This time last week I was on my way to Krakow, Poland, for a few days of touristic wanderings and festive indulgence.
Even the airport had a beautiful Christmas tree, and the shopping centres too, festooned with baubles and lights.
Around the city oversized baubles lit the way, providing an opportunity to pause a moment and take in the surroundings. They were a good way to orient yourself in the dark too…once you realised there was more than one.
In the heart of the ‘Stare Miastro‘ (old town) the market square, one of the largest in Europe (the largest?) boasted the illuminated stalls and oversized barrels where you could buy the Grzaniec Galicyjski (the Polish version of ‘Gluhwein’), with its pungent blend of red wine and spices.
It was strong. It was hot. It was delicious.
The horses and carriages lent the square a fairytale charm, and I never tired of taking pictures of them (even the man who had to keep jumping off the back to collect the dung…!)
The image below has gone a bit wrong, but I love it. It conjures a lovely sense of movement and atmosphere, like a reflection or a glimpse of another time?
St Mary’s Basilica (Kosciol Mariacki) with its ornate interior decoration (so rich it is referred to as the ‘gold church‘), was the perfect escape to slip away from the bustle of the market and light a candle.
This is something my Dad and I like to do every year, so this year it was extra special to do in Krakow in such a celebrated church so steeped in history. (You can’t take photographs inside the church.)
The lights in the square and the tree were magical, and I kept stopping to take more pictures: one hand holding my camera, the other balancing a warming cup of Grzaniec Galicyjski. The trams were a fascination too – maybe it’s just because I’m not used to seeing them?
There was a huge tree with multicoloured lights at the The Wawel Royal Castle, high up on the hill offering a view across the city.
I love the contrast of colours in the architecture of the castle: the pale green, the red brick, the grey, the golden dome.
These colours are replicated in the architecture across the city, and mingle perfectly with the cold mist and fog that hung atmospherically in the morning, descending again at night.
Shop windows were decorated for Christmas. I had to stop to snap this snowman:
Travelling to new places, experiencing different cultures, food, the work of artisans in another corner of the world, is so inspiring and you lose yourself in the moment of discovery, the immersion into the new environment with its exotic offerings.
I feel especially lucky to be only a few hours away from the rich culture and history that mainland Europe has to offer and would definitely visit Poland again; Krakow perhaps, but there are so many other interesting cities too.
Do you go to the Christmas markets? What makes it a special experience for you?