Our first stop was at a bar right off of the Rynek, which is equally beautiful at night or during the day. We did what university students there do: ordered a ton of different flavored vodkas, complimented by ice. Apricot, plum, peach, pear, you name it. After lounging in the city center, we started the 20 minute walk to Kazimierez, Krakow’s Jewish Quarter, around 1am. I didn’t know it at the time, but going out in Kazimierez is easily an all night event. We spent most of our time there in Taawa, a fairly new nightclub right on the Plac Nowy, the Jewish quarter’s main square. Taawa is known for trying to outclass the other clubs in the area, which it easily does. While nothing too extraordinary, the club has a strict dress code and what they call in Krakow, a “facecheck”. I’ll let you guess what that means. At 6am, my new friends and I were sitting in Plac Nowy, watching the sun rise. That’s just the way it is in Krakow – the party never stops. Even as I hailed a taxi to return for a quick nap, some of the group continued on to another bar on the square. And that is why the Polish claim to fame is their vodka.
The next morning I had to make my way back through the center of the city because I wanted to visit the famous Wawel Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral on the castle grounds which is more than 900 years old. The cathedral has served as the coronation site for hundreds of years of Polish kings and is the burial grounds for honorable Poles. I had quite a hard time making my way to the castle because the Tour de Pologne, a massive cycling event, was occurring. Barricades lined the Rynek and surrounding streets as onlookers clapped and cheered for the cyclists closing in on the finish line. Eventually, I made it to the cathedral and took an audio-guided tour of the elaborate interior; although quite small for European cathedral standards, the multitude of details and the impressive tombs of famous Poles was certainly impressive. The view from the top of the claustrophobic bell tower was also worth the price of admission.
With all this hustle and bustle, I needed a little break before continuing my whirlwind tour of Krakow. I stopped into Verde Massage and Beauty on ul. Bracka, in the very center of town for an hour long deep tissue massage. I think I fell asleep about 15 minutes into the massage… like I said, I needed a break. After my hour of recharging, I hit the surrounding streets to do a bit of touristy shopping. I purchased a foot salt scrub and a home made soap that smelled amazing. If I was a wealthy traveler, I would have spent a fortune at Smalzaban, a boutique shop on ul. Bracka specializing in decanting their own Polish vodkas and absinthe. The shop looks like an old fashioned pharmacy with all the concoctions on display.
I still had a few hours before I met up with my friend Jenny, who was in town on her way to the Ukraine, so I walked back to the Jewish quarter to visit the Old Jewish Syngagoue. Although very old, the Synagogue was almost completely devastated during the war, and now serves as a museum for Jewish culture and customs. I found the museum to be quite dry and bland. After visiting other incredible museums on Jewish history, such as the on in the Old Jewish Quarter in Venice, I can not say that I would recommend staking out too much time for a visit to this spot. Although informative, during my next day in Krakow, I visited some excellent monuments to the Jewish heritage of the city which I would highly recommend to the traveler tight on time… More on that in a future post!