With two days in Krakow, we had to visit Wawel Castle, overlooking the Vistula River. In between, and to warm up, we hit a few coffee houses and one big-ass bookstore.
Wawel is a big castle in which Polish kings took residence until sometime in the mid-to-late 1700s. The Castle grounds are atop a hill, at the bend of the Vistula. The walk up is slow and gradual beneath the high walls; good defense positions, I’m sure, back in the days of conquest, seige, and pillaging. Today, it’s a tourist spot that gathers Castle Pilgrims from around the world.
Much of Wawel’s walls are made from the local stone, a white stone that is quite beautiful in sunshine and against the otherwise red brick used for outside walls and adornments. The castle ramparts give picturesque views of the Vistula and the outlying city, more modern than the interior Old Town.
The castle green is wide and bright, leading to the king’s courtyard. Wawel seems to be one of the larger European castles, area-wise. I like its openness, garden quality.
The king’s courtyard is built in the Renaissance style, with vaulted pillars along storeyed arcades. Some of these have the restored paintings of the walls that would have been down around the entire space. The courtyard is huge, and I imagine was used for everything from military parades to feasts to a hanging or head-lopping.
We skipped the indoors tour this time: without knowning what we’d be seeing, the price structure of the tour(s) was ridiculous. We would rather spend the money at the bookstore, on good food, or vodka and pierogi.
While coffee houses of the small, indigenous kind exist in Krakow, we didn’t exactly find one that fit our desires: non-smoking. But Coffee Heaven had a nice cellar room that was comfortably furnished and quiet and warm. This was before the sun had come out, and after which we’d been already walking for 3hrs, thus achieving whitened fingers, red noses, aching knees, and other pains related to travel, tourism &etc.
We wandered around looking for Massolit bookstore, just off the Planty. But without a proper map, combined with macaroni-shaped streets, Asia got to use her Polish by asking a flotilla of people who didn’t seem to know their town anymore than we the travelers did. But anyway we found one lady who, in a flourish of exactitude, sent us this way and that, sending us ever closer. And then we were there.
Massolit is housed in a residential street, taking rooms from a several that could easily be a home. The shelves are filled with used and new books in English, covering a few dozen subjects within history, travel, culture, art, etc. I found a couple very good history/culture books (Barzun, Boorstin, Bloom) and one novel by Francine Prose that I’ve been looking for for nearly a year.
While looking around, I also took the time to pin up several “bookmark” adverts I’d made to market THE VILLAGE WIT, on the off chance that a reader will pick one or two up and want to buy it from the web, and pass along the word. Any marketing is good, in this fast-paced world.
Then, at the checkout, I saw home-made brownies in a case. I asked Asia if I should buy a brownie. “I don’t know,” she replied in her coy voice. The checkout girl laughed. I bought a brownie, and it was good!