Saturday, October 16, 2010

Krakow (Day 2 Part 1) - Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel stands beautifully on the bank of Vistula River (Wisła River). If you drive into Krakow from the south side, you can see a complete view of Wawel from the bridge. Wawel, just like other castles, went through many changes (I will not bore you with the looong history here. Please check wikipedia if you are interested). Wawel, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978, has a lot to see inside which includes Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Wawel Castle.

As you enter Wawel from the northern slope from Kanonicza Street, the first thing you would notice is the tall tower of Wawel Cathedral. The exterior of cathedral is rather unique, which looks like a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style. The cathedral is the burial place of Polish kings, rulers, poets, and Krakow bishops. It is also where Pope John Paul II offered his first Mass as a priest on 2 November 1946. The church has a history of over 1000 years, but the current form was being structured in the 14th century.  There is a lot to see inside, so you may want to rent an audio set which will guide you through the cathedral including the tour to top of the northern Sigismund Tower with five bells; one of which is the famous Sigismund Bell.

Sigismund Bell is said to be one of the most important Polish national symbols and was cast in 1520. The huge bell, which weighs over 12 tons, takes 8 to 12 people to ring. However, it only tolls on national and church holidays and at the important historic events, so we didn't get to hear the sound of it. 

The stairs to the top of the tower are rather steep, but if you are in good health, I would strongly recommend going up there and enjoying a gorgeous view of Krakow.

The audio tour will take you down again into the back part of church. What was interesting to me was the gorgeous caskets (or sarcophagi) exhibited all over the church. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures inside the church, but they are all decorated with beautifully sculpted effigies. The oldest ones are from the 14th century. But, they are all symbolic tombs and do not contain actual remains of the kings (thank god!). We spent about good 2 hrs going through the cathedral with our audio guidance. 

The only other exhibit that was available that day on Monday was the one for Crown Treasury and Armoury which was combined with Lost Wavel.  Some of the armouries had interesting pictures carved onto the wooden part. I was wondering how the design was decided, as most of them looked rather cute and fairy tale like and so not like a type of pictures you see weapons.

On the way to the hotel, we stopped at a restaurant called Kawiarnia right off the Wawel to have a quick lunch. The restaurant was located in the underground, which may had been a celler at one point.  It had an arched brick ceiling, and the ambience was just so cozy. And, finally I got to taste Pierogi (ruskie type, filled with potato and cheese) and Żurek! I definitely became fun of the soup!

No comments:

Post a Comment