An August 2004 trip
to Krakow by jacob_s
Quote: There is so much to do and see; the glories of Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Collegium Maius, museums, churches, restaurants, and delightful walks along Planty Park.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 30, 2006
Pod Zlota Pipa
421 94 66
Ulica Jagiellonska, 17
Krakow, Poland 31-010
The journey of John Paul II began in this medieval market town nestled among hills and woods along the Skawa river. Today this sleepy town is alive with tourists following the trail of the late Pope. They flock to the pale yellow baroque basilica of Saint Mary, where he was baptized. Outside flowers and candles are massed under a bronze bust brought from the town hall, and it is to remain until a statue of the late Pope replaces it. Today it seems as if the flower sellers have been cleaned out.
We traveled by bus to Wadowice; the hour-long journey was very pleasant and gave us a chance to observe the landscape. Ten minutes after leaving the center of Krakow the road began to wind through narrow wooded hillsides, and through tiny villages. Peppered along the route we noted fine wooden houses the overriding impression was of Alpine chalets, colorful duvets hung over most of the balconies and crisp white sheets fluttered on the wash lines.The bus station in Wadowice is very small and a 10-minute slow walk to the center. After leaving the bus we turned to the left and walked along the path through the open green space. Surrounding that area are large blocks of apartments pretty grim looking buildings that have a communist era look to them. At the top, we crossed the road and climbed the steps, which led us to the side of St Mary’s Basilica and the town core. Although it was only 10am, a throng of tourists were already there along with busloads of schoolchildren. The 15th century onion-domed Basilica is set in a small green square. A large picture of a younger John Paul his arms outstretched decorates the church entrance. Inside a mass was ongoing and the wide center nave filled with kneeling young people, all pews were filled. We went to the Chapel of the holy cross in the left nave. The chapel holds a miraculous picture of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help that was crowned by the late pope on June 16, 1999. The crown was made of gold coming from wedding rings, earrings, chains, etc., all presented by the people of Wadowice. The baptismal font where Karol Wyojta was baptized is also on the left nave, opposite end to the chapel. The 15th-century font is topped with a gold dome almost like the dome of St Peters, beneath the font was a huge bunch of red and white roses and a photograph of John Paul kneeling in prayer, taken on his last visit to Wadowice. The interior of the basilica is very beautiful, with cream and pale pink walls. Its style is Baroque, with several notable paintings.After leaving the church, we visited the Town Museum next door. The exhibits are pretty sparse; we had just missed the Ground Zero exhibit, a tribute to its victims and to America. We wandered through spacious rooms filled mainly with photographs of the Pope many from private collections. Historic documents and photos relating to life in Wadowice, and a pretty ceramic stove (c. 1930s), held our attention. Directly opposite the town museum is the apartment where John Paul was born and where he lived for the first 18 years of his life. A humble home indeed. The small rooms are filled with mementos of John Paul, school records, Ski’s papal robes, and many personal items donated by the late pope. The building is much too small to accommodate the tourists, but it is worth a visit. Unfortunately, photography was forbidden inside the apartment.The town records date back to 1325, noting a small community settled along the Skawa River. The core itself is centered around the church. A few shops and restaurants ring the small square but it is simply a small town of a famous son and its unique character is expressed in the words of a popular song. "This place is extremely pretty Here Karol Wojtyla was born.This is a mountainous region This is my town--Wadowice.This is graceful singing of the Skawa. This is my beloved house."Pope John Paul II must have agreed--among the last words he spoke in public during an appearance in his Rome hospital window March 13th were "Hello, Wadowice."