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Trip Report Five Polish Towns Plus Frankfurt - September, 2011 - A Trip Report

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After talking about going to Poland for several years, my friend Nancy and I finally got our act together and booked a trip. Over the years we had looked at several tours but I was never happy with the amount of time the tours spent in Krakow and after seeing Krakow for a few days last year I knew I wanted to spend a good amount of time there when I returned.

We used frequent flyer miles for our airfare to Warsaw, making an affordable country even more affordable. On the way home I wanted to spend a few days in the Frankfurt area and since we connected in Frankfurt on our way home from Warsaw this stopover was ideal. From my one day stay in Frankfurt last year I knew how easy it was to get from the airport to town and stayed near the train station (Hbf) for easy access to towns surrounding Frankfurt.



In addition to Poland guide books, I read the following fiction/non-fiction on Poland:

The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
Mila 18 by Leon Uris
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (Booker prize winner under the name Schindler’s Ark)
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Young Adult fiction)
Child of the Warsaw Ghetto by David Adler (Juvenile fiction)
Here by Wislawa Szymborska (Noble Prize for Literature 1996)
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (for an understanding of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and 1934)

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    All Poland hotels were twins for 2 people; the Frankfurt hotel was a single:

    Warsaw – Hotel Hetman, Klopotowskiego Street 36 - $110 per night – booked through Expedia. About 1KM across the river from Old Town. Business type hotel; breakfast ok but not wonderful. A big drawback to this hotel is that there are almost no restaurants in the area. We went to old town square for dinner but the cab ride back was expensive as the rates double after 9:00pm – that’s when night rates start.

    Poznan – Hotel Brovaria, Stary Rynek 73-74 – 490PLN per night. The rate is normally less but there was a trade fair the week we were in Poznan so the hotel prices are higher. It was difficult to find a central hotel that was affordable, even though I booked in early March for late September, and this is probably because of the fair. This hotel was right on the main square – the side with lots of restaurants and had a tented café/dining area on the square (as did many restaurants). Staff was wonderful and the room came with a good breakfast buffet (the ham was exceptional). Room was large and had double windows to shut out noise from the square. No elevator.

    Wroclaw – Qubus Hotel, ul. Sw. Marii Magdaleny 2 – booked through 516PLN for 2 nights (w/o breakfast). Located a short block from the market square. The hotel is handicap accessible with a ramp to reception and an elevator. Our room had an open shower head and a shower seat. There were double glass doors between the corridor and the room and I can’t remember if they opened automatically. Breakfast was not included and was very expensive at E17 per person. There are small cafes in the square where you can get a good cooked breakfast, reasonably. The one I went to had the best ham and scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. Just down the street at the entrance to the market square is a supermarket.

    Zakopane – Hotel Sabala, , ul. Krupowki 11 – 460PLN per night. Zakopane hotels are pretty expensive. The Sabala is in the heart of the town and has a large restaurant and outdoor patio overlooking the main street. Good buffet breakfast included with the room. The front-desk staff was wonderful – very helpful and pleasant (as were the wait staff in the restaurant). No elevator. My main complaint with the room was that it was all paneled in knotty pine with small windows and it was dark and I felt claustrophobic.

    Krakow – Hotel Trecius, ul. sw.Tomasza 18 – 216PLN per night w/o breakfast for the large double. Breakfast is offered (either a continental or breakfast with ham and cheese, cucumber and tomato) for a small amount. The hotel is a short block from Rynek Glowny in the pedestrian area; the entrance is on Tomasza where it intersects Florianska. There is a 10% discount for stays of more than three days and an extra discount for paying cash. It’s on the 1st floor and there is no traditional reception area. You let them know your arrival time and they are there to greet you. After that you have a key for the locked front door to the building.

    Note: The Trecius is closed until autumn 2012 for renovation. They are adding a restaurant and traditional reception area on the ground floor and an elevator.

    Frankfurt – Hotel Excelsior, Mannheimer Straße 7-9 – south side of the Hbf. Rates Friday through Sunday – E56; Thursday E61. Includes large buffet breakfast. This is one of the hotels I stayed in last year and thought the good price and location were ideal. There is free wifi in reception and in the business center; also a couple of Ethernet connections with desks in the business center.

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    Wednesday September 21, 2011 - Warsaw

    Upon arriving in Warsaw and checking into our hotel, we immediately went to the train station and booked all our trains for the trip. There were long lines to buy tickets but there were enough windows open so that the line moved fairly quickly. I had written down all the train information and handed it to the woman. She didn’t speak English but made sure that we were getting what we wanted and showed me the monitor with the train information. After the first couple of tickets she understood the format I had given her and quickly printed out the tickets. Before we left the window, she ensured that we had the correct tickets and understood that there was a ticket for 2 people and a seat reservation for 2 people for each trip. Buying the tickets was a good and easy experience, proving that you can get what you need without speaking the language.

    Once we got that out of the way we took a taxi to Old Town Square, walked around a bit and ate dinner at Literatka, one of the outdoor cafes near the palace. Our dinner was good but not inexpensive. We were tired and jet lagged and failed to look at the wine prices before ordering. Wine turned out to be quite expensive in Poland, compared to food prices.

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    Thursday September 22, 2011 - Poznan

    The next morning our hotel called a cab to take us to the train station for our trip to Poznan. With each cab ride in Warsaw we passed the new sports stadium, being built for the 2012 Euro Cup which Poland is co-hosting with the Ukraine. It’s very close to the main road from both the airport and train station (and you can even see it from Old Town Square) which is convenient for ticket holders but it’s definitely an eye-sore. It’s too bad it doesn’t blend in more with the landscape rather than have panels of red and white which are highly visible and don’t do much for the landscape. Where is Frank Lloyd Wright when Poland needs him? LOL

    The main train stations in Poland were under renovation in preparation for the Euro Cup and there were few services available in most of the stations although the Warsaw station had some shops, rest rooms, and a convenience store where I bought water. But I’m sure the stations will be nice when finished. The train (like all the others we took in Poland) was a compartment train and I think we had the compartment to ourselves (there didn’t seem to be very many people on this train). I hoisted our bags onto the luggage rack over the seats and we settled in for our 3 hour ride. Before leaving home I told Nancy that I could only lift 30 lbs above my head so if she wanted me to stow her luggage it could weigh no more than 30 lbs. Actually I think her suitcase was a bit lighter than mine. There was a delay while we waited at one town for the track to clear but otherwise arrived according to our new schedule.

    The train’s arrival in Warsaw was delayed at least 30 minutes and we arrived in Poznan close to noon and took a taxi to our hotel. The hotel is on the main square (Stary Rynek) so the taxi let us off a short block from the square and we walked the rest of the way. The Brovaria is a lovely hotel and the staff was very pleasant. We hiked up the 54 steps to our room (the staff helped with luggage), unpacked, and freshened up.

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    Poznan is located half way between Warsaw and Berlin and has been a trading center for over 1,000 years. International trade fairs have been held here since 1922 (there’s an exhibition ground west of the train station) and it’s Poland’s second largest financial center after Warsaw. It’s the fifth largest city in Poland. We stayed in the historic center so I never saw the modern city.

    The TI is on the square on the side to the right of the Brovaria Hotel. It’s a bit hidden by all the cafes in front of the buildings, particularly as so many cafes were enclosed with vinyl, probably because it was off season and the evenings were cool.

    Poznan’s square is so pretty with painted buildings, flower boxes, lots of embellishments, and that crazy boat on the rooftop. What is that about I wonder – I never did remember to ask at the TI and couldn’t find anything on the internet about why there was a boat on a roof. And then there’s the town hall with the head-butting billy goats, but that’s for tomorrow. This afternoon we walked around the square looking at the buildings, stopped for some lunch and wine, and then walked to the beautiful Parish Church with its rose and white facade, just off the square.

    I’m a church fanatic – I love them all from the plainest Cistercian to the over-the-top Baroque. And here is another over-the-top Baroque from the mid 17th century complete with high altar, trompe-l’œil, and a late 19th century organ and is one of the most impressive Baroque churches in Poland. Interestingly, the columns are faux marble but look real enough from a distance.

    After the Parish Church I walked to the Franciscan Church, just behind the Brovaria Hotel. The façade is a lovely warm yellow and rather plain, belying the ornate Baroque interior. The church is well known for the painting of Our Lady of Poznan which has been in the church for 300 years.

    Dinner was at one of the restaurants on the square – Ratuszowa. Nancy said the pork medallions with cranberry sauce looked interesting on the menu and it was one of the restaurants on my list to try. The food was quite good and our dinner was 200PLN for 2 entrees and a bottle of wine, including tip.

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    Your photos are beautiful. You have a good eye for composition & detail. I'm enjoying reading your report. We were in Krakow in 2003, but haven't had a chance to return yet, but I hope to someday. I'd definitely like to see more of Poland. Do you have a favorite Polish city?

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    Thanks mokka & Kwoo!

    mokka - you should go to Poland - it's a wonderful place and the Poles are so warm and welcoming to tourists.

    Kwoo - My favorite town is definitely Krakow. I was there May 2010 with the rain and floods and that didn't damper my admiration for the city. I returned last fall to see things I missed and I still think there is more to see. I loved the ambiance of the market square, the new museums, the medieval streets and the cosy feel of old town. I can't wait to return.

    More on the trip to come later today.

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    Friday September 23, 2011 - Poznan

    Had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, especially the sliced ham – so wonderful I had seconds. I love to see vegetables on the breakfast buffet as I never seem to eat enough veg on vacation. Poland offers tomatoes and cucumbers, just as hotels in the Czech Republic and Germany do and I find them to be a refreshing start to the day.

    Poznan Bill Goats

    We got a late start which didn’t seem to matter as all the museums only open at noon on Fridays. So we walked around the square again and looked at the buildings until noon then watched the billy goats on the clock tower on the Town Hall building. They only come out once a day so this was our only opportunity to see them and I eagerly awaited the spectacle and was not disappointed. There are clocks on two sides of the tower but a stop into the TI (with the ever-helpful staff) and we learned that the billy goats appear from the clock facing the opposite side from our hotel (over the Town Hall main entrance). Of course, we could have waited and watched the crowd but then we wouldn’t have found a seat on the benches. As with Prague’s astrological clock, the square fills with people wanting to watch the billy goats emerge. The head butting goats commemorate the local legend in which the two animals locked horns on the steps of the town hall, drew attention to a nearby fire, and saved the city.

    The noon gong rings and the doors above the clock open. The billy goats slowly make their way out of the doors, face the audience, then slowly turn to face each other. They butt their heads together 12 times, turn once more to face the audience as though taking a curtain call, and recede into the tower to await tomorrow’s noon. It was great!

    The Town Hall (Ratusz) is a beautiful building, rebuilt in the 1550s in Renaissance style. The eastern façade has lime green pilasters with a frieze of Polish monarchs, alongside portraits of statesmen and poets from ancient Greece and Rome. On three sides of the façade are words of Polish Renaissance with post WWII extracts from the communist constitution.

    The museums were opening and we began with the History of Poznan museum inside the town hall (admission 5PLN). The museum contained portraits, documents, beautiful targets for archery and shooting, archeological remnants and in the Great Hall from 1555 were bas relief scenes from the lives of Hercules, Samson, and King David on one side and astrological figures on the other. Many of the signs were in English.

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    Museum of Musical Instruments was next with 3 floors of some very interesting instruments, many of which I could not identify. There were violins, piano fortes, pipes, alpine horns, a typewriter that typed musical scores, zithers, and a very weird instrument made from a turtle complete with its head and elongated neck.

    I loved the billy goats and set off to find a souvenir goat for my shelf. After looking at the tatty vendor’s wares lining the square, the best representation of the goats was found at the TI.

    After a fruity, sweet drink at the Brovaria outside café which was billed as iced tea but was not I went to the cathedral/basilica. It’s about a 20 minute walk from old town square through an unattractive area. I stopped people a couple of times to make sure I was going the right way as I had lost sight of the church. One fellow I stopped was Polish by birth but had emigrated to Florida 30 years ago and was on an extended visit with his parents. He told me that 10 years ago I would have been mugged 3 times between old town square and the cathedral but the mugging situation has been cleaned up now. I was happy to hear that. He had to take a cell phone call so I couldn’t stop any longer to ask him about Poznan.

    Cathedral Island was lovely and serene. The church was interesting as both the interior and exterior were of red brick. The interior was quite dark so I waited until my eyes adjusted and then looked around. There was a beautiful pulpit and triptych on the altar but otherwise it was not a very interesting church other than it is one of the oldest in Poland.

    The island is the historic center of Poznan and the oldest part of the city where the Polanie tribe built their first fortified settlement and their first basilica in the 10th c. On the island is the Archbishop’s Palace, 15th c. Church of St Mary and a college that was established in 1512.

    I walked around the square looking at the restaurant menus to see what looked good and found the Bamberg Well with the statue of the Bamberg girl. In the 18th century people from Bamberg, Germany, relocated to Poznan. To honor them, a Bamberg Well was erected in the Old Market.

    Dinner was at the Brovaria in their outdoor café and although the night was cold the café was comfortable with propane heaters and lap blankets provided by all the cafes for their patrons. Another good dinner of pork loin, potato and vegetable, a bottle of wine. Hot chocolate and Irish coffee for after dinner. The price for 2 with tip was 200PLN.

    Although it was late for us, it seemed the activity around the hotel exterior was becoming livelier with tables of young people drinking beer and eating snacks. It seemed the Brovaria and that side of the square had all the patrons and the other side was more sedate (the cafes were centered on two sides of the square). I asked the gentleman at the front desk if the hotel was so busy because of the trade fair and because it was Friday night but he assured me that it was always like this with lots of people eating, drinking, and hanging around on the sidewalk. I commented that the Poles are party people!

    Interesting note: dinner prices on menus do not include taxes.

    There were lots of things that I didn’t see in Poznan but we only allocated 1.5 days here and it was time to move on. I would love to return to see more.

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    There are approximately 3PLN per USD. Divide by 3 to get a price in USD. So the 200PLN dinner I referenced above would be about $66.

    About dinner prices - a good portion of the prices was for the wine which is expensive in Poland as they are not a wine producing country. Wine typically ran 80 to 90PLN per dinner for a bottle of wine so almost half of the bill for 2 people. If you're a beer drinker you're in luck since beer is very inexpensive.

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    Saturday September 24, 2011 – Wroclaw (pronounced Vrots wahf)

    Until after WWII Wroclaw was known by its German name of Breslau and was a German city for most of its existence. Its German roots are visible in the city’s architecture and infrastructure. Wroclaw is the provincial capital and Poland’s fourth largest city (after Warsaw, Lodz, and Krakow). After six centuries under foreign rule, Wroclaw returned to Poland after WWII. Three quarters of the city was in ruins at the end of WWII and has been beautifully reconstructed.

    Rynek 14 – open Weekdays 9:00 – 5:00; Saturday 10:00 – 2:00

    Wroclaw is another beautiful Polish city with an amazing market square! The town hall stands in the middle of the square with cafes, shops, and restaurants on all sides. The square is from the 1240s and was originally lined with timber houses which were later replaced with brick buildings. After WWII, the buildings were re-created as they were before the war. At night, the fire dancers emerge and twirl their batons of fire to the intense beating of drums. It’s a fabulous spectacle that was repeated in Krakow.

    The train was on time so we were at the hotel by noon and could check in right away. Before leaving the hotel I asked the desk clerk if there were any dwarfs around the hotel and she told me there was one around the corner. Although she spoke English very well she was unfamiliar with the word “dwarf” so I’m glad I had the Polish word for it written down. We walked around the corner but I didn’t spot the dwarf so I asked some women sitting on a wall chatting (showing one of them the word in Polish) and she showed me the dwarf.

    A passerby told me that there are 170 dwarfs in Wroclaw and it’s good luck to rub their heads. I spotted 13 this afternoon; some are singles and sometimes there are two or three of them together. The waiter at a café told me about two of them which I would never have seen as one was above a doorway and one on a window sill. You can buy a dwarf map at the TI but more are added all the time so the map does not show all dwarfs. Some are hard to spot as you have to look up; one was above a doorway in a fairly dark corridor and one was on a window sill. Near the flower stalls there’s a dwarf climbing the flag pole.

    The dwarf symbol began with the Orange Alternative movement, a Dada-influenced resistance movement against Poland’s Communist regime. During the 1980s, anti-Communists would paint slogans on walls and fences; the slogans were painted over by the militia. The Orange Alternative group began painting graffiti of dwarves in pointed hats as a sign of their non-violent resistance and the dwarves became their trademark. The dwarves represent various aspect of Polish culture.

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    The Town Hall took almost 200 years to complete and was spared during WWII. The northern end with Gothic features is the oldest part of the building. The southern façade dates from the early 16th c. and is the most elaborate with bay windows, carved stone figures, and two elaborate friezes. The western façade is the most austere apart from the early Baroque doorway from 1615 leading to the Museum of Burgher Art. The central, and most interesting section, has an ornamented triangular roof embellished with pinnacles. The larch wood astronomical clock was added in 1580. The Town Hall Museum (Museum of Burgher Art) is small but contains the huge Knight’s Hall (Sala Rycerska) on the first floor with the original carved decorations from the end of the 15th c.

    After a refreshing cold drink I walked to the University to see the Great Hall (spotting some dwarfs along the way) but the Hall was closed and there were no opening hours posted at the ticket window. I guess there are no weekend tours as the hall was closed the next day (Sunday) as well when I went by. I then went on to the next building to see what some guide book billed as one of the prettiest churches in Central Europe. It was too over the top Baroque for me (and I’m a Baroque fan). I think the problem is that it needs a serious cleaning inside to brighten up the frescoes.

    Dinner was at a restaurant in the square – 2 main courses, bottle of wine, 2 small waters with tip was 179PLN. We walked around the square after dinner and stopped for a hot chocolate and Irish Coffee (23PLN).

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    I really like Frankfurt. I stopped there for one day two years ago since I had transited through several times but had never seen the city. I spent the day doing a walking tour and decided to go back at the end of the Poland trip for 3 days.

    There's a lot of information on this board on Frankfurt and much of it is from Mainhattengirl. Do a search on her name and you'll find lots of posts. All the things I did in Frankfurt were from her recommendations. I did more off-beat things in Frankfurt rather than the traditional museums.

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    Hi Kwoo - the dwarfs started out as drawings on walls but evolved into bronze figures. Take a look at my photos for the section on Wroclaw dwarfs. These statues are about 6 inches high; most are on the ground next to buildings or walls so you don't trip over them but some are overhead or on window sills. Only the original dwarf is large (the one standing on a large piece of bronze).

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    Hi kosecky - yes, Krakow was my favorite. I had been there the year before and had to go back and even now I can't wait to go back again. There are still new things to see and I would love to revisit the Krakow Under the Occupation Museum as I thought it was fabulous!

    Thank you for appreciating my photos!

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    Sunday September 25, 2011 – Wroclaw

    This is the day I booked Mateusz, a private guide for a 3 hour tour of the town. Nancy didn’t feel up to the walking so Mateusz and I set off together.

    I’d read about Mateusz in a New York Times article and emailed him about a private tour. His rates were reasonable (200PLN for 3 hours) but he didn’t know if he would be available as he was working on a project and wasn’t giving tours; if he was unavailable he could recommend someone else. It turned out that Mateusz was able to give a tour and we had a good time during the 3 hours.

    He came to the hotel to pick me up and we headed off to the square. I mentioned that I hadn’t had any breakfast as the hotel breakfast was too expensive and I at least needed coffee. He woke up very late and hadn’t had any coffee either although his mother fed him some breakfast (lots of bread, he said).

    We stopped at a café by the flagpole with the dwarf in the Salt Square (the square with the flower vendors) (yes, I was dwarf obsessed in Wroclaw!) and I ordered scrambled eggs and ham. The coffee arrived promptly but the food didn’t show and didn’t show. Mateusz walked over to the waitress twice asking where the food was. It didn’t much matter that we had to wait for the eggs as he gave me an overview of Wroclaw while we had coffee so the time was not wasted. I also had the opportunity to ask him questions about Polish life and economics (which I’ve mostly forgotten by now but it was interesting at the time). I wanted to know how much apartments cost and what an average wage was and things like that. The general economy of the city.

    The eggs finally arrived with some bread and butter. They were the BEST scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted and it wasn’t only because I was hungry. They looked like they were partly scrambled and partly already hard cooked. And the ham was flavorful. I’m in heaven in any country where pork is a national dish!

    As we walked around the market square, Mateusz pointed out dwarfs (I had told him that I particularly wanted to see as many dwarfs as possible). We saw the original large dwarf (all the others are quite small – about 5 or 6 inches tall). We explored parts of town that I would never have seen while he explained the history of Wroclaw.

    The White Stork Synagogue was open so I was able to see the only Wroclaw synagogue that was spared during Kristallnacht. After WWII it fell into disrepair but has been beautifully renovated and reopened in 2010. It’s a museum with a permanent exhibition on the History of Jews in Wroclaw, a place of worship, and a cultural center. Unfortunately there were no signs in English.

    We wandered between the 17th c. Hansel and Gretel houses (so named because the narrow houses and arch seem like two people holding hands) and then over to see Old Shambles, in Stare Jatki between Odrzańska and Kiełbaśnicza streets. This was a butchers' street and now houses art galleries. There are small bronze statues of various farm animals with a plaque. I had read about the saying on the plaque and now I can’t find my reference but it’s something about being butchered from the animals’ perspective.

    On to the University area, taking about the town and generally chatting. We then walked to cathedral island (Ostrow Tumski), approaching it along the river with the great view of the church between the water and beautiful blue sky. We crossed over the turquoise bridge with the lovers’ locks. I asked about the lantern lighting ceremony at night and if I should come back for it at dusk but Mateusz said that although it might be interesting to see someone light the gas lamps (91 lanterns are manually lit every evening) there was no set time that it happened and there wasn’t any place to sit and wait comfortably. Indeed, there weren’t any cafes on the island, although there were a few benches near the church.

    It was a very relaxed tour rather than a formal guided tour and I had a good time. I would highly recommend Mateusz for anyone visiting Wroclaw.

    Our tour ended on Cathedral Island. Mateusz would have taken me back to the hotel but I had arranged to meet Nancy at 3:00 to see the Raclawicka Panorama.

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    The Raclawicka Panorama is Wroclaw’s most visited sight. It’s in a cylindrical building in the park behind the Museum of Architecture, and the painting is viewed from an elevated central balcony. The painting shows one of the important episodes in Polish history – the Battle of Raclawice in 1794, a village about 40 miles northeast of Krakow and depicts the legendary victory of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko over the Russians in 1794. The painting is 15 meters high and 114 meters long and weighs 3500kg. After WWII, the painting which was originally in Lviv (formerly a Polish city) was moved to Wroclaw but it was not installed until 1985.

    Visits are by tours which depart every half hour and take 30 minutes; the price is 14PLN. You move around the balcony to view each scene while a recorded commentary provides explanations. Tickets are timed and may be purchased 7 days in advance from the box office.

    A tip for anyone going to see this. There are perhaps 30 or 40 people let in at a time. You start in one location and then move around when the facilitator tells you to move so you’re at the correct spot to view what is on the audio. However, the people who arrived first do not pass the spot where you stand but bunch up there so the people at the end of the line can’t really see what the audio is talking about as they are too far away. If you’re at the end just walk in the opposite direction until you get to the correct spot. It’s easy to do since the panorama is 360 degrees.

    The only UNESCO Heritage Site in or near Wroclaw is Centennial Hall (Hala Ludowa), built between 1911 and 1913 by Max Berg who was the municipal architect in Breslau (Wroclaw) and was built to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. Its Polish name means People’s Hall and it is also known by its German name, Jahrhunderthalle. It’s closed most of the time and there are no tours of the building but I did want to see the outside since I was so close and could add this site to my list of UNESCO sites I’ve seen.

    We hired a taxi to take us there, wait for us, and then bring us back to the hotel. The driver spoke enough English to understand what we wanted. When we arrived I walked as close as I could get to the building (it’s gated) and took some photos.

    I felt like having something other than Polish food for dinner tonight and had a craving for Italian. We had looked at a couple of Italian restaurants in the square the night before and I asked Mateusz about them. He said he would show me a couple of other Italian restaurants that were cheaper and had better food. They were next to each other on ul. Wiezienna. We choose the one called Capri. You take the street off the square that lies between the street that goes to the university and the Hansel and Gretel houses; it’s only a couple of minutes walk from the square. The food was good (although not exceptional but I didn’t expect exceptional Italian food in Wroclaw). I had a caprese salad, margarita pizza, and a half liter of wine. Including tip my bill was 67PLN, about $22.

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    Monday September 26, 2011 – Wroclaw to Zakopane. Again we had to move on after only a day and a half in Wroclaw. We saw a few things but there was much we missed. I would plan 3 full days in Wroclaw.

    We had tickets for the 5 hour train ride to Krakow where we changed for the bus to Zakopane. The Krakow train station was also torn up (although the Euro Cup won’t be played in Krakow) so it looked completely different than the year before. Only one elevator was working but it wasn’t the one we wanted so we followed the crowd out of the station and asked for the bus depot. It was right around the corner from where you exit the train station but who knows what the access to the bus depot will be once the renovations are finished.

    The bus terminal is lovely – all clean and new with nice rest rooms. There are a couple of steps to get into the building and the ticket window is just on the right as you enter. Two one-way tickets to Zakopane were 18PLN each ($6). There are some concession stands for newspapers and candy and a small café. There is also a very nice rest room.

    We had only a short wait for the bus and then the 2+ hour ride. I’m not a bus fan because there is never any place to put my legs. This bus was worse than most as the seat in front was solid until just a few inches from the floor that I was not able to stretch out. Fortunately I had 2 seats to myself as the bus was not full so I could sit sideways and stretch.

    Taxis were waiting at the Zakopane bus station and we headed off to the Sabala Hotel at the lower end of the main street in town where all the sightseeing is located. I didn’t care for Zakopane. The general area seemed to be pretty (although we didn’t see much of it) but the town was not. The wooden architecture was interesting but there were cheap souvenir and cheese vendors lining the street on both sides and then the same type of vencord again in the large market square near the funicular.

    It was late in the afternoon when we arrived so we took a short walk along the main street and then returned to the hotel for dinner.

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    Adrienne, I was wondering how the weather was in Zakopane in late September? We were in Zakopane in 2006 in June and the weather was perfect! My daughter and son-in-law are thinking of Krakow and Zakopane for Mid to late Sept 2012 .
    they are concerned that the weather will be cold in Zakopane and that it will get dark early. Any comments of this? Was the town "dead" this time of year?
    Also, Were you able to go to Muski Oko or to take the gondola at Kusnice while in Zakopane?
    Your report brings back fond memories! We also stayed at the Hotel Sabala and liked it a lot, but we had a big room in the new addition.
    Mary Ann

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    The weather was good the entire time in Poland. Shirt sleeves or a light jacket in the day; light jacket at night, sometimes with a pashmina over the shoulders for a bit more warmth. It got cooler/rainy right after we left poland (Oct 3).

    Zakopane was dead at night but I can't imagine that it's a lively town ever. As I said, I didn't care for it. We did not go to Muski Oko or take the gondola. We were only there for 2 nights/1 day and that day was a bit hazy. We took the funicular up the hill a bit and it was difficult to see the town below.

    I thought the staff at the Sabala was wonderful and the food was good. The dark wood in the room and the one slanted wall and the high windows made it confining.

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    Tuesday September 27, 2011 – Zakopane

    We started the day with the Tatra Museum, almost directly across the street from our hotel. This is a ethnographic museum with clothing, re-created homes, dishes, etc. on the ground floor and flora and fauna from the area on the first floor. It was 5.5PLN each so very inexpensive and worth stopping in for an hour.

    The buildings on the main street, ulica Krupówki, are of the Zakopane traditional wooden architecture which is very pretty and rustic.

    We walked down the main street and through the large market area (more of the same goods that you find on main street) and to the funicular to take us to the top of the hill for a view of the area (13PLN round trip). The day was a bit overcast so there wasn’t much of a view. We stopped in a café at the top, looked at the souvenirs (more of the same, again) and then returned by funicular.

    I went off to explore the Museum of the Zakopane Style but unfortunately it was closed on Tuesdays so I could only see it from the outside. On the way back to the hotel I visited St. Clement’s church, a wooden church built in the mid 19th c. It was the first church built in Zakopane and is decorated by local artists. The pictures of the Stations of the Cross are painted on glass using blue, orange, and white and the angels are depicted like butterflies. I couldn’t get any photos from inside the church as there were too many people praying while I was there.

    Next to the church is a wonderful old graveyard with birch trees, and a narrow path winding through the centre. The tombs are carved from blocks of wood making this the most unusual cemetery I’ve visited. The greeting at the entrance reads: “A native country is the land and graves. Nations may perish when they lose their memory. Zakopane remembers.”

    Jaszczurowka Church was one more wooden church I wanted to visit but as it was outside of town our hotel called a taxi to take us there, wait for us to go inside, and then bring us back. The driver was very nice, pointing out important wooden houses along the way. The church was lovely but again dark because of all the wood and small windows. I took some shaky photos anyway. The cost was 50PLN with tip ($17) and the drive took about 10-15 minutes each way with about 20 minutes inside the church.

    The hotel’s restaurant was not open tonight as it was booked for a private party so we walked up the street and found someplace very inexpensive to eat, Kielbasa and fries, chicken cutlet, potatoes, and wine for 54PLN for 2. I had seen fried cabbage on menus several times so I decided to give it a try. It was not deep fried; probably sautéed and not very flavorfull. But at least I gave it a try. favorite town...KRAKOW!!

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    Last year I visited Krakow for a few days and immediately fell in love with this city and could not wait to return.

    We left Zakopane around 9:00 and arrived in Krakow about 2.5 hours later. Our room was ready so we checked in and then wandered over to Rynek Glowny, the beautiful market square where we had some lunch while gazing on the newly refurbished cloth Hall. Although I was in Krakow the year before, the Cloth Hall was covered over in tarp so I couldn’t see it.

    It was built in the 14th c. as a center for the cloth trade, ruined by fire in mid 16th c., and then rebuilt in the Renaissance style. In the late 19th c. arcades were added. The ground floor contains vendor stalls selling crafts and souvenirs; the upper floor contains the Gallery of 19th c. Polish Painting. The letter “S” at the top of the gable above the entryway stands for King Sigismund the Old who commissioned this version of the hall.

    Nancy went into the Basilica (I waited in the café as I had seen it last year). Visit the Basilica after 12:00 noon as the wonderful altar pentaptych opens then. It’s the largest piece of Medieval art of its kind and it took 12 years for the Nuremberg sculptor, Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz in Polish) to complete it before it was consecrated in 1489. The background is of oak; linden is used for the figures.

    After Nancy saw the church we walked down the lovely ul. Grodzka, looking in the windows of the jewelry stores. We stopped into St. Adalbert’s Church, the small copper-domed church on the south side of Rynek Glowny and during our walk we noticed that the concert series at Sts Peter and Paul church was ending that evening so we had an early dinner at one of the restaurants in the square and then went to the 8:00 concert of classical music. I’m sure we stopped in a café on the way back to the hotel as the concert was only an hour and we never went back to the hotel without a nightcap in the square.

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    Thursday September 29, 2011 – Krakow

    Today we booked a private guide – Marta Chmielowska, email: whom a friend had used last year. I had given Marta a tentative itinerary for the day which was about 3/4 of a page, typed. Marta picked us up in her car at our hotel at 9:00 and after introductions we set off. Once she saw that we were laid back and easy going she teased me for my long itinerary and said that she had never been given a list of this length. I laughed and said we will see whatever we can see. I always have more of a plan than I can get through in a day and it’s good to do this, especially today as the synagogues were closed for Rosh Hashanah.

    We started with the most important sights in Kazimierz and Podgorze where we viewed the synagogues from the outside, went into Isaac’s Synogogue, built between 1640 and 1644 and currently a museum.

    We saw part of the ghetto wall, looking like tombstones; the café with singer sewing machine tables (it was formerly a singer factory), the menorah fence around a small grassy square across from Remulah Synagogue, the replicas of old shop signs, and the stairway from the movie, Schindler’s List. We moved on to the three Catholic churches that I wanted to see: Pauline Church, St. Catherine’s Church, and Corpus Christi Church.

    In Podgorze we saw Ghetto Heroes Square and the Pharmacy Under the Eagle which is now a museum showing archival films from WWII. The square contains sculpted metal chairs as a remembrance of the Jews carrying all their possessions, including furniture, to the Podgorze ghetto. Most of the chairs face east toward Jerusalem.

    The Pharmacy Under the Eagle was owned by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Polish Catholic pharmacist, who chose to remain in Podgórze and help the Jews when it became a Jewish ghetto. It was an important meeting point for the ghetto residents and Pankiewicz and his staff aided and hid Jewish victims of the Nazis. After the war, Pankiewicz was acknowledged by Israel as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” – non-Jews who risked their lives to help the Nazi victims during WWII. Three video screens show footage of 1) Kazimierz before the Nazis arrived; 2) the forced transition to the Podgórze ghetto; 3) secret surveillance of Płaszów Concentration Camp on Krakow’s outskirts.

    We made a quick stop at the Krakow Under the Occupation Museum, housed in Schindler’s administration building. You can walk around the first floor for free and look at the photos of Schindler survivors. The map is the original from Schindler’s office and the outside gate is original.

    Lunch was in Kazimierz at Kuchnia u Doroty, Miodowa 25. We ate in the small courtyard in back which was delightful. The food was good and plentiful and inexpensive. Marta explained that most Poles have their main meal at mid-day and in the evening have bread with sausage, ham, etc. I had kielbasa with potatoes; can’t remember what Nancy and Marta ate but it looked delicious.

    Returning to the center of Krakow, Marta took us on a driving circuit of the historic center, riding along the Planty and pointing out significant sights. The Planty is a park, originally a moat, encircling Krakow, forming a 2.5 mile perimeter around the town. It’s a delightful place to walk or sit and relax on one of the many benches under the trees.

    Nancy wanted to return to the hotel so we dropped her off and Marta and I continued our day, parking near Wawel (which I had seen last year). We walked to the Franciscan church with its wonderful Art Nouveau stained glass windows and the unusual Stations of the Cross with people in modern Polish dress. Near the back of the church is a brass plaque marking the section of a pew that was Pope John Paul II’s favorite place to pray when he lived in the Archbishop’s Palace across the street.

    We saw the Jagiellonian University section and Marta inquired about tours for me. There is a 30 minute tour of the old university that includes the library, refectory (with Baroque staircase), treasury, assembly hall, and some old scientific instruments.

    The one hour tour adds rooms of old scientific instruments (allegedly used by Copernicus), medieval art (mostly church sculptures, a Rubens, Chopin’s piano. One of the highlights is the oldest existing globe that has the American continent marked on it (circa 1510).

    I booked a one hour tour at 1:00 the next day. The tours are limited to 10 people per session and begin up the outside staircase by the green doors. You pay when you pick up your ticket and must be at the will call window 20 minutes before the tour otherwise you forfeit your reservation. The courtyard is red brick and stone and is just lovely. At 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00 the clock’s green doors open and kings and famous professors parade across the front. The best place to see the figures is standing to the right facing the clock. The courtyard is on Sw Anny at the corner of Jagiellonska.

    The University, established in 1364 by Kazimierz the Great, was the first university in Poland and one of the earliest ones in Europe. The Collegium Maius is the oldest surviving university building in Poland and one of the best examples of 15th c. Gothic architecture in Krakow.

    It was approaching 5:00 and we had had a very full and informative day and I was tired. Marta headed toward her car and I headed back to the hotel to relax before dinner. I think we returned once again to the square for dinner in one café followed by a night cap in the café closest to the Basilica where we always wound up to gaze at the luminous Cloth Hall, watch the beautiful fiacres and generally people watch.

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    Friday September 30, 2011 – Krakow

    I started the day with the Pharmacy Museum, just around the corner from the Trecius Hotel at ul. Florianska 25. There are 3 floors plus a cellar containing old pharmacy implements, stuffed animals, paintings, coats of arms, apothecary jars, wine barrels, candle making equipment (until the 18th c. pharmacists were Europe’s chief producers of candles and sealing wax), and a replica of Jan Matejko’s painting of alchemical experiments. There’s a card at the entrance to each room describing the room in several languages.

    The next stop was the Cloth Hall visitor’s center (opposite side from the Basilica) to book a tickets for Underground Rynek – the excavations that were found during the Cloth hall renovations. I saw a sign that stated that I could also book reservations for Krakow Under the Occupation Museum so I made a reservation for the next day at 10:00 when the museum opened. Underground Rynek was for later this afternoon around 3:00, after the Collegium Maius tour.

    I met Nancy in the square and we had something to drink and arranged to meet around 2:15 after my Collegium Maius tour. I left the square at 12:30 thinking there was plenty of time as the university was only a couple of blocks away. But I didn’t pay attention the day before when we were walking around the area and I confused the streets. I stopped a student who was waiting outside a building and asked if she knew where the courtyard for the university tour was located but she was unfamiliar with the tour. She tried to help me and we ran around the campus looking for the courtyard while I tried to remember where it was. She finally found someone who knew about the tour and led me to the proper courtyard. I was so happy I was in time since I didn’t want my place given away. I tried to give her some money for beer for helping me but she wouldn’t take anything. She was so kind and said that she was just happy she was able to help me – that was its own reward. I didn’t have to worry about losing my place as there were only 3 of us on this tour.

    You enter the building via the outside staircase where I waited along the balcony for the clock to chime the hour and the figures to emerge. As soon as they did I realized that a better position would have been downstairs to the right of the clock as I only had a quick view of each figure and then they were facing away from me. I was close to the clock but not at an advantageous angle.

    The Collegium Maius was a great tour of the old university building that was supposed to take 1 hour but we didn’t finish until 2:20. The library had a wonderfully painted blue ceiling, the old dining room contained 1 of 3 remaining staircases made of oak from Gdansk. We saw the rectors’ residences, the Jallegonian Hall which was used for lectures, the Green Room - a reception room for special guests and Napoleon’s sextant in the scientific instruments room which was filled with 16th c. astronomic instruments. There was also a medieval art room with wooden, painted sculptures and the oldest existing globe that has the American continent marked on it (circa 1510).

    October 1 is the start of the university’s academic year and there is a procession of professors in the formal garb. All the college clocks play music (each clock a different tune) and they are all played on October 1. It’s too bad I was going to miss the academic procession.

    Nancy and I tentatively arranged to meet in the square but I was late getting there as the tour ran over. I looked around for her but didn’t see her and sat down to have some fried potatoes and a drink.

    I went into what I thought was the entrance for Underground Rynek (ER-en-neck) and rummaged in my bag for my ticket while a gentleman hovered over me. I kept muttering that I knew I had my ticket and it would just be a moment. I finally located it and held it up with a bit of a “tada! Here it is!” The man looked at it and laughed out loud, much to my dismay. He said “here is not Underground Rynek” with much the same tenor as the Czech cop the year before when I was lost in Kutna Hora. I asked if he could please direct me to the correct entrance which he did – it was just down the arcade a bit.

    This was my least favorite thing I saw in Krakow. It’s the Cloth Hall excavations showing Medieval Krakow, 4 meters under the present street level and very well done but I’ve had my fill of excavations and ruins. There were lots of school group when I was there so you had to wait to look at things. The best time would be later in the afternoon or weekends. The excavations are very large and everything is high tech with lots of plasma touch screens and holograms (which I didn’t see when I was there). I didn’t spend much time here as I was hot and tired and needed a rest from sightseeing.

    I walked through the Cloth Hall looking at the vendors’ wares. What impressed me is that the vendors are not in your face. They don’t say anything until you ask a question or show interest in buying something. It was a wonderful “window shopping” experience. I bought some painted wooden eggs for souvenirs that now sit in a glass bowl in my living room; each time I pass by them and remember the trip. I ran into Nancy who bought a doll – the one souvenir item that was on her list. Well…it was drink time before freshening up for dinner.

    Nancy had been wanting perogies so we went to Babci Maliny for dinner (I had been here the previous year). We sat in the basement at one of the wooden tables (they also have a fancier section with cloth tablecloths). We shared 6 perogies (the waitress tried to get us to order a larger portion but I firmly told her that 6 was enough), and Nancy had zurek and I had pork in cream sauce with potatoes. I also tried Polish dark beer, which arrived in a huge bottle, but it was so sweet that I only drank about half the bottle. Nancy had wine. Our bill was 91PLN for both of us.

    We then went to our usual spot in the square for a latte and Irish coffee.

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    The square contains sculpted metal chairs as a remembrance of the Jews carrying all their possessions, including furniture, to the Podgorze ghetto. Most of the chairs face east toward Jerusalem. >>

    adrienne - i read that the chairs specifically commemorate the furniture that fell off the refugees' carts as they hurried into the ghetto - but i didn't know the bit about them facing Jerusalem. i found the pharmacy and the chairs one of the most moving things I've seen, anywhere - so much pain and bravery.

    we too managed to see the university tour, and the Franciscan church - in fact we were very lucky as we saw that they had a concert there in the evening to commemorate the death of Pope John Paul; it was all done by candlelight and was exceptionally well performed as well as being extremely moving.

    i thought that Krakov was a very lovely and friendly place - thank you for reminding me of it in your excellent report.

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    Saturday October 1, 2011 – Krakow

    I set off for the Krakow Under the Occupation Museum (some people call it the Schindler factory Museum) at 4 Lipowa St (cost 13PLN – about $4). I walked to the main post office where I took the tram to Ghetto Heroes Square in Podgorze. I was uncertain of the directions from there so I stopped and asked someone who said to turn right at the corner and then go straight. I continued to follow the road but it didn’t seem to ever lead to the museum so I asked a pedestrian and she told me to take the dirt path up ahead. I should have literarily gone straight rather than following straight on the road. You go through a tunnel and come out and look right and see the museum, housed in Schindler’s administration building. We had been here the other day with Marta (our guide) so I knew I was in the right place. Going early on a Saturday morning was the best time since there were no school groups and the museum was practically empty.

    This was an amazing museum and one of the top sights in Krakow. The museum re-creates the war years complete with a street of shops, train station waiting room, prison cells, swastikas, lots of touch screen with videos of Schindler survivors (in English & Polish), a narrow passageway with the ghetto wall. There is archival film footage. Sound effects complete the illusion that you are there – train whistles, marching armies, sirens, and barking dogs. The museum ends with a rubber walkway that makes you sway as you approach the exit; a reminder that life is not evenly fluid, there are uncertainties.

    This is a museum that must be seen from the ground floor up and in the order it is presented.

    After the museum I wandered back to ul. Grodska, thinking about buying striped flint jewelry. There was only one store that carried it and I wasn’t thrilled with what they had. I loved the stones but didn’t care for the settings so I finally decided that I would not buy any striped flint. I went back into the Franciscan to have another look at the church and beautiful windows and then over to St. Anne’s university church. There was a wedding so I stood in the doorway for a minute or two but couldn’t really see much.

    Before dinner Nancy and I went to the 19th c. Polish Art Museum on the second floor of the Cloth Hall. It stays open until 8:00; 6:00 on Sundays; closed Mondays. I particular wanted to see Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine which I had missed the last time in Krakow as the Czartoryski Museum which normally houses the painting was closed for renovation and the painting had not yet been moved to the Cloth Hall. Well…I missed out once again because Lady with an Ermine was in Berlin and then traveling to London. Twice in Krakow and Leonardo’s painting remains elusive. I enjoyed the small gallery nonetheless and asked the docent to point out Jan Matejko’s paintings who is known for documenting Polish history in his art work. You really can’t miss his paints since they are the largest works in the gallery. This is a small gallery and it didn’t take us long to look at the paintings.

    We asked for the rest room before going to dinner and on the way there I discovered the rooftop café overlooking the square. What a great view from there. I couldn’t tell that there was a café from the ground looking up so I had no idea it existed. It would be an ideal place to have drinks early evening drinks and look out over the square. I tried to find opening hours but I imagine that it’s only open when the museum is open as it’s on the same floor as the museum.

    Dinner was again at one of the restaurants in the square with, of course, a latte and Irish Coffee afterwards.

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    ann - you were lucky to happen upon that concert - it sounds like it was a wonderful experience!>>

    it was - the outside of the church was all lit with those funny glass votive lights that they sell in every shop in Krakov just about [well, they did when we were there] and inside they just had candle light, even for the orchestra. the singing was so good, and even though we understood very few actual words the meaning came across, loud and clear.

    we also went to a concert in the concert hall - i can't remember the programme now but that too was well performed and very professional. you can also get tickets for concerts done in C18 dress, but they were much more expensive and i suspect not as good.

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    Hi adrienne. Your report brings back and allows me to enjoy from my arm chair my trip to Krakow in Oct. 2010.
    The only regret I have is that I was only there actually three days and two nights. We left for Budapest on a night train the third night.
    It really wasn't enough time to enjoy this wonderful city and I would love to go back.
    There is so much more to see then I expected.

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    Hi Paulo,

    Marta charged 450PLN for a full day. She also has a half day rate that is a bit more than 50% of the full day price.

    I really enjoyed my time with her and did a second day visiting the wooden churches outside Krakow.

    More report to come when I have some writing time.

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    Sunday October 2, 2011 – Krakow – Wooden Churches

    Today was my big splurge for the trip. Nancy went to Auschwitz and I went to see wooden churches outside of Krakow with Marta, the guide we used the other day. It was an expensive day and I knew I had to bear the cost of the trip by myself so I thought a long time about spending money to visit the churches. In the end I decided that this outing was important enough to me to spend the money. I could cut back on other things (like not buying striped flint jewelry).

    Marta picked me up at 9:00 and we set off. There is one wooden church, St. Margaret’s Chapel, on the outskirts of Krakow in the Salwator district, but that was closed so we couldn’t go inside. The chapel was built in 1690 in an octagonal shape. Marta thought it might open at noon for mass. I was able to take some photos of the outside of the building.

    The three churches we visited are part of the UNESCO heritage site of Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. These are pilgrimage churches and many of them have deep eaves so people arriving the night before could sleep underneath the eaves for shelter from the elements.

    St. Leonard’s was the first church we visited, located in Lipnica Murowana, about an hour southeast of Krakow. We had to wait a while until the church opened at noon and wandered through the small cemetery on the grounds. While we waited, we went to the parish church which was celebrating mass, piping the service outside. At first I thought that was because the people with children listened to the mass outside rather than inside the church but after we entered I realized that the church was full and there were no more seats. People were also standing in the aisles. Immediately following mass was a very long rosary session since October is the month honoring the Blessed Virgin. Everyone was on their knees, the people who had been standing were now kneeling on a stone floor. Yikes! I bowed my head but there was no way my old knees were connecting with the floor. As an aside, I saw many, many people kneeling on stone floors in Polish churches. These are very devout people.

    The interior of St. Leonard’s was almost completely covered in paintings with the Last Supper, painted in 1540, is on the right wall, a painted pulpit and the ceiling painted in a cutout motif of brown, beige, and terra cotta.

    The Benedictine order founded this church in 1142 on the site of a pagan chapel. The wooden pillar behind the altar dates from that chapel. It was a parish church until 1360. Today’s church is the same shape as the one built in 1480; the stone floor is original. The altar is the oldest part with the ceiling containing the oldest polychromes, painted by local people in 1490. The newest painting, near the pulpit, dates from 1710, depicting the Life of Christ.

    There are two triptychs in the right and left chapels; the one in the left chapel showing the Adoration of Christ is original, from 1480. The left chapel and altar triptychs are replicas.

    The second church was in Binarowa, about another hour southeast of Lipnica Murowana. This was Church of the Archangel Michael and dates from around 1500 with a baptismal font from 1522, a 17th century confessional, an original 16th century ceiling and a 17th century confessional. It was restored 80 years ago. The bell tower was added in 1595. The interior was beautifully painted but the violent aspect of Christ’s Passion was a bit unnerving.

    The church is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9:00 to 6:00 and Sunday from 12:00 to 4:00.

    The third church in Sekowa (Church of St. Philip and St. James – early 16th century) was a bit of a disappointment as the interior wasn’t painted and there was a rosary service while we were there so we couldn’t walk around inside the church. It was getting late and we had to get started back to Krakow as it was about a 3 hour ride and we hit traffic getting back into town.

    Both St. Leonard’s and St. Michael’s had docents inside the church but they both only spoke Polish; there was no English translation available either spoken or written. I asked Marta if it were possible for someone who didn’t speak Polish to drive around this area and find lodging and she said it would be very difficult and that there weren’t many places to stay. Other than the wooden churches there didn’t seem to be any tourist attractions to warrant pensions or B&Bs.

    Even though it was a long day (11 hours), I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the churches and seeing the countryside outside of Krakow and I decided that I was glad I spent the money for the excursion.

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    i read about these churches when we visited Krakov but never got to them. clearly it was a very worthwhile trip.

    i agree with you about how devout the population is - we saw many people young and old kneeling on stone floors, and when we arrived the area outside the Franciscan church was knee deep in votive lamps commemorating the death of Pope John Paul. most interestingly, we thought, young people made up a very high proportion of people queuing for confession, and votive lamps were on sale at every small shop and stall, even the ones selling newspapers and vegetables. a devout people indeed.

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    ann - you're right about the younger people. When we went to the church in Sekowa, most of the people praying inside the church were young adults and in Krakow I saw many young people (perhaps student age and a bit older) praying.

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    Monday October 3, 2011 – Krakow

    This was our last morning in Krakow. I took a walk in the direction of the Florian Gate and looked into St. Kazimierz church with the lovely small meditative square across the street, the Carmelite Church, and tried again to get into St. Anne’s church at the university but was only able to look through the door. St. Anne’s is a beautiful Baroque church with stucco reliefs and pastel paintings. I went into the Cloth Hall one more time, looked at the souvenirs inside the TI, and then Nancy and I ate zurek at Camelot Café and had one last coffee latte in Rynek Glowny before our taxi to the train station for the train to Warsaw.

    The Krakow to Warsaw train ride is an easy 3 hours and the train was full of business people wearing suits, huddling over their laptops, and conversing about spreadsheets. At the Warsaw train station we had the usual haggle with the taxi drivers over the fare. Again the cabbies all stuck together and wouldn’t budge on price so we walked around the corner and there were more taxis. We agreed to pay more than the usual amount after some negotiating. The driver explained that there was “big traffic.” Obviously he has never been to the New York metro area during rush hour to see really “big traffic.” There was very little traffic. No additional tip for him as it was included in the extreme fare.

    We checked in and went to old town for dinner; ate at the same restaurant we went to the first night in Warsaw at the beginning of the trip, Literatka in Old Town Square.

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    Tuesday October 4, 2011 – Warsaw

    We took a taxi to the university library as I wanted to see the rooftop garden which opened in 2002. It’s quite a large garden, although not many flowers. It covers 2 hectares with paths, shrubbery, sculptures, and a fish pond and goes over the top of the library via a bridge giving a nice view of Warsaw. You can even look into the library through the glass roof and on sunny days the clouds are reflected in the glass. There were few people walking in the garden while we were there.

    After the library we looked for a taxi and asked inside the library but none were to be found, probably because students can’t afford taxis and there’s no need for them to cruise or station outside the university. So we walked to the Ethnographic Museum. The ground floor had rooms representing various cultures, mainly African and Australian and I think these rooms are mainly used for teaching children as there was a school group sitting on the floor with their teacher explaining the displays. The first floor was polychrome painted wooden masks, some with fierce expressions and carved and painted wooden figures. The second floor (top floor) was the most interesting with Polish costumes (beautiful embroidery) and 19th century religious folk painting on glass.

    We took a taxi back to the hotel and not wanting to go out again to old town we looked in the area for a restaurant but there weren’t any. The hotel recommended one place a few doors away but it didn’t look appealing and there were only two other people eating. The only other option in the area was the buffet across the street. It was very busy so we went in but I must say that it was a sad choice. We ate quickly and left and had an early night.

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    Wednesday October 5, 2011 – Warsaw

    Our last day in Poland. We began with the Warsaw Uprising Museum, another great Polish high-tech masterpiece museum. It was created in a disused power station and is accessible by public transportation (buses and trams). We took a taxi there and when we left there was a taxi at the entrance gate.

    There are lots of interactive displays, photos, planes (sometimes one of the planes is open and you can enter but it was closed during our visit), sewers, and cobbled streets. The story of the uprising is chronological in the museum but it’s a bit hard to follow and easy to get off track, particularly since there is a mezzanine level. As with the Krakow Under the Occupation Museum, there are wonderful sound effects such as machines guns, bomber planes, and a quite disconcerting heart beat.

    At the end of the exhibit there’s a small 3D theatre showing a 5 minute film of the destroyed Warsaw in March, 1945. At the top level there’s an old style café, looking like something from the 1940s. This museum was the best thing I did in Warsaw.

    After the Uprising Museum we went to the Polish Catholic cemetery. It was nice to look at the tombs but I find that all cemeteries pale in comparison to those in Paris and I’m always a bit disappointed in other cemeteries.

    We caught a taxi to Old Town Square and wandered around looking at the shops and churches. We returned here that evening for our last dinner in Poland.

    I totally enjoyed the two weeks in Poland and can’t wait to go back. It’s a country with a long and distinguished history, beautiful cities, and warm welcoming people. I also loved the food. The drawbacks are: 1) the wine is expensive, and 2) the scenery is not great but I travel for architecture more than nature so that didn’t bother me.

    What things cost in Poland (all prices in PLN):

    Warsaw – taxi airport to hotel (across river from old town square) – 54
    Warsaw - taxi hotel to train station – 24

    Dinners – 200 – 270 with wine

    First class train tickets with seat reservations – prices are for 2 adults:
    Warsaw to Poznan 283 + 32 seat reservation
    Poznan to Wroclaw 164 + 12 seat reservation
    Wroclaw to Krakow 265 + 12 seat reservation
    Krakow to Warsaw 282 + 25 seat reservation

    Bus Krakow to Zakopane 18 each way

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    Thursday October 6, 2011 – Frankfurt

    Arrived in Frankfurt around noon, collected my bag and then to the train. The first thing I noticed was there were new (wonderful) tickets machines on the platform for the train into town. Instead of fumbling through the ticket purchase process and having to remember what the code was for Frankfurt, I effortlessly bought my tickets. Thank you Germany for improving the process!

    I checked into the hotel (on the south side of the Hbf) and then went to the Romer area, wandered around a bit and had a late lunch with a glass of wine. I was running out of reading material so I bought a book at the train station which has a decent, although not large, assortment of English books. I had stopped taking notes (I was good for the first two weeks of the trip) so I have to depend on my memory for the three days in Frankfurt.

    The weather, which was wonderful in Poland, had changed a bit and had become gray and overcast and colder.

    Dinner tonight was a Baeseler Eck, a restaurant a few blocks from my hotel that I remembered from my stay in Frankfurt last year. Jagermister (breaded pork cutlet with mushrooms in cream sauce), boiled potatoes and red wine.

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    Friday October 7, 2011 – Mainz

    Of my days in Frankfurt, this one really stands out. I had a list of possible things to do in Frankfurt and all of them depended on the weather. As long as it wasn’t raining I wanted to do more outside activities and I had seen quite a few museums in Poland so I wasn’t looking for more museums.

    The wonderful TI in the Frankfurt Hbf gave me explicit directions to get to Mainz, about 45 minutes from Frankfurt. I wanted to see the Chagall stained glass in the church there. I was to take the S-bahn S8 or S9 in the direction of Weisbaden and get off in Mainz (one way tickets – E7.30). Well…I did get off in Mainz but it was not near the town. Fortunately, another woman made the same mistake (I can’t remember if I was following her or not – I probably was) and since she spoke German we got on a local bus to the center of town. She explained that I could use my S-bahn ticket and didn’t have to buy another ticket for the bus. I got off where she did.

    There was a wonderful market with flowers, produce, cheese, sausages. Many people were buying food and eating it at tables set up in the market. I went into the cathedral and museum (E6 admission) which contained fragments from the original churches, paintings of the 12th century church. Downstairs is the treasury and the chapel and the large memorial door flanked by St. Barbara and other saints. In 1814, the cathedral was used by Napoleon as a military hospital.

    After the cathedral I wandered around the shopping area and looked at the interesting buildings below the shopping area. It started raining so I went into a restaurant and had a bowl of soup and since the rain had stopped I started walking to St. Stephen’s for the highlight of the day – the Chagall windows.

    To find the church, just keep walking up the hill. There were few (if any) signs until you get close to the church (and I didn’t have a map) so I just started asking the way. I found the church, a rather plain, stone church on the outside, opened the door and gasped out loud! The windows are spectacular. They’re all blue and white and completely amazing. I walked around and around and kept looking at them. I’m completely envious of the people who live in Mainz and in the area and can come and gaze at these windows any time they want to. I took photos but they do not do justice to these amazing windows.

    As I was leaving the church I went out the wrong door and wandered into a beautiful rose red cloister. Spent a few minutes there and then left the church. It has begun to rain again and I walked down the hill and the rain was coming down harder. I didn’t have an umbrella and I didn’t know where the train station was since I got off at the wrong spot so I hailed a cab to take me to the station. This was a good move since even if I had directions to the station I would never have seen it since the entrance is about as large as a doorway and looked like an alley. I trusted the cab to bring me to the right place and it was. I had to wait a bit for the next train back to Frankfurt.

    Dinner tonight was at a place that I believe Mainhattengirl recommended - Paulaner behind the Dom. It was quite busy and the food was good. I had pork medallions with mushrooms in cream sauce, string beans wrapped in bacon, mashed potatoes, and wine for E26.

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    Hi Asrienne. I loved Krakow but it is the only place I visited in Poland.
    I will return someday and this gives me lots of ideas...if I can tear myself away from Krakow because I only spent barely three days there.

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