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CRACOW Full of history and past glory, Cracow is not only the most beautiful city in Poland, but also one of the loveliest touristic locations in Europe. Its medieval character has been maintained over the centuries, while every new period and trend only added a more interesting dimension to its grandeur. It has been miraculously spared from any irreparable damage during the many military upheavals and invasions it endured, preserving the biggest gems of Polish national heritage. That combined with the constant renovation efforts enables the visitor to experience a once-in-a-life-time sightseeing extravaganza. Around the historic Old Town area literally every building, every street corner whispers of the days gone by, tells a thousand stories and enchants you with its unique, spellbinding atmosphere! There’s such an abundance of destinations to explore you have to really plan your escapades wisely. We have stayed there full 7 days, walked around from dawn till dusk and were still only able to tour the most important attractions. But Cracow has so much more to offer than just the mind-blowing monuments and museums. It’s the cultural capital of Poland, with festivals and events taking place all year long. Its hotels and restaurants can easily compete with any other major European city; the night life will satisfy every party animal. If shopping is your thing, be prepared for some serious retail action: anything you want you will find here. If you wish to purchase something truly original and valuable, the numerous antique stores will provide you with this opportunity (these are located mostly around the old Market Square). The inhabitants of the city are for the most part very friendly and accommodating, at least the ones we dealt with were pretty open and helpful; some even cordial. Almost everybody speaks English, but you can also find people with other foreign language skills. Considering the league Cracow plays in, it is surprisingly inexpensive. Compared to such beloved tourist spots like Paris, Venice or London it actually strikes as a great bargain. Please beware, however, that you will have to pay for everything there. Every museum, exhibition or attraction: they will charge you to view it (even if the fee is usually quite low). Even some of the churches require buying a touring pass. Occasionally the ability to take photographs may cost extra, as well. However it is for a very good purpose (conservation and upkeep), so we did not mind the charges. The businesses there (such as gastronomical venues or tourist services) will try to solicit you around popular sightseeing sites by handing out brochures or chatting you up, but if you say: ”no, thank you” they will leave you alone immediately. We had no problems with anybody being too pushy or unpleasant. If I really wanted to describe all my impressions from this incredible trip I would probably have to write a work of the size of a Russian novel. I can see you raising your brow in alarm. But never fear, I shall not torture you and will share only the bare essence here, keeping it brief. I hope this account helps in planning your own vacation. And one last thing in case my previous rambling weren’t clear enough: if you have ever wanted to visit Cracow you should. It is awesome!!! HOTEL  APARTHOTEL STARE MIASTO ****** http://www.ahsm-krakow.com/n/ Cracow is a city pulsating with life and opportunity, so if you do your research you can find the most amazing and affordable hotels right around the  Old Town area (ours was on a little side street 2 minutes stroll from the Market Square) and within easy walking distance to all the major tourist hot-spots. Most important facts: the accommodation we booked (Deluxe Studio with SPA bath) is like a little penthouse apartment in itself. It has a small kitchen upstairs, a luxurious bathroom with a spacious Jacuzzi, a comfortable living/sleeping area, a flat-screen TV and a safe. The interior emanates stylish elegance, the brick walls constituting an especially lovely accent. The guest rooms are serviced daily, the reception is open 24/7, an on-site restaurant can be visited for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The staff members were polite and friendly, even if the new maid (she started a few days after our arrival) did not yet appear quite as savvy in her job as one might have wished :-). We adored the spa bath (nothing like hydro-massage after a long day of energetically marching around all the historic wonders) and appreciated the happy circumstance of possessing rudimentary dishes, a kettle and a fridge (no microwave alas), but the available appliances certainly sufficed to at least make a decent breakfast or a snack. As far as I understand all the rooms offered here (even the basic ones) are equipped with a kitchenette, free Wi-Fi and a safe.  I would definitely recommend this hotel: not only is it gorgeous (we actually gasped upon entering the room), but also very comfortable and centrally located. SIGHTSEEING DAY 1 We arrived pretty late, so our first day really only amounted to the afternoon (in case you though we are lazy bums and slacking off in our duties). MARKET SQUARE (RYNEK GLOWNY) ****** The Market Square (biggest one in Europe) is the heart of Cracow, a place full of energy and captivating ambience. All the buildings located here are historically significant (describing them would probably already take up several pages), it is also the site of several museums and the breath-taking St. Mary’s Church: one of the main symbols of the city. The old Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) contains a lot of stalls with souvenirs. Most of them are of the rather tacky variety (dolls, figurines, T-shirts, teddy-bears), but if you are willing to spend a little more you can become the proud owner of wonderful amber jewelry or exquisite pottery items. As already mentioned above, antique stores can be found here and in the neighboring side streets. Cafes and restaurants situated all along the walls of the square welcome weary visitors with the most delicious Polish specialties, but a lot of them also offer international cuisine if you are not the experimenting type. As long as the weather stays warm, the outdoor tables are really packed with guests watching the world pass by from under the umbrellas. Just a short walk away down Florianska Street will let you discover the beautiful St. Florian’s Gate with the City Wall Remnants, as well as the Barbican, the military defense bastion utilized by the inhabitants during the tumultuous events of the past. The Market Square in itself is a monument to history and an unsurpassed tool to understanding the spirit of Cracow. I would recommend taking an afternoon to just walk around, soak in the unique atmosphere and admire the fascinating architecture. DAY 2 ST. MARY’S CHURCH ****** http://www.mariacki.com/index.php/pl/ This awe-inspiring Gothic basilica with its soaring towers gained international fame mostly through its magnificent high altar created by Veit Stoss between 1477-1489. This gifted sculptor was way ahead of his time and astonishes even contemporary scholars with his use of dramatic expression and naturalistic poses in his figures. These, along with the carvings on the shutters, represent the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You can sit down on one of the benches in front of this masterpiece and contemplate its beauty, while listening to the lectures of the many foreign language guides who bring their groups here. The basilica’s intricate and richly decorated interior additionally contains numerous side chapels devoted to different Catholic motifs.  These are also heavily ornamented: everything seems to demand our attention; I found it almost overwhelming in its splendor. The many murals painted by the highly acclaimed Polish artist Jan Matejko explode with color and detail, as do the stained glass windows. The Church of St. Mary’s belongs to the most artistically and historically valuable Christian temples in Europe. No photograph could ever depict how spectacular it is, so please excuse my pathetic attempts, but perhaps you will at least get a small inkling of what awaits you. You will need at least an hour to view everything, I would recommend staying even longer. GALLERY OF THE 19-TH CENTURY POLISH ART ****** http://www.muzeum.krakow.pl/About-the-museum.61.0.html?&L=1 Located at the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall). This museum atop the historical Cloth Hall houses an impressive collection of Polish paintings and sculptures originating in the 19th century. The exhibition is divided into four sections: each held in a separate room decorated using a different color. The most famous artists of this period are featured here, such as Jan Matejko, Henryk Siemiradzki or Jacek Malczewski. Some of the displayed masterpieces possess a truly monumental character, not only in size (several canvases are gigantic), but in the artistry of their execution. The collection is organized in the following way: The Bacciarelli Room (Enlightenment) The white interior holds mostly portraits and paintings with historical background. Some of the displayed artists include: Giambattista Lampi, Franciszek Smuglewicz or Marcello Bacciarelli. The Michalowski Room (Romanticism, Towards National Art) The green interior holds portraits, battle scenes, historically symbolic paintings and landscapes. Some of the most famous presented artists include: Jan Nepomucen Glowacki, Jozef Simmler or Arthur Grottger. The Siemiradzki Room (Around the Academy) The red interior holds the biggest jewels of the collection, namely the masterpieces by Henryk Siemiradzki (Nero’s Torches) and Jan Matejko (Prussian Homage). Other painters displayed here include: Jacek Malczewski, Wojciech Gerson and Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz. The main addressed motifs range from mythological and biblical themes to contemporary efforts of regaining national independence, as well as portraits of historically significant figures. The Chelmonski Room (Realism, Polish Impressionism, Beginning of Symbolism) The blue interior holds the creations of such artists as Jozef Chelmonski, Julian Falat, Jozef Brandt or Leon Wyczolkowski and concentrates on genre painting, portraits, landscapes as well as rural or military-oriented scenes. The controversial painting Ecstasy by Podkowinski can also be viewed here. This is a great exhibition for those, who want to orientate themselves about the trends in Polish art during the 19th century and discover how it was influenced by the political situation of the country at the time. To tour this museum properly you will need 2-3 hours. Please don’t miss the café situated one floor below with its wonderful view of the Main Square.
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CRACOW Full of history and past glory, Cracow is not only the most beautiful city in Poland, but also one of the loveliest touristic locations in Europe. Its medieval character has been maintained over the centuries, while every new period and trend only added a more interesting dimension to its grandeur. It has been miraculously spared from any irreparable damage during the many military upheavals and invasions it endured, preserving the biggest gems of Polish national heritage. That combined with the constant renovation efforts enables the visitor to experience a once-in-a-life-time sightseeing extravaganza. Around the historic Old Town area literally every building, every street corner whispers of the days gone by, tells a thousand stories and enchants you with its unique, spellbinding atmosphere! There’s such an abundance of destinations to explore you have to really plan your escapades wisely. We have stayed there full 7 days, walked around from dawn till dusk and were still only able to tour the most important attractions. But Cracow has so much more to offer than just the mind-blowing monuments and museums. It’s the cultural capital of Poland, with festivals and events taking place all year long. Its hotels and restaurants can easily compete with any other major European city; the night life will satisfy every party animal. If shopping is your thing, be prepared for some serious retail action: anything you want you will find here. If you wish to purchase something truly original and valuable, the numerous antique stores will provide you with this opportunity (these are located mostly around the old Market Square). The inhabitants of the city are for the most part very friendly and accommodating, at least the ones we dealt with were pretty open and helpful; some even cordial. Almost everybody speaks English, but you can also find people with other foreign language skills. Considering the league Cracow plays in, it is surprisingly inexpensive. Compared to such beloved tourist spots like Paris, Venice or London it actually strikes as a great bargain. Please beware, however, that you will have to pay for everything there. Every museum, exhibition or attraction: they will charge you to view it (even if the fee is usually quite low). Even some of the churches require buying a touring pass. Occasionally the ability to take photographs may cost extra, as well. However it is for a very good purpose (conservation and upkeep), so we did not mind the charges. The businesses there (such as gastronomical venues or tourist services) will try to solicit you around popular sightseeing sites by handing out brochures or chatting you up, but if you say: ”no, thank you” they will leave you alone immediately. We had no problems with anybody being too pushy or unpleasant. If I really wanted to describe all my impressions from this incredible trip I would probably have to write a work of the size of a Russian novel. I can see you raising your brow in alarm. But never fear, I shall not torture you and will share only the bare essence here, keeping it brief. I hope this account helps in planning your own vacation. And one last thing in case my previous rambling weren’t clear enough: if you have ever wanted to visit Cracow you should. It is awesome!!! HOTEL  APARTHOTEL STARE MIASTO ****** http://www.ahsm-krakow.com/n/ Cracow is a city pulsating with life and opportunity, so if you do your research you can find the most amazing and affordable hotels right around the  Old Town area (ours was on a little side street 2 minutes stroll from the Market Square) and within easy walking distance to all the major tourist hot-spots. Most important facts: the accommodation we booked (Deluxe Studio with SPA bath) is like a little penthouse apartment in itself. It has a small kitchen upstairs, a luxurious bathroom with a spacious Jacuzzi, a comfortable living/sleeping area, a flat-screen TV and a safe. The interior emanates stylish elegance, the brick walls constituting an especially lovely accent. The guest rooms are serviced daily, the reception is open 24/7, an on-site restaurant can be visited for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The staff members were polite and friendly, even if the new maid (she started a few days after our arrival) did not yet appear quite as savvy in her job as one might have wished :-). We adored the spa bath (nothing like hydro-massage after a long day of energetically marching around all the historic wonders) and appreciated the happy circumstance of possessing rudimentary dishes, a kettle and a fridge (no microwave alas), but the available appliances certainly sufficed to at least make a decent breakfast or a snack. As far as I understand all the rooms offered here (even the basic ones) are equipped with a kitchenette, free Wi- Fi and a safe.  I would definitely recommend this hotel: not only is it gorgeous (we actually gasped upon entering the room), but also very comfortable and centrally located. SIGHTSEEING DAY 1 We arrived pretty late, so our first day really only amounted to the afternoon (in case you though we are lazy bums and slacking off in our duties). MARKET SQUARE (RYNEK GLOWNY) ****** The Market Square (biggest one in Europe) is the heart of Cracow, a place full of energy and captivating ambience. All the buildings located here are historically significant (describing them would probably already take up several pages), it is also the site of several museums and the breath-taking St. Mary’s Church: one of the main symbols of the city. The old Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) contains a lot of stalls with souvenirs. Most of them are of the rather tacky variety (dolls, figurines, T-shirts, teddy- bears), but if you are willing to spend a little more you can become the proud owner of wonderful amber jewelry or exquisite pottery items. As already mentioned above, antique stores can be found here and in the neighboring side streets. Cafes and restaurants situated all along the walls of the square welcome weary visitors with the most delicious Polish specialties, but a lot of them also offer international cuisine if you are not the experimenting type. As long as the weather stays warm, the outdoor tables are really packed with guests watching the world pass by from under the umbrellas. Just a short walk away down Florianska Street will let you discover the beautiful St. Florian’s Gate with the City Wall Remnants, as well as the Barbican, the military defense bastion utilized by the inhabitants during the tumultuous events of the past. The Market Square in itself is a monument to history and an unsurpassed tool to understanding the spirit of Cracow. I would recommend taking an afternoon to just walk around, soak in the unique atmosphere and admire the fascinating architecture. DAY 2 ST. MARY’S CHURCH ****** http://www.mariacki.com/index.php/pl/ This awe- inspiring Gothic basilica with its soaring towers gained international fame mostly through its magnificent high altar created by Veit Stoss between 1477- 1489. This gifted sculptor was way ahead of his time and astonishes even contemporary scholars with his use of dramatic expression and naturalistic poses in his figures. These, along with the carvings on the shutters, represent the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You can sit down on one of the benches in front of this masterpiece and contemplate its beauty, while listening to the lectures of the many foreign language guides who bring their groups here. The basilica’s intricate and richly decorated interior additionally contains numerous side chapels devoted to different Catholic motifs.  These are also heavily ornamented: everything seems to demand our attention; I found it almost overwhelming in its splendor. The many murals painted by the highly acclaimed Polish artist Jan Matejko explode with color and detail, as do the stained glass windows. The Church of St. Mary’s belongs to the most artistically and historically valuable Christian temples in Europe. No photograph could ever depict how spectacular it is, so please excuse my pathetic attempts, but perhaps you will at least get a small inkling of what awaits you. You will need at least an hour to view everything, I would recommend staying even longer. GALLERY OF THE 19-TH CENTURY POLISH ART ****** http://www.muzeum.krakow.pl/About-the- museum.61.0.html?&L=1 Located at the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall). This museum atop the historical Cloth Hall houses an impressive collection of Polish paintings and sculptures originating in the 19th century. The exhibition is divided into four sections: each held in a separate room decorated using a different color. The most famous artists of this period are featured here, such as Jan Matejko, Henryk Siemiradzki or Jacek Malczewski. Some of the displayed masterpieces possess a truly monumental character, not only in size (several canvases are gigantic), but in the artistry of their execution. The collection is organized in the following way: The Bacciarelli Room (Enlightenment) The white interior holds mostly portraits and paintings with historical background. Some of the displayed artists include: Giambattista Lampi, Franciszek Smuglewicz or Marcello Bacciarelli. The Michalowski Room (Romanticism, Towards National Art) The green interior holds portraits, battle scenes, historically symbolic paintings and landscapes. Some of the most famous presented artists include: Jan Nepomucen Glowacki, Jozef Simmler or Arthur Grottger. The Siemiradzki Room (Around the Academy) The red interior holds the biggest jewels of the collection, namely the masterpieces by Henryk Siemiradzki (Nero’s Torches) and Jan Matejko (Prussian Homage). Other painters displayed here include: Jacek Malczewski, Wojciech Gerson and Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz. The main addressed motifs range from mythological and biblical themes to contemporary efforts of regaining national independence, as well as portraits of historically significant figures. The Chelmonski Room (Realism, Polish Impressionism, Beginning of Symbolism) The blue interior holds the creations of such artists as Jozef Chelmonski, Julian Falat, Jozef Brandt or Leon Wyczolkowski and concentrates on genre painting, portraits, landscapes as well as rural or military-oriented scenes. The controversial painting Ecstasy by Podkowinski can also be viewed here. This is a great exhibition for those, who want to orientate themselves about the trends in Polish art during the 19th  century and discover how it was influenced by the political situation of the country at the time. To tour this museum properly you will need 2-3 hours. Please don’t miss the café situated one floor below with its wonderful view of the Main Square.
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