Cracow, along with Prague, has the distinction of being one of the very few major cities in central Europe to escape major damage in the Second World War, and in consequence has a wealth of splendid old buildings. I am describing just a few of them.
The Old Quarter of the city is enclosed within what were once the fortifications, but are now a strip of parks called the Planty. In the centre is the market area, the Rynek Glowry, where we find the Cloth Hall. This dates form the 16th century, and is now full of stalls catering for the tourist trade.
The square contains the tower of the old Town Hall,
also St. Adalbert's church, the oldest in Cracow,
and a statue of the Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz.
Many fine buildings line the square
The church of St. Mary is at the north-east corner.
The story goes that when in 1241 the great Mongol army (which had swept across Russia, destroying Moscow and Kiev) approached Cracow, a bugler on the tower started to blow a warning, but was killed by an arrow through his throat before he finished his call. A truncated bugle call is still sounded from the church in his memory.
I found this splendid character busking outside the church..
There are many fine churches in the centre of Cracow. This is the baroque church of Saints Peter and Paul.
South of the Old Quarter is Wawel Hill; the site of the cathedral and the royal castle.
The cathedral is dedicated to St. Stanislas, an early Bishop of Cracow, who was murdered in 1079.
In the cathedral you can see the magnificent tombs of the 16th century Kings of Poland.
This is the courtyard of the Royal Castle
In a cave below the hill there lurks a fiery dragon!
Kazimierz lies to the east of Wawel Hill. It was founded as a separate town by King Kazimierz the Great in 1335. The Jewish population of Cracow was moved here in the late 15th century. The area contains several synagogues, including one named after Rabbi Moses Remu'h
The cemetery next to the synagogue was largely destroyed in the Second World War, and a wall has been constructed from fragments of the old tombstones
Kazimierz was made famous in the film "Schindler's List". Some of the old streets and courtyards are still there.
Schindler's factory is commemorated only by a small plaque, which is not easy to find, but there is a large memorial to Cracow's murdered Jews outside the town.
If you go on a package-holiday visit to Cracow, you will probably find that a day trip to Auschwitz will be included; but it will be stressed that this is voluntary, since of course many people would find it distressing. Auschwitz is an hour or so's drive from Cracow. I have written about it elsewhere on this blog.