Discover the Dragon of Wawel Hill
I would have liked to spend more time in Krakow, but because I was meeting my friend Carolyn in Bucharest in a few days, I had to make my way to Romania. So I walked to the train station and booked an overnight train to Budapest leaving me the rest of the day to explore some more of Krakow. I wasn’t sure what to see next so I just wandered around aimlessly with no idea of where I would end up.
Cracow, also spelled Krakow, is one of Poland’s oldest and largest cities dating back to the 7th century; in fact it was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596. The city is a major tourist city attracting around 7 million visitors a year and I am pretty sure that half of those people were there at the same time as me. Everywhere I looked there were groups of people on walking tours, bus tours, horse and carriage tours and pretty much every form of tour known to man. I wondered if they offered a tour of all the tours available.
I stumbled upon a large castle on a hill surrounded by a medieval wall so I climbed the hill to do some further investigation. When I got to the top, I stepped inside the walls and I got my first glimpse of this fairy tale setting called Wawel Hill. There was a huge church, a castle and plenty of green space with walking paths and park benches. I went in the souvenir shop to purchase a ticket for the castle but they were closed so I grabbed a pamphlet and sat on a bench reading about the castle and cathedral. The Wawel Castle was originally built by Casimir the Great and then rebuilt by Jadwiga of Poland in the 14th century. It was the house of the Polish kings until 1609 when King Sigismund moved the Capital of Poland from Krakow to Warsaw.
For a period following the move the castle was left to deteriorate but was later restored to become the official residence of the President of Poland. After WWII it was transformed into a national museum housing the Polish Crown Jewels and the Polish Coronation Insignia.
The Wawel Cathedral, also called the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaw and Vaclav, was once the traditional coronation site of the Polish monarchs and the burial site for Polish kings, saints and famous people. Even Pope John Paul II considered making this his final resting place.
I spent the next hour wandering around the hill taking pictures of all the beautiful buildings. I was actually glad that the castle was closed because, even though it would have been nice to see inside, Wawel Hill would have been over run by tourists just like every other historical site in Krakow.
I left the tranquility of the fortress and braved the tourist filled streets once again wishing I was there during a less busy time. In order to take a nice picture of any historical site or beautiful building, I would have to wait until a tour group left then snap as many pictures as I could before the next arrived.
Where I Stayed...
Ul. Grodzka 11,
Tel: 012 430-19-69
Tel: 012 431-23-89
Hotel Jan is a nice 3-star hotel located right in the old city. Price includes breakfast.