Now there are two things about Kraków (pronounced Krakuf), one I knew and one I didn't; I knew it was going to be perishing cold in January -it reached -6 C with snow- so that was no real surprise but I didn't know how nice both the city and the people are. Some of them who were trying to sell you tickets for a horse and carriage ride would quite happily direct you anywhere you wanted to go...and smile while they were doing it! My daughter had worked there in the summer so she made a pretty good guide -for pubs, zapiekanki (street food) sites and vodka bars...but she didn't know much about the museums. Luckily, Google came to the rescue and I found a few on there including Wawel (pronounced Vavel) Castle. I had previously made a list of interesting places -to me anyway- that I wanted to visit so we worked out a plan of action. We flew out of Gatwick at 0815 on Friday and arrived at 1215 (Kraków is an hour ahead). Friday afternoon -a walk around the old town on the way to Wawel Castle while checking out some of the local restaurants for an evening meal. Some of the buildings date back to the 18th Century and some churches are from the early medieval times. One, St Andrews, along with Wawel Castle, were the only stone edifices left standing after the ten day siege by the Mongols in early March 1241!
About Wawel Castle. Hulking great place, quite a good museum with lots of armour and bits from the husaria period (Renaissance Winged Hussars to the non Polish speakers). Looks the mutts thinks I, got to give that one a look over. Walks in goes up to the ticket counter and sees a sign saying that the Castle Armoury section is closed until Jan 25th. If we had turned up the bl**dy day before it would have been open but... Not happy but nothing you can do; so I bought a guide instead. It was almost like a Bullseye moment when Jim Bowen used to say "Lets see what you would have won". Gutted, especially after looking through the guide. So this is as close as I got to husaria material in Poland -a model display in the shop!
The size of the mortar bore is anybody's guess but the size of the stone cannon balls are intriguing.
I took over 300 pictures of various buildings, churches, aircraft and all other sorts of whatnot, picked up a number of museum guidebooks with useful bits and pieces in but the prize was a book called 'Digital Reconstructions of the Historic Built up areas of Kraków'. 170 pages of larger than A4 size with fold out full colour pictures of the evolution of the city. Early timber frames, stone, the lot. Cost me 60 złoty (about £10) and was an absolute steal if you are interested in making your own, reasonably accurate terrain like wot I is.
Monday morning came around too quick. We had to leave the hotel at 1000 because our flight was at 1215. The temperature had dropped significantly overnight which is where the -6 comes into it but as well as that, while at the airport the snow started to come down in large flakes and we had to have the wings de-iced before we could take off!
Luckily we made it safely back to good old Blighty. It was a fantastic experience and I would definitely go again if the opportunity presented itself...especially to the displays at Wawel Castle!