Poland | Krakow Must-visit Attractions
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Krakow Must-visit Attractions
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The most famous attraction of Kraków is undoubtedly the Wieliczka Salt Mine. During ancient times, Kraków was rich in salt resources. Salt even became a kind of currency. The Polish government later recognised the value of salt and invested in salt mining to boost trade. Kraków thus became prosperous and turned into a significant commercial city in Europe.
Although salt mining has been discontinued in the Wieliczka Salt Mine with little salt remained, the salt mine is open to the world as an essential tourist spot and health resort. The UNESCO World Heritage Site allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the salt mine after crossing tunnels. With tunnels crisscrossing together, the salt mine is like an underground city itself. Not only can you find many rooms inside, but also a few delicate chapels. The Chapel of St. Kinga is the most impressive one among them.
The floor of the chapels is exquisitely embossed; magnificent chandeliers are hanged from the ceiling. There are also an exquisite statue of the Holy Mother of God and the Last Supper carved in salt. The glittering glow from the chandeliers creates amazing radiance on the white salt wall. The light turns into brilliance on stalactite-like rocks. The colourful and dazzling glow will make you fall for this underground palace!
Wawel Royal Castle
As the ancient capital, Kraków has a former royal palace, namely the Wawel Royal Castle. The castle has an extensive collection of exhibits; therefore, its status is like that of the Winter Palace in Russia.
Slightly different from Central European buildings, the Wawel Royal Castle blended in with styles of different countries. The Central European architecture with Renaissance-inspired courtyards and clock towers in Ottoman style reminds everyone that the Wawel Royal Castle is known for its collection of oriental and Ottoman art. Walking inside, you will have a look at the most precious royal collection and artworks and understand how artistic this cultural capital is.
Pope John Paul II is probably the most respected clergy in the modern world. Titled “The Great”, Pope John Paul II was the top leader of the Catholic Church. He grew up and was named bishop in Kraków. The Jagiellonian University where he studied and taught in was the very first university in Poland.
The motto of the institute is “Plus ratio quam vis”, meaning to let reason prevail over force. The university thus has nurtured Copernicus, the famous astronomer, Pope John Paul II who helped end the Cold War and many Polish political leaders and Nobel laureates. Among all the academic buildings, the must-visit spot is the Collegium Maius which is the oldest university building in Poland.
If you get a book under the delicate wall painting of the Renaissance-style Collegium Maius Museum, you feel as if you can see Copernicus calculating the planetary orbits while Pope John Paul II holding a bible and teaching students to love others selflessly like Jesus Christ. In the imaginary meeting with the two giants, you will be elevated spiritually and intellectually. You will understand the world gradually and will be led to the truth.
St. Mary's Basilica
In this city of Catholicism, you should spare some time to visit the Polish churches and experience the religious atmosphere here. If you can only visit one, you are highly recommended to visit St. Mary's Basilica. Built in the 14th century, it is regarded as the model of Gothic architecture in Poland. Many churches constructed by overseas Polish people were based on the style of St. Mary's Basilica. Therefore, the church has created a unique Polish Cathedral style. The two high-rise towers in different styles overlook the Main Market Square and guard the city of Kraków. At every hour, there is a mournful trumpet call at the top of the tower. The performance on the hour is broadcasted via the Polish national radio to commemorate a trumpeter who was shot through the throat by a Tatar archer.
The interior of the church is resplendent and St. Mary's Altar is a well-crafted and magnificent art piece. Beams of light brighten the entire church through the stained glass and glow dazzlingly on the golden ornaments. After praying on the bench, you can almost see Pope John Paul II in the white bishop robe preaching to believers. Your spiritual mind, thus, is fulfilled.
Kraków, alongside the palaces, was highly defenced as the former royal city. The entrance of Kraków Old Town was heavily guarded. Few city walls have remained in the fire of wars, but castle-like city gate Kraków Barbican has remained at the entrance.
In Kraków Barbican, you are like staying in the castle in an online game or a fairy tale as if there is an evil dragon which imprisons a beautiful princess waiting for the rescue by the brave. In reality, yet, you cannot find any dragons but a range of fabulous exhibitions about this ancient royal city. Although you cannot be a dragon slayer, you can enjoy some wonderful time in the cultural activities and get to know more about the history and culture there.