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Where We Are: Krakow, Poland

We got into Krakow at 8 AM after taking the over-night train from Vienna. It was nine hours on a stop-and-go train, that was running an hour late (ask me how I feel about train logistics, I dare you), with crappy sleep in 20 minute increments. We hadn’t showered and our walk to the hostel took longer than we expected. It would have been really easy to be grumpy when we got to Krakow.

The Barbicon protected the walls around medieval Krakow.

We picked up coffee (another thing that makes crappy mornings suck less) and asked our barista to help us pronounce, “dziękuję,” Polish for “Than you.” Fortunately, the pronunciation is quite similar to the Czech and Slovak words, so we’d already been practicing botching it for days.

We spent our morning wandering through the city on a free walking tour, exploring the Main Market Square, getting swept up in the beauty of Wawel Royal Castle and its fire-breathing dragon, and imagined what it’d be like being told to be quiet by Pope John Paul II outside the window of his palace. We ate pierogi for lunch and vegan kebabs for dinner, and picked out all the bakeries we wanted to try. It was a pretty great day.

Good night, Main Market Square.

We’re not here for long, but we’re excited to see more of this charming medieval city over the next few days.

Initial Reactions on Krakow

  1. We love old, walled cities. After visiting Cartagena, Bratislava and Prague, we decided that we really just love any city that was once a walled city and still is home to an “old city” section. Krakow absolutely meets this criteria with its looming Barbicon and classic old town square, and thus, we are huge fans.
  2. Catholics & dragons. I just love that a catholic church has dragon bones hanging from its main entrance and a dragon dungeon below, which is the case at Wawel Cathedral.
  3. History that lasted. Krakow was largely spared during the World Wars that destroyed so much of Europe’s historical architecture and the history preserved inside of them. While it was explained to me in much detail on the walking tour, basically Krakow got lucky and it was not bombed in either war. As a result, it’s still home to many of the oldest buildings in Europe. The skyline of the main square is largely unchanged since it was built in the 14th century.

Wawel Cathedral features a patchwork of architecture layered on top of each other.

What you need to know:

  • Population: 750,000
  • Altitude: 219 meters
  • Exchange Rate: 3.63 Polish Zloty to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Polish and English
  • Walking TourFree Walking Tour,
  • Time Zone: Central European Summer Time, GMT +2 (7 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes
  • Uber: Yes
  • Public Transit: Bus, Street Car, Train
  • Emergency Number: 112 (all responders can speak English)
  • Running: TBD, we will likely skip running here because we have a race coming up.
  • American Football: TBD, but we will likely miss it Thursday night because we have a night train to our next destination.
  • Starbucks: Yes, many.
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: None.
  • Coffee Price:  20 Polish Zloty (~$5 USD) for a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Beer Price: 9 Polish Zloty (~ $2.50 USD) for a regular local draft beer

Powstańców Śląskich bridge connecting the Jewish Quarter to the former Jewish ghetto.