Category Archives: Poland

Entrance Tickets – Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow

The Historic Centre of Kraków, located on the River Vistula in southern Poland, is formed by three urban ensembles: the medieval chartered City of Kraków, the Wawel Hill complex, and the town of Kazimierz. It is one of the most outstanding examples of European urban planning, characterised by the harmonious development and accumulation of features representing all architectural styles from the early Romanesque to the Modernist periods.” – UNESCO

The Wawel Royal Castle is located in central Kraków and among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It was admitted to the list at the very first session in 1978 (there were only twelve from seven countries). It was one of two Polish sites, the other being the Wieliczka salt mine also in Krakow. It was the first European City to be added to the list. It played a blinder there, getting in before Paris, Rome, Madrid and London. The following year Poland got two more – Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration Camp near Krakow and Białowieża Forest and in 1980 it added the city of Warsaw.

In many respects it seems a rather curious first list. To begin with it is rather like Noah’s Ark with sites going in two by two. Two for Canada – L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Nahanni National Park. Two for Ecuador – the city of Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Two also for Ethiopia – Simien National Park and Rock Hewn Churches, the USA with two National Parks, Messe Verde and Yellowstone and two for Poland. To complete the list only one for Senegal, the Island of Goree and one for Germany and the Cathedral at Aachan.

Italy had to wait until 1978 to get a listing, France until 1981 and United Kingdom until 1986. Australia had to wait even longer until 2003.

There are only two European countries without a UNESCO site – Monaco and Liechtenstein. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Liechtenstein, I went there once and it went straight onto my list of most boring places I have ever visited, the capital Vaduz especially so.  I have never been to Monaco and don’t really expect to, it doesn’t look especially fascinating either.

Anyway, back to Krakow. At the ticket office we had a lot of difficulty working out the ticket options that were nearly as confusing as buying a lottery scratch card at the local Co-op.

The place has so many precious treasures that understandably visitors can’t just buy a ticket and go wandering about by themselves in case precious treasures go wandering about.

Our first choice of the Royal Palace was no longer available because the English speaking guides had all gone home already so instead we bought tickets for the State Rooms. The tickets were timed and there was clearly no leeway but fortunately we made our entry time by the skin of our teeth and made the tour of the impressive rooms and displays.

Of course Kim, who has a history of this sort of thing, had to let us down by touching an exhibit in the very first room and that bought a sharp rebuke from the attendant museum guard.

This was a very impressive place full of treasures that we can see today because at the outbreak of World War Two they were rapidly evacuated out of Poland to safe storage in Canada where they remained until 1961 to prevent the Soviet Union getting possession.  We especially liked the room with the heads in the ceiling and everywhere there were remarkable tapestries and medieval furniture and treasures exhibited with generous space in which to appreciate them.

I have no photographs of the interior because picture taking is predictably not permitted. These are the Polish Crown Jewels courtesy of Wikipedia.

The rooms were huge, each one as big as a modern four bedroom detached house and I bet they were a bugger to heat in the Winter.  The tour ended in the most impressive room of all, the Senators Hall, which was large and spacious with a balcony at one end, an interestingly slanting ceiling and an obsession with tapestries depicting Noah and his Ark.

After an hour or so the tour was over and we were back in the courtyard, it was beginning to get cold and dark so we walked the mile or so back to our hotel stopping off at the Crocodile Bar on the way.

Gary Cooper and Lech Wałęsa 

I have visited three cities in Poland – Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw and I have stumbled across some interesting stories.  This one from Warsaw…

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Paris Of The East

On February 16th 2015 I was on the final day of a short break to Warsaw in Poland…

I woke early the next morning so made good use of the time before breakfast by reading the complimentary guide books supplied by the Tourist Information Office.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this because I have seen it so many times but there on the first page of the ‘Warsaw Top Ten’ guide was the description, Warsaw – Paris of the East.

After Venice it seems that it is the city that more than most other cities want to associate themselves. I have yet to come across a New York of the East, a Moscow of the West or a Melbourne of the North but, when it comes to Paris, even without leaving Europe we have:

Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Leipzig, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Riga, Latvia; Saint Petersburg, Russia.  As if to make doubly sure, in a belt and braces sort of way, Saint Petersburg doubles up in this respect by also calling itself the ‘Venice of the North’ even though it has competition for this particular title from Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh (which good measure also calls itself the Athens of the North) and even Birmingham amongst others.

I am unable to find anywhere that calls itself the London of the East, or North, South or West for that matter but by way of compensation there are twenty-eight villages in England called Little London including one only two miles or so from where I live which is a hamlet with just a handful of farm cottages, a pub, a railway crossing, a caravan site and a farm shop but no Little London road sign.

Exciting isn’t it?  It suddenly reminded me of the small village of Twenty in South Lincolnshire.  Twenty has a road sign to identify it and a local wag had added the tag line “Twenty – Twinned with the Moon – No Atmosphere”.

By coincidence Twenty is just about five miles from the town of Spalding where I used to work and an area of the town called … wait for it… Little London.

Including Warsaw I have had the good fortune to visit five of these alternative Paris cities, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Riga and Prague and I have to say that I can find very little similarity in any of these places with the real thing. Prague would have to come closest I would have to say but only on the basis that they have a sort of Eiffel Tower.

Beyond Europe there are a few more but the most bizarre of all surely has to be Beirut!  Paris itself if often called the City of Lovers or the City of Light but I have never heard of it calling itself the Beirut of the West and I am fairly certain that it is most unlikely ever to do so.

In addition to the French capital there are of course a number of places that are officially called Paris including nine in the United States – in Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Kentucky, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and one that was even the title of a film – Paris, Texas. There is one missing from this list however and the one that is most Paris like of all, the one at EPCOT World Showcase in Disney World Florida.  Three other U.S. cities have at some time been called the Paris of the West – Denver, Detroit and San Francisco but these all seem just as unlikely to me as Shanghai in China!

There is also a Paris in Ontario in Canada and the city of Montreal in French speaking Québec has unsurprisingly also been dubbed the Paris of the West.

Paris at Disneyworld in Florida…

On This Day – Valentine’s Day Blunder

So I continue to look back through the archives and am reminded that on Valentine’s Day in 2015 I was in the Polish City of Warsaw…

After a first look at the Old Town and completing a circuit just to get our bearings and identify some potential restaurants for later we found a bar with a vacant table and ordered our first Polish beers. The waiter tried to persuade us to eat but we said it was too early.

He was rather persistent and told us this would be a good time because later everywhere would be full. Kim wondered if we should book a table somewhere but I passed this off as opportunist salesmanship and persuaded her that there really was no need.

This was a decision that I was going to regret later!

Read The Full Story Here…

Entrance Tickets – Oskar Schindler Museum in Krakow

After a while we arrived at the factory, which was being converted into a museum but as the project was way behind schedule there was only a temporary exhibition to look around.

When Podgórze became the site of the Jewish Ghetto many Germans set up businesses in the area in an attempt to profit from the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Oskar Schindler was such a man, but in the end he came to save the lives of over eleven hundred Jews that worked in his factory, often at great risk to his own life and at personal expense.

 

Read The Full Story Here…

 

 

On This Day – The Anonymous Pedestrians

On 8th January 2014 I was spending a second day in the Polish city of Wroclaw. The first day was spent sightseeing and dwarf hunting and today I was determined to find another piece of street art.

I was looking for a sculpture called ‘The Anonymous Pedestrians’…

There is an interesting piece of trivia about this picture. It is mine, I know that because I edited it to take out street clutter. A Google image search reveals that it has been used almost two thousand, five hundred times in other people’s websites and blogs. One or two have had the courtesy to give me a photo credit but only a handful. It has appeared in Pintrest galleries and several times on Instagram. I am not complaining, just saying.

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Searching For Dwarfs

So here were are, 2021 and no travel plans so I continue to look back at some of my old posts. On 7th January 2014 I was on a post Christmas break to the Polish City of Wroclaw

On a visit to Iceland we learnt about the elves and trolls that live there.  We didn’t see any because they are invisible but in Wroclaw in Poland we very soon came across the dwarfs because they are not nearly so shy and can be found posing outside buildings and along the footpaths all over the city .

This afternoon we bought a dwarf map of Wroclaw and went looking for them.

Read The Full Story Here…

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

It wasn’t all that long ago, certainly within my lifetime, that people were sent to carry out hard labour in salt mines as a punishment. They probably still are. The Soviets especially liked compelling people to go deep underground (usually in Siberia) to mine the precious commodity but today things have changed and we were actually paying for the privilege of dropping down towards the centre of the earth.

Read The Full Story Here…

Top Five Posts

Always, at this time of the year I spend some time looking at my statistics. This year I have been looking back over eleven years to find my Top Five most visited posts…

Number 5 – Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

First posted – August 2013
Total visits – 16,792
Best Year – 2015, 8,717 visits
Consistently recording hundreds of visits each year
2020 – 194 visits

Number 4 – Sorrento – Vesuvius, Living on the Edge of Danger

First posted – April 2010 in a series about a holiday to Sorrento
Total visits – 18,183
Best Year – 2013, 4,213 visits
A very steady performer and always in my annual Top 10
2020 – 376 visits

Number 3 – Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted – April 2010
Total visits – 18,287
Best Year – 2013, 5,016 visits
Did well for 4 years followed by a steady decline
2020 – 18 visits
I feel a repost coming on.

Number 2 – Royal Garden Party

First posted – June 2009
Total visits – 23.010
Best Year – 2015, 5,871 visits
Year after year, has always done well, especially in May when Palace invites go out.
2020 – 212 visits

Number 1 – Haugesund and The Vikings

First posted – March 2011
Total visits – 24,710
Best Year – 2012, 14,773 visits
It took me a while to understand this but then I found out that people in USA were searching for Minnesota Vikings Football and being directed to my post. Google put that right and the visits bombed immediately.
2020 – 9 visits

Thanks everyone for reading and Have a Happy New Year.

On This Day – Krakow Christmas Market

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 1st December 2006 I was in the Polish city of Krakow visiting the Christmas Market…

I recorded no story because this was so long ago it was even before I started to write my blog.

I did buy this rather nice chess set in the indoor Christmas market…