My Photographs: Top 5 Krakow, Poland.

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1Rynek Główny Square, April 2003. It’s almost painful to realize that it’s been thirteen years since my one and only trip to Poland! I was teaching English in Slovakia that year, so a bunch of friends and I took a train over from Bratislava. Checking into our hostel, we wasted no time in getting settled in at Krakow’s gorgeous main square. A great spot for lunch, beers and people watching.

St. Mary’s Basilica, April 2003. Adjacent to the main square stands this impressive brick church, a major Krakow landmark thanks to its twin towers. Dating back to the 1220s, it would have been criminal not to peek inside, with its Art Nouveau stained glass windows and a magnificent high altar once described by Pablo Picasso as “the eighth wonder of the world”. The towers can be climbed for a small fee and there are hourly bugle performances that can be heard all around the square below.

Wawel Dragon Statue, April 2003. A trip to Krakow wouldn’t be complete without a bit of dragon tomfoolery, so get yourself over to Wawel Hill, a fortified complex set around a limestone outcrop overlooking The Vistula River. According to Polish mythology, a dragon once lived at the foot of the hill, a nasty old thing that was fond of eating the local women. Eventually the king decreed that anyone who could slay the dragon would get to marry his foxy daughter Wanda. After many attempts from numerous hopefuls, a resourceful cobbler called Skuda managed to kill the beast by feeding it a lamb stuffed with sulphur. Genius! This photo was taken at a monument to the dragon at the foot of the hill. You can also take the spiral staircase down to the so-called Dragon Cave for a fun, albeit chilly and spot of exploring.

Wawel Chakra, April 2003. Feeling a bit dragoned-out, we made our way up the hill to the Royal Castle grounds and ended up resting a while here in the picturesque Renaissance Courtyard. Legend has it there’s something extra special about its northwest corner, said to be a unique chakra point of the world. What is a chakra? Well…  it’s a “natural energy point or centre of consciousness found in every living being”, as believed in the spiritual traditions of India, China and pretentious Western hippies. According to chakra doctrine, there are many chakra points in the human body, but seven are considered to be the most important, and these correspond with the seven sacred stones the Hindu deity Shiva flung across the earth as a gift to mankind. Six of those stones landed in locations as far-flung as Rome, Mecca, Delhi, Jerusalem, Delphi and Velehrad. And the seventh? Yup… Krakow, Poland.

Where’s Rich? Rynek Główny Square, April 2003. At the end of our trip, we lost Rich, the group’s resident Californian. A similar thing happened in Prague where he’d failed to board the train back to Bratislava after an incident with a pickpocket. Or so the story went. In Krakow he’d wandered off during a city walk and for a while or imaginations were running wild with what tale he’d come back with this time. Sadly the whole thing was an anti-climax; he’d just wanted some quiet time exploring alone. Still, we had great fun speculating on his fate, which led to this silly “Where’s Rich?” shot.

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