Friday, January 8, 2010

Krakow

Krakow is fantastic. It's quite different to Prague and other cities, more relaxed and modern. I'm definitely not going to be learning Polish any time soon; the language is a bit of a tongue twister. I'm having trouble saying hello, let alone other things. 

Wawel Cathedral
We arrived at about 6am and headed up to Wawel Cathedral shortly after. There is a lot of history here, as they seem to have been very much a religious country, with various cardinals and so on buried within the Cathedral. No photos of the inside, unfortunately, because it is ultimately, still a place of worship. 


The largest bell in Poland. Something about over 11 tonnes. 

 

Statue of Pope John Paul II outside the Cathedral.

 

Cathedral from the outside.
 

View of Krakow from the top of the hill.

There is apparently a dragon here at the top of the hill, in the dragon's den. And apparently, said dragon was killed by some smart people who made it eat a bag of hot sulfur. Apparently! Either way, we didn't get to see the dragon breathe fire, because he doesn't work if it gets below 0 C. And that is everyday here at this rate, so no dragon. Still, the dragon lives on in the city and plush green reincarnations are available. 

Wieliczka Salt Mine
The other main attraction here in Krakow is the salt mine, on the list of UNESCO's special places. Everything is made of salt. Except maybe the toilets, which are the toilets that are the furthest down on Earth at a depth of 120 metres below sea level. There are many salt statues in the mine, telling stories of what happened in the mine over 500 years ago. The mine was discovered by a princess who threw her engagement ring down a mine shaft in Hungary, only to have it dug up again in Poland, where the salt was found. I don't know how well jewelery travels underground, but that is a good way of doing things.

 
The outside of the mine. It's a little below zero outside, but about 14 C underneath.

 
The princess being reunited with her ring.

 

The gnomes hard at work.

 

Inside the mine, all the salt looks brown, but under a decent amount of light, it comes up white. Crystalline? 

We were lucky enough to visit on a day when a special Mass was held in the main chapel. The Cardinal of Poland (important guy?) was there to open a new tourist route through the mine. The mine has its own brass band (with token woodwind) and so they were playing, the Cardinal was talking and so on. There are plenty of little chapels throughout the mine, because the miners were often devoutly religious. The chandeliers are all made out of salt, with some crystals making me jealous that I can't make anything near that nice in the lab.



The Cardinal of Poland during Mass. Salt sculpture of the Last Supper in the middle, on the left.

More about Krakow later. We're heading to Budapest tonight on a sleeper train. They are quite useful, because you get transport and accommodation in one, but they do go rather slowly. We're traveling 250 km, requiring 11 hours. 

 
 


 

6 comments:

Clauds said...

I GOT THE PACKAGE I LOVE IT SOO MUCH ALTHIE!! I MISS YOU LOTS

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the magnet, it looks lovely :)

The photos of the mine are awesome! I'd love to have seen that!

- Johnny

Anonymous said...

I am so enjoying your trip - keep it up and be safe!

jerri

Anonymous said...

Package arrived - thanks so very much - it is in its special place, being appreciated by everyone concerned!

jerri

Frank Baron said...

I'm enjoying the tour through your lens and words. And trying not to be jealous. ;)

Viminalis said...

I don't mind admitting to being envious.
The photos are awesome.