Kraków finale – Old Town to Gestapo HQ
Poland Day 9. With Kraków’s size and extensive history I’m glad I planned to stay a full week. Still I was pushed for time rounding up my final to-dos which were primarily in the Old Town but also beyond it to take in another harrowing WW2 museum.
I was relieved to get my first full night’s sleep on the trip. After breakfasting nearby I set out for the local post office, having assembled a kilo of stuff I could post home including some now non-essential clothes. This leaves me a few basics to last another three-ish weeks which will be fine. I will appreciate the simplicity if not the variety.
The transaction took about half an hour to work through, my teller enlisting a couple of English-speaking customers to convey information to help complete the customs form. Postage was about NZ$30 so not too bad – let’s see if it turns up!
A short walk away is the start of the Royal Road, named for the time royalty and other distinguished types entered the city through the Barbican and Florian Gate and proceeded in an important manner (no doubt) along to the square and then down to Wawel Castle. It is fantastic that these historic gateways and some of the associated wall live on today.
The square was again pulsating with people and pigeons. I mucked around here for a bit and realised that I could go up the St Mary’s bugle tower which is only open Thu, Fri and Sat, so I booked a time slot and came back later.
I carried on down the Royal Road mainly to see St Francis’ Basilica which I’d missed the other day, famous for its Art Nouveau interior – painted walls and stained-glass windows. And it was stunning – the most beautiful church I’ve seen, so much colour and intricacy on such a large scale.
I abandoned the Royal Road here to make sure I had time to get over to the museum, half an hour away north-east of the square. I trotted off down a wide main road, busy with traffic and pedestrians and filled with more striking old architecture. It was here I saw my first and only beggar in Kraków and a minute later a drunk man clutching a bottle weaved toward me with a cross-eyed stare. Displays of public drunkenness have been few and far between, though I’ve really only been out and about in daytime.
I found Pomorska Street and the museum which was the Kraków headquarters of the Gestapo during WW2. There are two exhibits, a small museum room, and most impacting of all, the detention cells used to interrogate and torture political prisoners.
Time to retrace steps and get back to the square. There are 27 regulations for visiting the tower, including ensuring one is healthy enough to climb the 271 steps. Given it wasn’t one of those small tight staircases it was a relative breeze, though there were complaints from the smoker ahead of me as our small group made the ascent.
I walked through the Planty a couple of times during the day – my plan had been to walk right around it in one continuous loop but over the week I never achieved this. It’s a great place to snatch some greenery, history and people watch (not so much the canoodling couples of which there were MANY).
I walked back to the hotel and got ready for my early morning departure. I really enjoyed my time in Kraków, the type of city it is made it a great intitiation for my month in Poland and I threw myself into experiencing what I could of its many layers of history. Now it was time to head north.
Distance walked: 14.14km