Town Hall Tower – Main Square, Krakow
Standing 70 meters tall, the stone and brick Town Hall Tower stands guard over the Cloth Hall in Krakow’s Main Market Square. The tower is all that remains of Krakow’s Town Hall, which was demolished in 1820 to “open up” the square. The observation deck at the top is open to visitors. I was told it offers awesome views of the city..Unfortunately, it was closed while I was there..
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Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven , also known as St. Mary’s Church, is a prominent feature of the Old Town Square in Krakow, Poland. It sits opposite the Cloth hall and stands about 80 meters tall.
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One of the horrid reminders of WWII, Auschwitz stands as a memorial of loss and human degradation. It is located about 40 minutes from Krakow, Poland and, together with its sister camp, Birkeneau, it forms the Auschwitz-Birkeneau Memorial and Museum.
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Wawel Castle and Cathedral
It was a nice leisurely stroll through town from the hotel to the base of Wawel Hill.. The hill still has remnants of the old castle walls, covered in ivy.
Entrance to castle grounds
Through the arch , the path winds around to the gates across a wide avenue that affords some scenic views of the river and city below..
Overlooking the River
Wawel Hill is in Krakow, which was, at one time, the capital of Poland .Wawel Cathedral and Wawel Castle stand on Wawel Hill. Wawel Castle was built during the reign of Casimir III the Great during the mid 1300’s. It occupies the top of a limestone hill overlooking the Vistula River. It has been rebuilt and added to several times in it’s history.
At the base of Wawel Hill is the cave that, as legend tells, served as the den of the Wawel Dragon.
Following along behind the groups of laughing and joking tourists, I was not really sure what to expect.. I wasn’t really aware of any feelings other than excitement for the opportunity to see a new place. A place that I have read about and heard about as one of the worst examples of human experience.
I left the tour groups behind at the gate to the compound.. barbed wire fences stretching north and south. Simple wooden buildings lined the interior..little guardshacks stood in silence, perhaps remembering Nazi guards in comfort while prisoners stood in the rain or cold, often for hours at a time… waiting for the watch commander to be satisfied with the head count.
I walked through the deserted streets and wondered.. lost in thoughts of the inhumanity pressed upon the prisoners here. The squalid living conditions and the brutality, the harsh unforgiving manner of life. Capture, transport, interrogation.. execution. The gas chambers were busy .. and so was the execution wall where prisoners were just shot after being tortured and questioned.. There are places where prisoners were hanged as a warning, for no reason or any reason. In my mind, as I listened and read about the horrors committed here, nothing came close to the rooms in the basement of the “prison ward”. Here many prisoners were sentenced to death by starvation. They were given water and allowed to starve to death in a 4 x 4 room..
I felt surrounded by ghosts.. the presence of fear was palpable. Terror reigned supreme here for almost 2 years. In 1943, you feared Austwich more than war … more than death.
There was no laughter at the end of this tour.. only somber faces, lost in thought..
I landed at the airport in Katowice because it was the only non-stop flight from Kiev that landed anywhere close to Krakow, not realizing the transfer to the hotel would take longer than the flight.. An hour and 37 minutes later, I arrived my hotel, The Hotel Pollera situated in Old Town about a 5 minute walk to the main square.
It was cool and a little cloudy with evidence of fresh rain. Even though it was almost 10 PM, the square was awash with people. There seemed to be more revelers than tourist and even more ladies advertising the benefits of the local “Gentlemen’s” clubs than revelers.
I was tired so after a brief walk and several photos, I returned to the hotel with a plan to start exploring this beautiful city, first thing in the morning.