Krakow, Poland (2011)

Photos below: Store fronts at the Galeria Krakowska.

Galeria Krakowska is a three-level, two-galley, upscale shopping mall in Krakow, above the main train station and near Old Town Krakow. Most stores had at least one salesperson who spoke English. It was a long way from the village with nine people near Novogrudok, or the hole-in-the-floor-toilet in the train stations in Belarus, or the darkness in Pinsk. After a few days in Krakow, a taxi driver told me that Krakow has an even fancier and more upscale mall a few miles.

Photo below: Horse-drawn carriage in Old Town Krakow.

The two mares pulled me around for 30 minutes in a carriage, and I got an overview of the old city, which survived World War II largely intact.

Photo below: View from the carriage.

Photo below: View of St. Mary's Church, from the carriage.

Every hour a lone trumpeter stands high in the taller of the two towers of St. Mary's Church. He plays something called the "Hejnal Mariacki." The music breaks off abruptly mid-note. It commemorates an unknown 13th century bugler who was struck in the throat by a Tartar arrow as the bugler tried to warn the city of the invaders. It is a symbol of Polish independence and liberty in the face of overwhelming odds. More information: Trumpeter of Krakow.

Photo below: Another view from the carriage.

Photo below: Saying goodbye to the mares.

All of the horse-drawn carriages are privately owned, and each owner cares for his own animals. These mares were well cared for. The carriage driver and the two mares have been working together for more than ten years. The drivers compete with one another with the care and "decoration" of their horses. Obviously, in a situation where customers select the carriage and the horses, the temperment and appearance of the horses factor into the customer's choice. These were sweet mares.

Photo below: Church of Saints Peter & Paul.

In the evening, there was a concert at this church, by a string quintet. The group included a 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello, and bass. The cost was modest; it might have worked out to about $25 for the ticket. Every night in Krakow, there were many musical events to select from. As I'd walk throughout Old Town, folks would be passing out flyers to advertise the concerts. This was REAL music, performed by classically trained musicians. Often, the concerts were performed in churches, so the accoustics were fantastic. The concert that I attended at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul had, perhaps, 100 people in the audience.

Photo below: Inside at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

How many Catholic churches are there in Krakow? Reportedly, 120.

Photo below: Wawel Castle.

Photo below: Inside the castle grounds.

Photo below: Inside court yard at Wawel Castle.

Photo below: Newly married couple at Wawel Castle.

Photo below: Just outside Wawel Castle, swans in the Wisla River.

Photo below: One of the flower stands in Old Town Krakow.

Photo below: A bride in the market square, Old Town Krakow.

Photo below: Statue of Adam Mickiewicz, in the market square.

Adam Mickiewicz was from Novogroduk, and his remains (ultimately) were buried at Wawel Castle in Krakow.

Photo below: Market square in Old Town Krakow.

Photo below: Me, in front of a store called "Go to Alice"

Photo below: Band on a street corner in Old Town Krakow.

So, you see a band on a street corner in Krakow, Poland, and you think you're gonna get some "oom-pah music" and hear the "Beer Barrel Polka." Uh, not exactly. Take a look and start counting the wimples. In a crowd with that many nuns, the music was nice, but the gathering had some religious purpose.

Photo below: Pope John Paul II.

Directly across the street from where I thought I'd hear some "oom-pah" music was this image in the 2nd floor window. In Krakow, the "big brother" always watching you is the spirit of Pope John Paul II.

Next up, the Gallery in the Sukiennice.

2011 Trip