It is not at all uncommon to see priests and nuns and you will see a lot of them in Krakow. People seemed to routinely treat them with deference.
It shouldn't be surprising. Krakow, and Poland for that matter, tends to be very religious. Some 95% of the population is baptized into the Catholic Church, though I have read that only about 75% are practicing (which is still substantially higher than it is in other places.)
When going into churches please remember these are not museums, they are places of active worship. Please be respectful.
I make no pretence to knowing much detail about how Easter is traditionally celebrated in Poland. But I found my visit in 'Holy Week' (the week leading up to Good Friday, when Christ was crucified) particularly interesting. The crucifixes on the church altars were draped in pieces of purple cloth, as is usual in many countries in the week before Easter.
I loved the Easter decorations in Rynek Glowny. Tall bunches of (I think) bare branches held together with (I think) dyed, dried grasses. I saw similar, smaller decorations in florists along with a vast variety of Easter door wreaths featuring eggs, feathers, bark...
The outdoor market was filled with wooden eggs of all sizes, patterned or plain. There were real (blown) eggs too: decorated or plain for your own artistic creations. And numerous little baskets filled with dried, dyed grasses, plastic or paper flowers, fluffy chicks and..of course..at least one egg.
A huge pole carried a (plastic) stork with a 'cartwheel' for its nest. I know that putting cartwheels on your house for the storks to nest is (or was) a commonplace custom in many parts of northern Europe. The storks return (from overwintering in southern Europe and North Africa) as the Spring arrives.
In both the outdoor market in Rynek Glowny and the 'ordinary' markets I visited I saw bunches of what we call 'pussy-willow' (willow branches with soft, fluffy grey buds) and what looked like box (and evergreen shrub). There were lots on sale (including from people who'd obviously just gathered bunches from their gardens and made the trip into the city to sell them) so I assume they are traditional decorations for the home at Easter.
A Polish Easter seems to involve a special cake. Again, lots included eggs or chicks or both. And there are lamb-shaped loaves as well.
But what I did not see...something which is the most visible and obvious sign of Easter in the pretty-much non-religious UK...were loads of chocolate eggs on sale. An interesting difference.
I wish I'd taken more photos. but circumstances prevented it.
I don't know if this is a local Krakowian thing or a general-Polish thing, but the most delicious thing I tasted when I was in Krakow was 'oscypek z grilla'. Osypcek is a smoked sheep's milk cheese from the Tatra mountains. A piece of cheese is wrapped in partially cooked ?pastry (or maybe a pierogi?) and then grilled over charcoal. There's been at least one stall selling oscypek z grilla each time I've visited the outdoor 'craft' market in Rynek Glowny (it's a permanent fixture) and there's always been plenty of locals buying as well as visitors.
You can find oscypek on all the 'ordinary' markets, of course, as well as 'golka' which is similar but made from cow's milk. I've also seen it sold f by individuals with baskets near the subway leading to the main railway station.
I bought some oscypek when I visited Wadowice but although pleasant in taste it was rather rubbery in texture. It's a cheese which is, I think, intended to be cooked rather than eaten in its 'raw' state.
But when you visit Krakow you must try grilled oscypek at least once..... :-)
Obwarzanki are bread rings, flavoured with poppy seeds or salt, sold from small street-side stalls all over Krakow's city centre. The stalls are most often tended by friendly elderly ladies who seem to be entirely impervious to heat or cold, although I was pleased to see on my recent March visit that they were at least provided with transparent plastic 'tents' to keep out most of the snow, rain or chill.
Even so, I did wonder how many layers they needed to wear in order to cope with pretty much sitting still all day in temperatures well below freezing.
The stalls are open from early in the morning (I'd guess around 7am) to mid-evening (perhaps 7-8pm, depending on time of year and amount of likely custom).
Obwarzanki are very cheap (from 1 zloty, depending on where you buy them...those near Rynek Glowny are slightly more expensive at 1.5 zloty than those sold further outside the historical centre..which is not really surprising) and very tasty. They make good, filling snacks to keep you going as you explore.
Poland is famous for a vodka-drinking tradition. Nevertheless, there are some popular Polish beers. One famous brewery is Zywiec which was founded in 1852 and nowadays owned by Heineken.
Another well known beer brand is Okocim; an old-established brewery (founded 1845), which is now owned by Carlsberg. Both Zywiec and Okocim lager contain more than 5 % alcohol.
It is customary in Poland that ladies toilets show a circle or the words "dla pan", whereas gents toilets show a triangle or the words "dla panow". This can be quite confusing when only the signs are shown on the toilet doors in a restaurant.
Public toilets usually charge anything between 1 and 2 Zloty, so make sure you have some change available.
Krakow seems to become one of the popular European cities to celebrate New Years Eve. The large medieval Market Square (Rynek Glowny) with its dimensions of 200 x 200 m is the perfect setting for a New Years Eve event.
In 2004/05 a stage was set up just in front of the Cloth Hall. Many famous Polish artists performed here and about 170.000 people celebrated New Years Eve in and around the Market Square.
Even though Poland joined the Euopean Union (EU) on the 1st of May 2004, they don't have the EURO as currency. Poland's currency is still the Zloty. 1 Zloty is worth 100 Grosz.
You can get your money with your credit or debit card from ATM's or just by exchanging your local money at one of the bureaux de change.
Usually when you visit a major tourist city in Europe you will most likely have a young, energetic guide that speaks your language perfectly and is invariably from somewhere else. This is far less likely in Poland. Apparently the requirement is that guides must pass the certification exam in Polish, which tends to make it quite difficult for foreign guides to pass. You will read about some of the Polish guides having very heavy accents that are very hard to understand. The times that I went on a tour were no problem at all. Interestingly, at the Wieliczka Mines I was listening to the Spanish tour and the young lady that was leading the tour had an incredible Madrid accent...everything down to the mannerisms of a Spaniard were perfect. Turns out she was Polish, she had spent a few years on and off in Spain (i think she was being unduly modest though).
So, in Poland, plan on local guides. You might be a bit surprised at the skill levels.
In the center of Krakow, in the "Market Square" is the " meeting point" for young people under the statue of Adam Mickiewicz
He was one the great Romantic poets of Poland. At the foot of the statue there are four allegories : Poetry, Science, Homeland and Bravery
En el centro de Cracovia en la "Plaza del Mercado" está el sitio de "quedada" de la gente jóven bajo la estatua de Adam Mickiewicz
Fué uno se los grandes poetas románticos de Polonia . Al pie de su estatua se encuentran cuatro alegorías : la Poesía , la Ciencia , el Valor y la Patria
Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in October 1978 while holding the office of cardinal-archbishop of Krakow, so even in Poland it is loved and venerated in Krakow is some thing spetial that is full of his memories , the places were he lived and worked and countless pictures his sculptures in churches, streets, buildings ...
We arrived in Krakow three days after his Beatificasión and and the town looked like if it were in holliday yet
Karol Wojtyla fue elegido Papa en octubre de 1978 mientras ocupaba el puesto de cardenal-arzobispo de Cracovia , por eso aunque en toda Polonia se le quiere y se le venera en Cracovia es algo muy especial que está llena de sus recuerdos , de los sitios en que vivió y de una innumerable cantidad fotos y esculturas suyas en las iglesias , calles , edificios...
Llegamos a Cracovia tres días después de su Beatificatión y aquello parecía todavía una fiesta
Tradition says that the two towers of St. Mary was entrusted to two brothers. Soon the competition began and both of them wanted to make the tallest tower.
The youngest brother lost and mad by jealousy killed his brother with a knife and then with great remorse and suffering he took his own life
In this conmemoracón we can see the knife at the entrance of the Cloth Hall
Dice la tradición que las dos torres de Santa María se encargaron a dos hermanos . Pronto empezó la competencia y cada uno quiso hacer la torre más alta .
Perdió el hermano menor , que enloquecido por la envidia mató a su hermano con un cuchillo y luego con con él y sufriendo grandes remordimientos se quitó la vida
En conmemoracón de esto se puede ver el cuchillo a la entrada de la Lonja de los Paños
In the watchtower (Hejnal) of the Church of Santa Maria the watcher saw that the Tartars were attacking , warned the population playing the trumpet until an arrow in the neck killed him , so abruptly stopped playing and left the melody unfinished
This tune is called: Hejnal Mariacki and every day play play when the clock gives the hours
En la torre de vigilancia ( Hejnal ) de la Iglesia de Santa María estaba apostado un vigía que al ver que atacaban los tártaros avisó tocando la trompeta hasta que una flecha en el cuello lo mató y por lo que dejó de tocar bruscamente y dejó la melodía inacabada
Esta melodía se llama : Hejnal mariacki y todos los días se toca cuando da el reloj las horas
When we were walking on the Planty gardens near the St. Anne church close to the Jagiellonian University colleges we saw a lot of young people about 18-19 years old grouped in front of the St. Anne (SW Anny) church. Inside, the church was also full of these young people attending a mass.
All the boys were wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie, some had a rose in hands. The girls where all dressed with a white blouse and a black mini skirt. There were hundreds of them celebrating something we as tourists ignored.
We supposed, as we were at the end of June, that this celebration had something to do with the end of their studies.
Indeed at the end of the secondary school - lyceum there is a maturity examination called in Polish "matura" that consist of the final written and oral exams from selected subjects. It is the final step of high school education and a big event in a life of a young Polish man and woman.
The examens are in May; from a Polish website I found this photo which shows very well how young men and women are dressed. I suppose that in June there was the celebration for those who had succeeded. The flowers were for St. Anny or the girl friend?
My wife made the remark that in Krakow girls at high school may wear mini skirts in all quitness while in some districts of Brussels girls in mini skirts are nowadays "not welcome" ("not welcome" is an euphemism, of course).
Also known as the Watch Tower, Wake, Alarm or Bugle Tower, it is the only tower in the world at which a bugle has been played every hour for six hundred years for the entire world to hear. To see and to hear these wonders one must climb 239 steps, to a floor 54 m above ground level. The trumpeter takes just two and a half minutes to ascend the tower but visitors do not need to hurry. At the top they will be heartily greeted by bugle players - members of the fire service, perhaps the last magicians of Krakow...
Bugles have always been played from Krakow towers and gates to announce the beginning and the end of the day. Travellers had to stay outside the city walls if they were caught by night near Krakow and wait until the gates were opened at sunrise.
What were the tunes played from the city's towers and the Royal Castle of Wawel? We will never know. It is only known that the tradition of the bugle call began in the late 14th Century, when Krakow saw the influx of Hungarians, and queen Jawiga, the future wife of king Jagiello was about to ascend the throne. It came here and stayed to resound in Krakow's skies forever. It was probably first played by Hungarians, and later, when the guards of the Wawel and St Mary's were changed, was taken over by the Poles.
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