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Krakow | A City for the Culture Hungry

I recently quit my job in a publishing firm to do some soul searching. I packed myself 5 weeks worth of luggage and dived into the unknown. After what seemed like forever, I finally arrived in Katowice, Poland, a small city on the outskirts of Krakow. I boarded a mini van headed to Krakow, the old capital of Poland. The van was packed with locals that looked like Stalin and at this point, I was mentally screaming.


I spent most of my time in Krakow at my brother’s restaurant, or at his place babysitting his kids while at the same time trying to nurse myself from a night of too many Polish home made vodka shots.


But when I do go out, I’m constantly amazed by what Krakow has to offer. A warning to slaves of fashion, Krakow is not a shopping paradise.  It does however; compensate the lack of style with priceless history and an abundance of culture.


My brother’s restaurant is a walking distance from Old Town; the core of Krakow. It’s a shopping district that sells an array of items from tacky tee shirts to bohemian crystals and serves an array of bistros in between. Placed in the heart of old town, Rynek Glowny (Market Place) is the focal point of this historical district.


Rynek Glowny is a building established in 1257 that holds mostly souvenir stalls, and I’m the last person you would see doing touristy things like buying a country’s magnet. I hate to admit it but I was enticed by the wooden folk toys that were presented upon me. It saddens me to know that I come from a city where kids are fascinated by an iphone and perhaps will never chance upon such ingenious designs. Rynek Glowny is rustic, nostalgic and truly a gem! It gets even the most cynical creatures (me) feel like a child in a candy store.


Being in Krakow feels like you’re a character living a history book. . Up until a few years ago, Poland was a no man’s land. It survived World War II as well as the communist regime. Trails of bullet holes from the Nazi regime can still be seen in some buildings. There are also soviet buildings scattered throughout the city and the conservative soviet mindsets of the older generation are just some traces of their traumatic history.


I was walking aimlessly, trying to uncover the city when I stumbled upon a cozy cafe. I decided to stop for a cup of coffee only to realize that I was walking around the premises of Wawael’s castle the entire time. The scenery overlooking the café was nothing less than breath taking. The café was placed on a hill, overlooking the city’s main river with the clear blue sky as a backdrop. The sun was shining, the summer breeze was endless and the scent of fresh flowers got me on a natural high. For 4 ZL (SGD2) I got myself a cup of warm coffee and a picture perfect view of Krakow. It started out as an aimless walk but ended a purposeful journey. Suddenly everything seemed to find its place, and my mind was calm and for that moment I lived like there was no tomorrow.


So here’s my summary of Krakow, Poland. It’s not a shopping paradise, it doesn’t feed or reflect material wealth. It is a culture paradise. Those who hungry for stories would instantly fall in love with the simplicity that is Krakow.


– Estee Hamid & National Geographic Traveller



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