The heart remained in Krakow

For our summer trip, after a brief family consultation and involving other friends, we decided to go to Krakow, the capital of Poland until the end of the sixteenth century and from 1978 (just the year when he was elected Pope his most beloved and illustrious, Karol Wojtyla or Pope John Paul II) declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. As soon as you arrive in Krakow, after a two-hour flight from Lamezia Terme and 15 minutes by taxi, you have the distinct sensation of having fallen into a noble and elegant reality. Beautiful medieval buildings, others of more recent times, monuments, pleasant gardens that surround the entire perimeter of the historic center … everything immediately makes you think you have made the right choice. After a quick passage to the hotel, we immediately immerse ourselves in the role of tourists and as a first step we aim at the Wawel Castle, which dominates the city from a hill. Inside, the history of Poland is truly contained: almost all the coronations and funerals of the rulers took place here; in each corner there are chapels with sarcophagi. There is also the Chapel of Sigismund, the Chapel of the Holy Cross, all frescoed, the bell tower with its huge bell of Sigismund in its 11 tons, the Museum, the private royal apartments with their collection of Flemish tapestries belonged to Sigismund II Augustus, the Jadwiga Chapel known as the ” hen’s paw”, the State Chambers, the Treasury and the Armory of the Crown. It is here that the famous Leonardo da Vinci canvas “ Lady with an Ermine” was hosted for a while. The evening passes with a long walk towards Grodzka Street, surrounded by beautiful buildings, up to the Church of San Francesco. It is here that Karol Woytila ​​came to pray. Inside the church there are Art Nouveau frescoes and the stained glass windows by Stanislaw Wyspianski. In the evening you can walk to the medieval fortifications and the Barbakan, the circular bastion to protect the Florianska Gate. For dinner, friends have chosen a typical restaurant, where they can taste the “zurek” a soup with rye flour and meat, one of the best known Polish dishes; at lunch we had aimed at Obwarzanek, characteristic donuts of bread sold in almost every corner of the city. On the second day we decide to visit the famous Wielickza salt mines, less than 15 km from Krakow. They are made up of galleries that lead to gigantic caves, ponds and chapels entirely built of salt (candelabras, altars, chandeliers, bas-reliefs, statues) that push themselves for tens of meters in the subsoil. The part that can be visited is only a small part of the hundreds of kilometers excavated over the course of 700 years: it starts going down for 378 steps to level 1 (about 64 meters deep), then it goes down again to level II (91 meters deep) ) which also hosts the Chapel of Saint Cunegonde where Mass is officiated every Sunday morning, and finally at level III (135 meters deep). The visit lasted three hours and in the afternoon, by renting an electric taxi, we went to visit the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz (or Casimiro), with its sadly famous ghetto, the Oscar Schlinder factory and the old Synagogue, the Jewish Museum of Galicia and the Remuh Synagogue, the smallest but also the only one still in operation. Despite being a Jewish quarter, it is also home to two of the most important Christian churches in Krakow: the Corpus Domini and the imposing Church of Saint Catherine. For the third day, Tuesday, we decide to visit the historic center carefully and go shopping. So we go to Rynek Glowny, the Market Square, the largest medieval square in Europe. The Sukiennice, the 14th century building located in the center of this 200-meter-long square, prevents you from knowing exactly the proportions of Rynek Glowny, but we assure you that it is really infinite. Inside the Sukiennice there is the Underground Market, now a Museum. The weather threatens rain, and so we decide to visit the Basilica of the Assumption known as Mariacki, as imposing outside as glitzy (perhaps excessively) inside. There you can admire the altar and the altarpiece by Veit Stoss, a gothic carved polyptych. We then go up to the Hejnal Tower and after having climbed hundreds of steps, we can admire the view across the city and listen to the hejnal, a trumpet call repeated four times at any hour, which is performed by a trumpeter who then lends itself kindly to a group photo with all of us.
For the last day, Wednesday, we planned to visit Auschwitz / Birkenau. Sadly famous places, far forty kilometers from Krakow. We leave at seven and return in the afternoon. On purpose, I omit to tell details of a truly disturbing experience, but which I consider necessary for anyone. In the afternoon, due to the rain, we dedicate it to visit the Wax Museum (requested by the children). Thursday is the day of departure. We are sad, as we are every time we leave a place from which we were fascinated. At the airport, we all agree: the heart will remain in Krakow.