Saying goodbye to my lovely host family at the airport in Pisa made me realize that my summer really was coming to a close. Marina slipped me some extra Euros and the boys both gave me a hug. And with that, I was on my Ryan Air flight to Krakow. For 5 Euros, a bus dropped me off in central Krakow. I dragged my suitcase and lugged my backpack a few blocks before deciding to get a taxi. Exchange rates in Poland are favorable, so the ride cost about $5 to get me to my AirBnB apartment which was in an amazing location in the center of the city, Ulica Krupnicza.
I was a little early to meet my host, so I went across the street to a restaurant called Pod Norenami, a vegetarian Asian bistro. It was late at night and the bar was empty, so I sat down and started talking with the bartenders, who were all university students. I didn’t have the slightest clue what to order, so they made a creation using Polish soda and vodka. They called my host on his cell phone to let him know I had arrived. Then they proceeded to give me all sorts of advice of where to go and what to see in the city. By the time my host Peter showed up and let me in to the apartment, I was overwhelmed with suggestions about what to do.
After Peter left, I went to sleep fast. I wanted to have some energy for a full day of exploring the city and getting my grounding.
In the morning, I headed straight to the Rynek, Krakow’s main square, about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. The main square is huge and is dominated in the center by an old marketplace. Picture at least 4 football fields combined to get an idea of how much space the square takes up. There is so much to do right there, a visitor could spend around 3 days just exploring all of the museums, churches, restaurants, and shops in the Rynek!
The first place I set out to visit was St. Mary’s Basilica which is famous for it’s carved wooden altarpiece. I went there first because on the hour, the altarpiece is ceremonially opened up and you can see the beautiful gold adorned Biblical scene inside. The church gets packed on the hour with tourists craning their necks and positioning their cameras to get a good shot of the altarpiece. What really impressed me at St. Mary’s was not the altarpiece but rather the colorful stained glass windows. But – that’s not all!
My absolute favorite part about the church is that every single hour on the hour a trumpet signal is played from the top of the tallest tower. The purpose of this is to commemorate the 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the tower when warning the city of the Mongul attack. During my time in Krakow, I heard the trumpet tune over and over throughout the city. When I was out at 3am, the trumpeter still played. The trumpet tune ties the city together. Most locals say they don’t ever hear it anymore, they are just so used to it. I got so used to listening for it that when I was heading to the train station to leave Krakow and heard it for the last time, I felt sad knowing that I wouldn’t be hearing it again for some time. When you go to Krakow, make sure you listen for the sound of the trumpeter. You can close your eyes and everything else fades away besides the feeling of the special place you are in the world; Krakow.