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Port Angeles, Washington
March 21, 2006
From journal In and Around Krakow
June 8, 2002
Krakow's fortifications are for the most part long gone, the complex array of walls and moats replaced by a pleasant strip of green parkland that surrounds the old town and makes for a shady place to stop and rest. Of the 7 original city gates, only the 1307 Florian Gate on the north side of town survives. That, along with the neighbouring 1498 barbican, which now houses the city's historical museum, gives you an insight into how impressive the city's defenses must have been.
At the heart of the old town is the Rynek Glowny, the largest market square in Europe. You can get a good view of the expanse of the square from the top of the 15th-century Town Hall Tower in the eastern corner of the square. The center of the square is taken up by the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), a 16th-century, Renaissance-style building, which now houses a gallery of 19th-century art on the top floor and stalls for local artisans on the ground floor. Here you can purchase the fruits of traditional Polish crafts such as wood carving, amber working and felt dragon stuffing.
Around town you will find a number of other very interesting buildings. Off the western side of the square is the 14th-century St Mary’s Church, with its twin Gothic towers. Every hour on the hour a trumpeter plays the hejnal from the top of the highest tower in honor of a trumpeter who sounded out the call to warn of a Tartar invasion in the 13th century. The call cuts short supposedly at the point when the original trumpeter was silenced by an arrow through the throat. West of the square on sw Anny you can see Poland’s oldest university Collegium Mauis, founded by Casinur the Great in 1364 and housed in an old town house. Former alumni have included Mikolaj Kopernik, better known as Nicolas Copernicus, and Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II.
This relatively unspoiled corner of Poland is brimming with the medieval delights that make Eastern Europe a joy to visit, and prices are still relatively low, but Krakow has been discovered, and, as the bus loads of tourists continue to pour in, this is bound to change. Make sure that you catch the old town before it becomes another Prague.
From journal Krakow: Poland's Cracking Old Capital