I just returned from a wonderful trip to Poland. It was a wild nine days, with events almost every day. So many things happened that it may take a several blogs to get through it. There were exotic locations, several centuries of history, a love story, tragedy, and humor. (Whether or not I can do it justice is questionable.) I flew into Warsaw and visited several cities/towns. The train ride from Warsaw was kind of a blur since I'd been up all night on the plane. I really didn't get any photos I liked from the train. With the train moving about 70 miles per hour, you have just a second to see the area of interest; compose a photo; and make a decision about pushing the shutter button. I quit after a few attempts when it became obvious it wasn't going to work like I had imagined it.
My first morning in Krakow, I got up at sunrise to begin the day on local time. This is my standard technique to minimize jet lag. When I stepped out of the hotel and turned right, I could see Wawel Castle, just a couple blocks down the road. The cathedral's spire can be seen from quite a distance. It sits on a hill, along the Vistula River.
Wawel Castle has been modified repeatedly since its beginnings, about 970AD. It was one of the original centers of Polish Christianity and served as the formal seat of the Polish monarchy. It has gone through many changes since then. Many successive kings built additional buildings and modified the old ones, until 1609, when King Sigismund moved the capital to Warsaw. Then, the Swedish, Prussians, and Austrians made changes as they invaded. Krakow was lucky to receive comparatively little damage in World War II.
I walked up to the top of the hill and around to the central courtyard to photograph the cathedral spire from inside the castle grounds. From inside, you can see many of the different architectural styles from the centuries of changes.
After a quick breakfast of some kielbasa and eggs, at a stand by the castle, I began walking to the central square of the old town. These are prime locations for people photography; there are always lots of folks out enjoying the day.
The first group I encountered, en route to the central square, were involved in a protest march. They seemed to be peaceful, but there were a couple thousand folks, under the watchful eyes of the Policja. I figured it was time to move in another direction. Remember what I blogged just a couple of weeks ago? There was no reason for me to get involved in an event with police attention, especially right at the beginning of my trip.
In Europe, all the larger towns and have a central square. In Poland, the “Old Town” of a city is called the “Stare Miasto.” Krakow’s Stare Miasto contains the largest medieval town square in Europe. Krakow's Stare Miasto was among the first sites chosen for UNESCO’s World Heritage List. You will find an old town hall tower and churches, cafes, statues, and, of course, people there to see the attractions. This is a great place to relax and make some street photos, while enjoying a beer and munchies. You'll see all kinds of things.
My first day in Krakow was perfect for relaxation. I was pre-loading my phone with Polish phrases I thought I might need for the rest of the week and just reviewing my plans. It turned out this was my most relaxed day of the entire trip. The second day, I had already hired a guide, so I was looking forward to that. One of my favorite photos from my first day was this humorous one of a parking space right next to a mural of one of the saints. I always have time for a little fun.