Friday, 4 March 2011
Charlie's Holiday in Poland (13) - Krakow's Wawel Castle
Back to Krakow went I. After visiting Salt mines and Papal Homes, there is one thing in Krakow that looks over the city - The Wawel or Castle Hill. A little history, why of course. Once upon a time there was a fearsome dragon that lived in a cave below this hilly outcrop overlooking the Vistula River. Some brave locals decided to get rid f this dragon, so they filled the guts of goats with Sulphur and fed them to the dragon. The dragon died a fiery death and so the people of the surrounding area could settle and build a settlment on this hill. Then they were kicked out as a few kings thought, hang about, I like the view from here. So the kings established a Royal Compound on the hill over looking the river, while the plebs had to go and found the city of Krakow. Here is a photo of a sculpture of the dragon, below the castle near his cave.
Wawel is big, to be blunt, well, it is huge. The main parts of the complex is the castle and the cathedral. But there are also lots of bits attached to it including little museums of various artifacts and art works, a museum about the cathedral and a museum about the castle as well. All in all, this is one huge area, and to be blunt, one day is not enough to see everything, a second day is needed. I did not have time for a second day, but I got to see a lot. So I will begin with my little tour of Wawel. Today will be the castle and either tomorrow or Sunday will be the cathedral.
(The Cathedral in the foreground with the castle to the right with the red roof in the background behind the cathedral)
The Royal Castle is a grand complex and houses the state rooms, the Royal Apartments and the Royal Armoury as well as a museum to Oriental Art. Rebuilt in the 14th Century, it was continually modified right up until the last century. The inside is lush, but of course, no photos are permitted, so here is a view of the great courtyard which the castle was built around:
To say the building is magnificent is an understatement A gross one. One of the most impressive pieces of European Architecture I have seen. It is also huge, and a lot of the rooms inside are just accessible to the public. I will explain more at the end of this post. But my hint to you is to get here early to really experience the full extent of this massive and impressive building!
The castle is divided into many areas. I got to see a few off them, but being winter, a lot of areas are closed off for refurbishment. And in the photos you will see enough pieces of scaffold and hoardings to show the the work that is being carried out. And you have to be particular about what you want to see, as visitor numbers are restricted to many parts of the castle. But you do have the State rooms open (limited visitor numbers), the Royal Private Apartments (very limited numbers of visitors allowed - 150 per day), Oriental Art Museum (limited numbers) the Museum of the Wawel (Unlimited - yey!), the Royal Gardens (closed for refurbishment) and the Dragon's Cave (closed for refurbishment). Still, what I did see was a lot and to be honest, I do not know how I fitted everything into one day. Still, I guess I am just too cool for school...
Lots of them. Arrive early. Open from 9am Tuesday to Sunday, the Wawel is a popular place and I kid you not, tickets are limited for many parts of the castle. However, it is free to wander round the courtyards and surrounding area. There are some stunning vistas of the city.
Here is a hint. If you want to take a bite to eat, there is a coffee shop and a small restaurant in the ticket office. Avoid the coffee shop as prices for a piece of cake and coffee is the same as a piece of bread and soup. Yeah. Don't ask how that works, but maybe coffee is a limited commodity on the Wawel...
Although on the same complex, the Cathedral and Castle are treated as separate institutions, and a ticket for one will not cover the other. My big hint is that if you only have one day is to head to the castle first which has limited visitor numbers before going to the Cathedral which allows everyone in. Avoid the museums as well if you wan to squeeze more into the day. But, more on the Cathedral tomorrow...