Monday, 24 December 2012

Krakow Christmas Market

A few months back, I signed up for a packaged tour with NewMarket Tours in the UK for a 4 day trip to the Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland. I traveled with a colleague of Andrew's.

Outside the Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall

 The market is held in old town, main square which is surrounded by beautiful architecture. There is a Cloth Hall, and a church with two towers. Shops and restaurants make up the rest of the buildings.                                                                                                         

A bit of travel info for those local folks:  We had an early flight out of Bristol Airport, which was easy and much smaller than London's airports. Our flight was so early that we stayed in a B&B near the airport. Yew Tree Cottage has tailored its business to those doing just what we did. We took a train from Cheltenham to Bristol Airport, where he picked us up. The rooms were comical in that they are super small and we were there on the coldest night of the year so it was freezing. Nicely decorated I must say. It met our needs as we were only there for a matter hours. Landlord took us to the airport at 04:30 am, no problem and gave us a hearty breakfast to go. For £50 it was worth it.

Once in Krakow, our tour leader met us and we were transferred to the Hotel Logos, cheap and cheerful,  very convenient to the old town, and a treat continental breakfast. The old town is surrounded by a tree filled park which makes it very easy to navigate around the city.

 On our fist day there we spent time getting acclimated.  We walked over to the Old Town and visited to Christmas market.

 We had lunch in the Market and tried the gluwein, hot mulled wine that is sold from these giant casks.

The Krakow market seemed different than other markets. It's more..... Polish! Not only are there ornaments and gluwein, there is pottery, knitted mittens, hats (lots of hats), crystal, candles, linens,amber jewelry, and all kinds of yummy snacks. There are traditional tradesmen working right there. The stalls are beautifully decorated with traditional linens and decoration.

 Very tempting pottery was on offer! The colors are so beautiful and there is a pattern for everyone.

It was Dec 6 which is St. Nicholas Day, so we saw many people dressed up as St Nick. Some more convincing than others!

The architecture is varied from medieval to renaissance to art noveau. While Krakow is a beautiful city there are still signs of decay and graffiti is rampant and out of control. 

Day 2 City Tour

Christof our tour guide lead us through the town from one interesting sight to another. We started in the Cloth Hall and moved to the Main Square. It was bitterly cold, and we were thankful for the warm bus that moved us from one attraction to the other.
Some highlights:
St. Mary's Church in the Main Square
Our guide told us about the  legendary buglar, who every hour on the hour performs the hejnaƂ , a 600 year old tradition. Legend has it that in 1241 a watchman saw the advancing Mongol invasion and started to warn the citizens of Krakow about the impending danger by playing his trumpet. A mongol arrowsman spotted the trumpeter and with a well placed arrow pierced the trumpeters throat in mid song. This is why the hejnal stops on a certain note. It is played facing north, south, east and west.

Wawel Castle
Pope John Paul statue outside the Cathedral

St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

Restaurant in Kazirmireicz

Old Synagog is now a museum

Oskar Schindler Factory workers

Memorial to those who died during the Nazi occupation

Cathedral in Wawel Castle

Inside Royal residence

Memorial to 65,000 Jewish Polish lost to Nazis during World War 2

Panoramic view of top of Wawel

University of Theology

Pope John Paul residence

View of river  from Wawel hill.

Royal residence in Wawel Castle

Franciscan Church

Town Hall

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Yorkshire Coast part 2- Whitby

On the agenda for the second day of our trip to Scarborough was a stop in at the fishing village of Whitby. Our neighbor in Charlton Kings highly recommended a visit there. He said the fish and chips are especially delicious there because the fish is so fresh. We arrived around noon after several detours because of the widespread flooding. We did get to drive through the moors which were so beautiful. Our approach to Whitby was from the north, so we first came to a hill overlooking the harbor and lighthouse.

There we saw a memorial to Captain Cook, the explorer who at age18 came to Whitby to be an apprentice in for a ship builder. Later, during the mid to late 1700's he led 4 voyages around the globe on ships (Endeavor was one) built by the towns ship builders.

There is also a whale bone a tribute to the whaling tradition the was prevalent in the 1800's. this was a dangerous profession and were lost at sea.

Through the whale bone across the harbor you can see the church and abbey.

While wandering around the town, we went into a knitting shop that had a display of cable knitting patterns. It explained that each village's fisherman wore a different pattern . You could tell which village a fisherman was from by the pattern of his jumper (sweater).

There is a lifeboat museum with lifeboats and equipment that is used to rescue fishing boats at sea. Many photos of the captains, ships and records of each and every rescue were displayed. You could really get a sense of what their job was like and how courageous these men were.

Whitby is also the setting for Bram Stoker's Dracula. I am reading it now and it is a great read. The descriptions of the town and surrounding coast are vividly accurate, even today. In the village church on top of the hill there are signs that say " Dracula is not here". That may be a spoiler alert!

Whitby Abbey provides a gothic backdrop for Bram Stoker's novel.

The church, St. Mary's, is also architecturally interesting. The Norman church was built on the site around 1110 and added to and altered over the centuries. The tower and transepts are from the 12th and 13th centuries.The tower is square and crenellated. The nave and transept have 19th-century galleries accessed by internal and external staircases and a three-decker pulpit which was installed in 1778 and altered in 1847.It retains its 18th-century box pews, some of which are inscribed, "For Strangers Only", and north of the chancel arch is a Jacobean pew.

Scenes in the Dracula take place in the church cemetery.

Fish and chips are a must on a visit here so we stopped in at the Magpie Cafe. Delicious, but not for the faint of heart. We ordered the small portion, which completely covered the plate!
We were able go back to Scarborough along the coast. The sunset was beautiful.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

From southwestern coast of Cornwall to northeast coast of NorthYorkshire

We took a short trip to North Yorkshire recently. We stayed in Scarborough, a Victorian seaside town.
Lovely town, even if it appeared a little tired.  There are multiple layers here, the High street with the usual High Street shops, art museum, and cafes and the seaside below with amusements, ice cream stands, tee shirts shops. The beach was quite wide and the harbor was bustling.

Fish and Chips are a specialty here.

View from our hotel

The weather was rainy our first day so photos are a bit hazy.
Scarborough is also split into North Bay and South Bay, we stayed in a hotel on the South Bay, above the town's famous victorian spa.

There are several large gardens that take one from the lower beach up to the town.