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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Kraków Polska!

The morning came early, and I was giddy about being on the road to one of my favorite medieval cities, Kraków, Poland, about a 4+ hour drive south.

Renata, Jurik and I left Ostrów by 7:15 am. Since we had to go through Warsaw, we picked up their son-in-law, Marciek (pronounced Mach-chic) - all preplanned that he’d join us (his younger brother Jacek lives in Kraków). One noticeable thing in Polska is the names. They have so many endearing nicknames for their loved ones, men and women, boys and girls, that it is hard for me to keep up!

Luckily for me, Marciek speaks perfect English. He rode in the back seat for a while until he started having back pain and switched with Renata riding shotgun to help stretch out his legs…and back.

We made two stops. One was to visit a medieval castle, more like a fortress since it was so high on a hill and another stop to visit a cave. The cave was a bust because only 20 people at a time can go in, and we didn’t have prearranged tickets, nor could “we” talk ourselves into that UNESCO site tagging along with another group … mostly screaming elementary school kids.

The fortress was very cool. The walk up to the site was even better for our steps and cardiac exercise. This brick and stone fortress is called the Royal Palace of Chęciny (pronounced Helcheena), located in a town in Kielce County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, southern Poland. It has about 4200 inhabitants, and first mentioned in historical documents from 1275 and obtained its city charter in 1325. At that time, it was one of the major urban centers of northern Lesser Poland.

For about 30 minutes, our private tour guide spoke English so I could understand the significance of this important piece of Polish history with some of the Polish kings and other characters of the day that made it amazing. One king, Władyskaw Jagiello (1351-1434), is still a national treasure. The well-known Kraków collegiate institution is named after him; The Jagiellonian University. It is a public research university founded in 1364 by King Casimir III the Great, and it is the oldest university in Poland and the 13th oldest university in continuous operation in the world. It is regarded as Poland’s most prestigious academic institution. Quite a resumé for an old college!

By 5:00 pm, we arrived at Hotel Polonia, steps away from Old Town Market Square. After a quick rest, Renata, Jurik, and I made our way to the town square, where we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the city market and a quick look-see inside St. Mary's. The Saint Mary's Basilica is a Brick Gothic church built in the 14th century. Its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture. My all-time favorite cross is hanging over the altar, and I finally got a photo of it.

An hour later, we met Jacek for dinner at a traditional Polish cuisine Michelin Guide restaurant: Kogel Mogel.

I had the delicious mushroom pierogies. So did Renata and Jurik. I’m not sure they were thinking like me that I was ready to lick my plate clean because it was that good.

Na Zdrowie! (Cheers!)



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