5
Sep
2015
0

Krakow – Europe’s Gem – Part 1

Under warm blankets, we huddled around the cafe table on the perimeter of the square, which was prepared for the procession of soldiers on horseback. Spectators nudged into the crowd for the perfect viewing spot, anxiously awaiting the noble march. Soon enough, the pounding of hooves commanded everyone’s attention, as did the men in uniform sitting high on their horses, holding their swords tightly against them as they proudly strode through the city.

Fall was in the air as we watched the horses parade through Krakow’s Rynek. The wind hit the nearby trees, decorating our table with yellow leaves. We welcomed the crisp foliage among our hot drinks, providing comfort on a blustery fall morning. It had been too long since we’d felt such cool and refreshing air after months of sweltering heat in Australia. The weather demanded the consumption of many a hot chocolate from Krakow’s famous chocolate house and the market festival’s homemade mulled wine.

Much of our time in Krakow was spent in Europe’s largest market square, Rynek, embracing the view and sound of horse carriages pulling tourists around the city. The area surrounded by old brick buildings, are each restored and painted a unique shade. Sukiennice (cloth hall) holds its own with its grandiose size and alluring colors, filled with bustling shoppers in search for Poland’s well known crystal stemware, amber jewelry or other Polish souvenirs. With its many interior stalls brimming with unique house decor, warm Highlander fur clothing, or fine leather goods, the many temptations will likely cause you to land your eyes on something you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.

The women gracing the square were dressed elegantly, debuting the latest fall fashions in their perfect boots and equally beautiful scarves. Street performers sprinkled the area, providing amusing entertainment through activities such as breakdancing or guitar playing. Local artist’s paintings were on display, capturing city scenes of Krakow. Florist stands presented their best arrangements, whether it be fresh flowers or dried wreathes, they added a pop of color to the cobblestone streets, on which stands the dominating St. Mary’s Basilica across from Sukiennice.

The church bells rang at the top of every hour and immediately followed were the bellows of the trumpeter playing the five-note Polish anthem from each side of the basilica’s tallest tower. Stopping short in mid-note, this trumpeter is remembered for having been shot in the throat while playing the anthem during a Tatar invasion in 1241. Recognizing the date of this event makes me appreciate the vast history of this city and culture, imagining past events transpiring on these very streets where I stroll, helping form the Krakow I visit today.

Following the parade of horses, we attended Mass at the gothic basilica in the Square. Even though we struggled to follow as it was in Polish (my mom had to translate later), it was one to remember. The music alone was special enough that our oldest innocently said it sounded like Christmas. Her brother’s excitement (and lack of ability to sit still for one hour) prompted us to walk around the church, admiring the history and beauty in every corner. As he is enamored with lighting the candles, we lit several on our trip.

To be continued…

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