Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day One, The Lay of the Land

I was sitting at my computer one evening and a thought popped into my head out of nowhere. "You need to go to Poland." Its something that up until this time I had not really considered. There were several other places of pilgrimage that were on my list such as Spain, Portugal and France. I had always given more attention to my Italian side and have been to Italy a couple of times. It just so happens that my mother's side is Polish. I've have a love for Our Blessed Mother and my last pilgrimage to Quito was a miraculous one concerning Our Lady. I have always been drawn to the icon of Czestochowa, so I immediately started looking things up on the internet. After a little time I discovered that Krakow looked like a great place for a pilgrimage, and it was affordable. There are tons of churches, devotions, miraculous icons and crucifixes, and its also not far from Czestochowa. My fate was sealed. In a couple of days I booked my two week trip on Expedia. That was four months ago.

Today marks the first official day of my pilgrimage to Krakow! I left early on Tuesday morning. With a stop in Frankfurt and a seven hour time difference, I arrived in Krakow around 10:30 AM Krakow time Wednesday. By the time I got my luggage and found the train it was about 11:00 AM. The trains run around every half hour from the airport to the Krakow city center train station. This gave me time to buy my train ticket, 3 bucks, and the train pulled in around 11:25. I left the station at 11:50 and arrived at the Krakow, Glowny train station maybe 12:10 or so. The train ride was uneventful and not a very scenic ride. The train station is massive and it took me a little time to navigate to the correct exit to the Old Town. Once I arrived on the street I was able to easily find my bearings with my map app on my phone. I decided to walk to my hotel, Legend Hotel, which was just over a mile away. Krakow immediately caught my attention and has a medieval charm to it with its architecture and layout. After a pretty easy walk I checked in just after 1:00 PM.

An hour later I hit the street to get a layout of the Old Town city center. Krakow is a charming city and there is a church on nearly every corner in the historic center. It reminds me of Rome in some ways, yet the historic center here is well organized being surrounded by the Planty, a walking park. I decided to get a layout of the old town and headed south from my hotel which is right along the Planty park on the east side of the Old Town. The weather is nice, although overcast and perfect for a light jacket. Heading south from the hotel I got a glimpse of the back side of the famous Wawel castle and cathedral which stands on a limestone hill overlooking the city. I would see more of it later on as I came back around the Old Town.

I decided to go up Groudzka street which is the main street from the south up the middle of the Old Town. I passed several churches, snapped some pictures along the way and ended up in one of Europe's largest and most famous squares, the Krakow Market Square. Upon entering the square the ancient little church of St. Adalbert's greets you. To the right you can see the massive St. Mary's Basilica  from which the bugler plays from every hour overlooking the square and directly across from it is the famous clock tower. I went into St Mary's to say a prayer and I snuck a couple of pictures. A beautiful replica of Our Lady of Czestochowa greeted me! I will go back tomorrow for the Latin Mass and get a tour. Below are some of the pictures I took along the way.

St Mary's Basilica

I continued north and hit St. Florian's gate. I made my way around the west side of the Old Town and ended up running into St. Anna's church. I went in and prayed the rosary. This appears to be a neighborhood church with a few locals praying, and does not charge any fees to enter as some of the others. This baroque church is inviting and I spent some time visiting the side altars. Here are some pictures. Check out the ambo with the angel on the bottom!

After spending some time in St Anna's I headed south to Wawel Hill. This large complex is seen looming over the horizon as you walk the Planty south. There is a large walkway that leads up to the top where there are several things to see including museums, the castle and the cathedral. You can walk through much of the cathedral for free but there are several things you can't get to without a pass. I decided to wait until later to get the pass and see everything. Unfortunately, they closely monitor to make sure you can't take any pictures inside, and even my stealth camera techniques are unable to avoid the many guards inside. This is a shame, its stunning. There are also the bodies of famous Polish Saints inside such as Saint Jadwiga. I was blessed to find that there is Eucharistic adoration in the back in a beautiful chapel. I spent some time in prayer there. I was also able to get some pictures from up top overlooking the Vistula River.

After enjoying a piece of creme cake at the Wawel cafe, I decided to head back to the hotel and rest up for the night. It looks like there is going to be plenty to see here over the next 13 days. Our Lord and the Blessed Mother have greeted me well here in Krakow on my first day.

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