never end.