For my first day in Krakow I thought I would just wander.  I stuck to that plan pretty well but instead of wandering for a day I wandered for a few hours.  I had been out for about two hours when I started to feel my fingers and toes heating up.  In this weather (holding steady at -14 degrees Celsius) I knew that it was not genuine heat.  So I balled up my hands inside my gloves and quickened my pace.  I tell you this only to explain the brevity of my adventure today.  I have a plan on how to extend future endeavors and make the most of my time here in Krakow.  For today, though, let me just give you a taste of this majestic city…

So the sun was shining and the charm of Krakow immediately delighted me.  I watched everyone’s breath plume like thick cigar smoke as they heaved forward in front of red, green, and white facades.

The slush that once covered the sidewalks now had a consistency more like a diamond than a 7-11 Slurpee.  As I neared the first public square the frozen tracks squealed as the blue and white trams zipped by.  I took off a glove to snap a picture and my skin immediately burned.  I took a deep breath and felt the sting of my breath as it crystallized in my lungs.

I moved on with the hope that I would stumble upon Old Town before the day was up.  I followed Ulica Starowislna until it forked.  As always, I took the one that looked more wanting of wear.  I smelled the bakeries and the delis.  I heard the pubs clanging and bantering in the early afternoon.  Then appeared a skyscraping red brick clock tower trimmed with white and gold.

It sat in the center of the largest medieval town square in Europe.  The square was enclosed by historic homes, churches, and palaces.   Atop the churches were curvaceous green domes with gold spheres and spires pointing upward.  In the center was a multi-story Renaissance style market.

The Market

"Eros Bendato" by Igor Mitoraj (Next to the Clock Tower)

After wandering around the Old Town Market Square I took a street to the north.  After a little walking I found a path for pedestrians only.  It was about ten feet wide and as I walked the much-trodden snow it crunched under my feet.  This path is known as The University Route or Royal Route (in English).  It is the path that was used for royal coronation procession, funerals, and parades.  It is lined with cathedrals, museums, universities, seminaries, and the Wawel Castle.  The benches were filled only with snow and my fellow path-travelers seemed to be in a hurry to leave the path as they hustled by with down turned heads.  I did see one familiar face while walking the regal rounds, though.  One of the prides of Poland is remembered here:  The ground breaking astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.  Maybe you heard of how the earth revolves around the sun.  Yeah, he figured that out almost five hundred years ago.

I noticed some impressive buildings along the path.  At each one I thought “Maybe that’s the castle,” but when the castle came into view I had no doubt which one it was.  At this point, though, the fire in my fingers began and I was left with little choice but to retreat for the day.  I hightailed it back to the hostel and now I am looking forward to making my rounds about the castle.  Well, I have no doubt that Krakow has much more to share and when it does you will be the first person I tell…