Krakow is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland.
Today, “it’s so easy” to travel. I borrowed the title from the autobiography of Duff McKaggan, former bass guitarist of Guns N’Roses, whose book I was reading on my way to Krakow. You should just look for some reasonable tickets, secure an accommodation and if you have a good book to read or friends to chat – you won’t even realize that you’ve reached your destination. Besides, you can form your own opinion about other countries, which often contradicts what you’ve heard about them.
Dormant centre of Europe
Maybe it was the attractive location in the middle of Europe and the cunning of the Polish kings that made Krakow grow into one of the dormant centres of the Old Continent. In the end of the 14th century, it became the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Union – one of the strongest states in Europe at that time. It is less known than Prague, which is more ‘to the West’, but yet Krakow has a rich history reaching back to almost 20,000 BC. The Royal Route from the Florian’s gate to the castle reminds the bustling flavour of Edinburgh, with a stop at the Market Square towered by the St Mary’s Church. Besides, Poles are also patriotic nation and they could succeed to prove it shortly after the dragon was forced out of the castle.
City of John Paul II and the Dragon
I prefer the (West) German name Krakau, which sounds more Gothic. Krakow is still full of Gothic architecture thanks to the ecclesiastical buildings, including Wawel Castle. In addition, the city was close to catastrophe during WWII. The nearby concentration camp Auschwitz reminds us of this failure of mankind. Pope John Paul II is also an influential person from Krakow, who was not afraid to be outspoken in his criticism about communism and who spread hope to the whole Christian world. Another popular figure in Krakow is the Dragon. His statue stands in front of the castle and you can take him home from any souvenir shop. Originally, the dragon lived in a cave under the castle hill but a mythical hero Krak killed the poor beast and thereupon the Polish kings could start the kingdom.
A few centuries after the crown was established in 999, Polish people had to face much harder enemies than the dragon, for example: Tartars, Bohemians, Frenchmen and Prussians. Some historical quarters of Krakow soldiered under Napoleon, later fronted by Nazis and finally concreted into the communist constructivist architecture. Good example of the metamorphic reality served the leftist governance. But it was Poland, again, who launched the first successful campaign against Communism, if the history books can be taken by word. The Solidarity movement was not afraid of the Communist regime and its members even gained support of pope John Paul II, one of the most important personalities of the 20th century.He is almost as popular in Krakow as the Dragon.
In the 21st century, the Polish still keep their currency – Zloty, they also aren’t afraid to call the situation in Ukraine a war. Besides, you can find them all around the world – mainly in the UK and in managerial positions. Sometimes, foreigners in London don’t learn English but Polish, which proves the strength of the Polish community. Recently, the Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk was elected for the presidency in the European Council.
‘Popularity’ of Polish products
Polish products do not enjoy much popularity, for example in Slovakia, especially after a few scandals with contaminated food that resulted in the mockery of ‘Made in Poland’ food. Here in Poland you can see mainly domestic products in the shops. Polish have their rich cuisine with traditional dishes. Did you know that bagels originate in Poland? So do the toffee fudges Krowky and back in London, the Polish shops are amongst the rare places where you can buy good butcher’s product. Here in Krakow, they are available at every corner, savoury pork knee with a beer. Poland is one of the six most prosperous economies in Europe. However, the prices are reasonable.