Český Krumlov

This is the 6th destination on our Western Slavic Countries itinerary as described in that Travel Planning post.

We departed Olomouc by car, selecting the longest route available on google maps because I wanted to experience the most scenic drive possible. It was a cloudless, sunny Thursday morning as we departed central Olomouc. We started the drive on a highway for the first hour or so. And then we went on two lane country roads.

The first half was through wide open, large farmland with no trees in sight. It looked like corporate farms because they were so expansive. But about halfway through the trip we were on lonely two lane country roads. Sometimes so tight that it didn’t seem like two cars could have passed by. The terrain got hillier, and eventually the roads were tree-lined with beautiful vistas. The scenery with no vehicles either in front or behind us made for a wonderful driving experience.

 

Arrival

Cesky Krumlov is a picture-postcard pretty little town, and it’s definitely a tourist destination. With only a two and half hour bus trip from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is heavily visited by day tripping tourists.

Driving the BMW into town presented a problem or two. The roads were very  narrow and finding parking – even to move the luggage into the apartment, was problematic. Once again I was convinced that having a larger vehicle in Europe, especially in villages like this, was not a good idea. The roads were tight and narrow, with parking at a premium, and people driving aggressively. So I had to be on my guard in this tiny little town.

 

Settling in

The apartment was very centrally located on Ulica Latran, the main street through the little town. I could tell just from arrival that there was going to be some street noise at night because we were on the main drag through town. But this was expected, and  the central location outweighed the inconvenience of a little noise. The apartment was in fabulous shape, as advertised. It was a cute little place suitable for two people, and possibly a third adult, or a couple of children.

 

Discovery Trek

Cesky Krumlov radiates out from its large castle, with some of the castle complex dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The castle is visible from most parts of town, guarding over it, and keeping it safe. The town is situated on 2 oxbows on the Vltava River, and is easily walkable end to end, criss-crossing the main streets on each oxbow in 1 hour – it’s that small.

However, just walking around Cesky Krumlov, at a very leisurely pace, taking it all in, I could see why so many tourists descend upon it for day trips. The little town was like a set from a Disney movie. It didn’t seem possible for one little place to have been so filled with charm.

 

The Vltava River flows through Cesky Krumlov, bringing a flotilla of holiday makers – most pass through, but some stop at the many restaurants along the water to grab lunch and get dry. The scene of water-borne merry-makers added to the carnival-like atmosphere brought on by the tour bus day trippers.

 

And as I spent more time in Cesky Krumlov, I realized that the density of tourism made it feel like I was actually at a Disney park. All signage was in multiple languages, as were all menus at restaurants. Tourists arrived at points of interest in herds – about a bus-sized herd most of the time. I was reminded of the last time I visited Disney World in Florida. We continued exploration of the little town on our second day, meandering our way through Cesky Krumlov with the strategy of avoiding the tour group throngs.

 

 

Food Scene

Restaurace Bolero

This was a lovely restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the river, and we watched the recreational “floaters” drift by.

Grilled sausage and a salad. It doesn’t get any simpler or tastier. They do have an extensive menu, but we were interested in what passes for lighter fare. Service was fast and efficient. Very nice first stop in Cesky Krumlov!

 

Restaurace Konvice

This restaurant was difficult to find because Google Maps had it mislocated, and had to ask twice for directions. The terrace has only six tables with views of the castle tower and the church over the red rooftops in the foreground, only 3 with really good views. Worth arriving early to get a nice terrace view table.

Roasted brown trout, parslied potatoes, mixed salad, carrot cake for dessert. Because it was roasted, the trout could have had crispier skin. It was however tender and juicy. A leisurely setting with a great view, good service, and value. The prices were reasonable for Cesky Krumlov.

 

Restaurace Babylon

This place is situated right along the river with a view of one of the main churches, and you can hear the bells ringing right from the waterfront tables where we were sitting. Lovely scenery on the water, watching all of the holidaymakers raft down the river, with ducks and fish right below us.  My wife loves to feed the fish and ducks, so there’s always a little scenery to be enjoyed. The menu is simple and it was a good value in hyper touristy CK.

Zander (Asian game fish imported to parts of Central Europe) with potatoes and greens, salad and grilled veggies. Tried a local pilsner style beer, Eggenberg (33 czk!), very good. The cuisine was basic, but well prepared, good service, excellent value, and the views couldn’t be beat.

 

We liked this place so much that we decided to come back a second time for dinner. We wanted to have grilled pork knuckle for our last dinner in the Czech Republic. It speaks volumes about the quality of the service and the food. Dinner was hearty and very good. I can’t believe this place isn’t rated higher on Tripadviser.

 

Restaurant Griechenbeisl

We had dinner here when staying in Vienna overnight to catch the return flight the following day. This restaurant claims to have been in operation since 1447. Our experience here was very good. The service was excellent, in spite of the fact that they were very busy. Service went with on with Germanic efficiency. We ordered herb encrusted fillet of char, risotto with pak choi, and grilled, skewered prawns with coconut-ginger orange sauce pasta.

 

Zum Basilisken

We had a late lunch here when staying in Vienna overnight to catch the flight out the following day. This restaurant received horrific reviews on Tripadvisor, especially from people that didn’t know they’d be charged for items offered on the table upon arrival which weren’t ordered.

Clear beef soup with liver dumplings, Viennese scallop with roast potatoes, and apple strudel for dessert. The soup was served so hot that it was not immediately edible, but it was delicious with patience. The Wienerschnitzel was was served piping, and it  was fresh and delicious. My only complaint about this restaurant was that the beer was a bit flat.

 

Vienna Overnight

We stayed a single night in Vienna to accommodate the first leg of our return flight, which was scheduled early. We stayed in the center of town within easy walking distance to restaurants, and a short Uber ride to the airport. The two restaurants we tried while in Vienna were very good, and highly recommended, although ordering a beer didn’t work well for me at one of them – details in the Food Scene section.

We did a mini discovery trek in Vienna, about a six mile walk along the river, then returned back towards our apartment with dinner along the way. It was more exercise than anything else, as the scenery was rather big-city ordinary where we were staying.

 

Epilogue

Cesky Krumlov was by far the least immersive traveling experience of the Western Slavic Countries Itinerary. The Tour Bus Day-Trippers from Prague, and Vienna descended on this little town in herds and hordes, making it feel more like a trip to a large amusement park, rather than a picture-perfect village surrounding a grand castle – with history that dates back to the 13th century. It was very interesting, particularly around the Vltava River – but about as immersive as an outing to Disneyland with thousands of adolescents.

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Olomouc

This is the 5th destination on our Western Slavic Countries itinerary as described in that Travel Planning post.

We set off from Wroclaw To Olomouc along a scenic route I found via Google maps. After a stretch on the A4 toll road, we were on tree-lined, twisting and turning two lane roads as we drove through the hillsides, with farmland peering through the trees. And as time went by, we saw the landscape become hillier and trending toward mountainous. But all along the way we had two lane roads where we couldn’t drive more than 50 miles an hour or so. And at many points we had the road completely to ourselves, with not a soul in front, nor behind. There was some occasional congestion, as it was a main artery for traffic along the north-south corridor between Poland and the Czech Republic. It was a wonderful drive, interesting, appealing to the eye, and relaxing.

Głuchołazy Stopover

It was the last chance to spend our Zloty before leaving Poland for the Czech Republic. We chose Głuchołazy as it was larger than most of the towns we passed through, somewhat midway to Olomouc, and were hopeful to find a cafe for a quick bite to eat. As we pulled into town, we found the main square, parked the car, and walked around for a bit. We eventually stumbled onto a little café for an early lunch. We had a cappuccino, a cup of tea, and a couple of sandwiches, all for $7 US. Poland was inexpensive, and we would learn soon enough that the Czech Republic was even less expensive.

Arrival

The first thing we did as we entered the Czech Republic was to find a gas station to buy a vignette for the vehicle – essentially a road tax sticker – which allowed us to legally drive on Czech roads. This was not an especially easy thing to do as the lovely young lady at the gas station spoke zero words of English, and I only know two words in Czech, neither of them would’ve helped in that particular situation. However, with the help of Google translate, I was able to figure it out, and off we went.

Arrival in Olomouc was easy. It was an uncongested smaller city with a population of 100,000. Navigating to the center of town and parking close to the apartment was delightfully straightforward after a long, but enjoyable day on the road.

Our hostess showed us the apartment, and it turned out to be lovelier than it was depicted on Booking.com. The apartment in Kraków was grand and luxurious but this one was better. It had better lighting, with nice views from its large windows. It had a balcony overlooking a quiet courtyard. Centrally located, immaculately clean, and it felt comfortable.

The apartment had high ceilings and crystal chandeliers in all the rooms, including the bathroom. The bedroom had French doors. All of the doors in the apartment had etched glass and ornate hardware. The floors were a herringbone parquet throughout. There was a lovely level of detail throughout the apartment. This was the kind of place I would choose as base of operation were I to move to Europe.

Settling In

The town was so pleasantly uncrowded, and to say it was lightly touristed is an understatement. I think we were among the very few non-locals in town. Walking around, even in the town’s main squares, was easy and very relaxing. The town was laid back, and unhurried – a contrast to the larger cities of Krakow and Wroclaw that we had visited earlier in the week.

I hesitate to use the term “mini-Prague”, but it is appropriate. Prague was beautiful when I last visited in 2012, but it was definitely discovered and densely touristed. Strolling along the Charles Bridge in Prague’s old town – simply stretching out each arm to its full length would have touched three tourists with each hand. Not so in Olomouc, with similar architecture and design as Prague, but with no crowds, and aside from myself and my wife, apparently very few tourists as well.

Discovery Trek

And so we arrived in Olomouc, the historical capital of ancient Moravia, a kingdom that existed for hundreds of years before joining with Bohemia to form what is now the modern day Czech Republic. Moravia forms the Eastern third of the Czech Republic, with Olomouc at its center. Olomouc is also the ancient seat of the Bishops of Moravia, with references to the bishopric in literature dating to the 10th century. Olomouc is steeped in the cultural and religious history of the people of Moravia, which easily discovered with a stroll through town.

Some of the highlights of Olomouc have to be the number of beautiful and historic churches in town, with the most prominent being St. Wenceslas Cathedral, founded in the early 12th century. But there are a half dozen others, including Saint Maurice, Saint Michael, John Sarkander Chapel, and The Orthodox Church – scattered throughout the town.

The old part of town had construction and restoration projects in progress during our stay, including roadwork on the characteristic cobblestone roads found throughout town. Even the construction projects were interesting because they exposed the history of the city through the process.

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Olomoucké Tvarůžky

I love food, and I travel in particular to try new, local fare. And so, I was on the hunt for the famous stinky cheese that is sourced in this destination. Olomoucké tvarůžky is the stinky, ripened soft cheese that bears the city’s name. I’ve read about, I’ve seen travelogs describing it, and I wanted to try it. But finding it proved to be elusive, even with advice from from our lovely hostess. As it turns out, we were too early in the season – the cheese needs to age for several months, and only attains it stinky goodness towards the end of the year.

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Food Scene

Hanacka hospoda

Pork knee, goulash, grilled veggies, fresh veggies, and Olomouc cheese spread to start. Apparently there was a bit of translation issue, and the cheese turned out to be a pork fat spread, which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what we were looking for. After further advice from my landlady via sms, we ordered what we thought was the right cheese. But alas we failed to get the right pungent stuff. It took an hour to cook the pork knuckle, so we have a second round of appetizers which, was a really bad idea. I didn’t know the difference between a pork knuckle, and a pork knee – but when it arrived, it was as big as my head. Very crispy skin, fatty, but with lots of meat. It was an enormous amount of food. It was every bit as good as it looks, if you like pork. The vegetables helped. There were lots of spicy vinegary peppers, raw horseradish, mustard, and raw vegetables. The meal could have easily served 4 people, and was very inexpensive at under $40 including a generous tip.

Cafe New One

This enormous cafe has incredible 90 Mbps up/down free wifi. And the food with drinks were very reasonable. Egg with ham scramble, croissant, cappuccino, and black tea.

Restaraucja Maravska

Platter with smoked meats, sausage and Olomoucké tvar?žky cheese (the famous stinky variety, I hoped), trout filet over risotto, perch fillet in garlic butter, grilled veggies – on the table starter: baked phyllo strips, lightly salted with dill seed. The platter came with an apple horseradish sauce which went well in particular with the sausage, and the ham. The apple mellowed the strong horseradish flavor. The tvaruzki was surprisingly mild, I was bracing myself. The goose pate was rich and smooth, and the pine nuts added an interesting texture. The serving of trout was generous, the risotto had a sweet paprika and zesty tomato influence. The perch was very mild, as were the patties of garlic butter. The food was very good, they have 2 items on the table on arrival which will go on your bill if you touch them.

Svatovaclavsky Pivovar

St. Wenceslaus Specialty

Typical Pivovar we’ve seen in Slovakia which brew their own beer and serve hearty fare at reasonable prices.

Beef flank steak, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, smoked boneless pork knee, chicken wings, green salad. It was every bit as good as it looks in the photo, with the smoked pork knee, and wings as the tastiest. The wings were fall off the bone tender, baked with zesty paprika flavor – not spicy. And there just was enough of the smoked pork knee, it was that good. The rest was good, but paled by comparison to the wings and pork knee. More lumberjack food.

Epilogue

Olomouc was by far the most immersive travel experience on our Western Slavic Country circuit. Among the contributing factors were the relatively smaller population, the long history of the city in the millennium of Moravian culture, and of course the lovely local folks. Adding to the allure is the affordability factor – I had a conversation with our lovely hostess trying to understand the cost of living in Olomouc. The beautiful apartment we had as our residence in the city would rent for 600 euros on a monthly basis. I would be tempted, but not based on affordability alone, although it’s always a factor. Olomouc would be a lovely base of operations to explore Europe for an extended period of time.

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Wrocław

This is the 4th destination in the Western Slavic Countries circuit as described in that Travel Planning post.

We drove through green, rolling countryside on tree lined roads with a backdrop of beautiful blue skies, on a  sunny day. It was mostly two lane roads but they were very well-maintained and traffic was not particularly dense as it was Sunday morning. We drove through little town after little town, all of them very well-maintained and they looked upscale as compared to what we’d seen in Slovakia. Poland was definitely a rung up on the economic ladder as compared to the Slovak Republic.

 

Wadowice Day Trip

En route to Wroclaw, we made a stop in Wadowice to visit the museum and family home of Pope John Paul II,  and to explore the town around its main square. Wadowice is a relatively small town with a Central Square that, like a magnet, held all of the interesting parts of town hovering near it – the rest of the town was unremarkable. The museum to Pope John Paul II was next to the main church in the central square. Wadowice looked like all the little towns we passed through on the way. It looked clean, orderly and well-maintained , resembling Austrian or German villages in that regard.

 

Arrival

As we left Wadowice, the countryside turned from rolling and hilly – reminiscent of West Virginia or southeastern Ohio, and eventually blended into a more flat landscape, with a steady array of farms. Beautiful, pastoral, green countryside rolled out in front of us, mile after mile, adding to the pleasure of the drive. The sight-seeing eye candy on our 2 lane road was interrupted every 10 minutes or so, as we passed through the next quaint little town. Southern Poland was lovely.

 

Settling in

As we arrived into Wroclaw, I noticed that the the city was different than Kraków. Kraków was spotlessly clean, not only in the old part of town but everywhere we wandered through. Wroclaw as a bit scruffy as compared to Krakow, which is more of a commentary on how spotlessly clean Krakow was, rather than anything negative about Wroclaw.

We found a secure parking lot within a five minute walk of the apartment and dropped off our rental car there. On arrival to the apartment, it wasn’t exactly as represented on Booking.com. The apartment looked like it clearly needed some maintenance, and there were things that didn’t function properly. I was willing to tolerate this inconvenience because of the unbelievable location of the apartment, and it’s proximity to the old town.

 

We dropped off our luggage and went about some initial exploration with the idea of finding a place to eat, and stretching our legs after a long day driving. As it turned out, it started to rain, and we ducked into a restaurant within walking distance before we got too wet. The restaurant – Karczma Lwowska – turned out to be really good, an excellent introduction to Wroclaw. It rained very hard for the next two hours as we enjoyed one of the finer meals we had in Poland. Details in the Food Scene section.

The following morning, as we were preparing for our main day of exploration in Wroclaw, the electricity went out at the apartment, and I notified our host immediately of the issue. We were advised that it would take a couple of hours to repair, so we went about our discovery trek. The electrical problem turned out to be an all day affair, and they were never able to restore power. We had to relocate to a different apartment. The secondary apartment was not in the old part of town, and  required a 20 minute walk to get back to it. We were very disappointed; it goes to show that no matter how well planned the trip, things go wrong, and you’ve got to roll with the punches.

 

Discovery trek

Unlike Krakow’s unscathed survival of the wars of the 20th century, Wroclaw (while it was still the German city of Breslau) as devastated at the end of WWII.  Half of its medieval old town was in ruins, which fared better than the outskirts of the city which were leveled to the ground. The city was among the last to fall during WWII in a bloody siege where tens of thousands lost their lives in defense of the city. Breslau became Wroclaw as the Germans ceded the territory to Poland as part of the post war agreements at the Potsdam Conference. The Poles flowed in following the German exodus.

But the city recovered. The photos will tell the story. The trauma of the 20th century yielded to reconstruction and a grand population inflow post WWII. Wroclaw flourished in spite of the constraints of the Communist era, and bloomed in the the 21st century.  It was hard to imagine that the 20th century destruction ever occurred based on casual observation from walking around the city. Beautifully restored, with the old town along the river, flowing through a half dozen enchanting islands on the Oder River.

 

 

Gnomes!

The Poles call them “Krasnoludek”, or dwarves – to me they’re gnomes. And there are hundreds of them scattered throughout the city. This all started with a single statue to honor a group called the Orange Alternative, a counter-Communism group from Poland’s struggle through the end of the Communist era. Since 2001 when that first statue was erected, tiny – about the size of a human hand – statues have appeared all over the city. They are cute, impish and mischievous looking little things that spring around any given corner. It added to the delight of this lovely city.

 

Food Scene

Karczma Lwowska

The restaurant is on the main square with great views to the cathedral and just of the square itself. The service is professional with the waiter making suggestions and adjustments to your order as necessary. We ordered herring with onion and beets in cream sauce, grilled Polish kielbasa, fried cabbage, grilled mushrooms. The kielbasa was grilled to perfection, served with zingy horseradish and a mild mustard. The fried cabbage turned out be more of a casserole with a creamy dill sauce. I liked it, it went well with the meal. The green salad was enormous and could have easily served 4, with fresh ingredients. For dessert, traditional wafers filled with chocolate and walnuts. It was very light, with more of a hint of chocolate instead of chocolate as the core. We were offered honey vodka with a touch of orange as a digestif.

 

Pod Fredra

Pate stuffed with mushrooms, chicken soup, duck, rabbit, fried mushrooms with garlic and green salad. The soup was served extremely hot and tasted as if it were a vegetable broth instead of chicken broth – it was very good. The pate was very dense, served with a cranberry sauce and bread. It was rich, but not creamy like what I’m used to from France, for example. The cranberry sauce added an interesting contrast. The duck was served as two legs and thighs, fall off the bone tender. The duck came with sliced fried potato and cranberry sauce. The grilled mushrooms were not actually grilled, kind of soft, as if stewed. Not bad, but not as advertised on the menu. The rabbit was very tender, and not in the least gamey – the tastes-like-chicken standard applies.

 

Epilogue

The immersive experience in Wroclaw was made difficult by the antics of our apartment rental team. This was a corporate rental, named Penguin Apartments, that likely specialized more in hostels than in apartments. But the city was truly remarkable, with a long history spanning to the 10th century when the first Slavic tribes settled into the city’s current location on the Oder River. The city developed character from all of the hands that it has passed between over the centuries – a long list that includes, Bohemians, Prussians, Poles, and Hapsburgs. Wroclaw was a beautiful discovery experience.

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Kraków

This is the 3rd destination in the Western Slavic Countries circuit as described in that Travel Planning post.

 

 

The route from Kosice to Kraków was mostly a 2-lane road with construction at many points along the way. As the main route, it handled all traffic including trucks, farm equipment, bicyclists and all vehicles imaginable. As such, it made for some interesting driving – the kind where keen attention is necessary as anything may come around the next curve in the road.

 

We broke up the four and a half hour trip with a stopover in a little ski village in the southernmost part of Poland called Krynica. It was so small that we walked its entire length in 15 minutes. We stopped for enough time to stretch our legs, and grab a little bite to eat – to satisfy ourselves for the remainder of the drive into Kraków.  

 

I noticed that the countryside changed once we entered Poland – from a rolling meadow in Slovakia to more of a woodland landscape, and trending toward mountainous. And as as we entered Poland, I noticed that we had climbed to a higher rung on the economic ladder in Central Europe. Gone was any leftover communist era construction. Most of the houses looked very well-kept, larger, more ornate, and located in remote areas. I guessed that they could have been weekend, or vacation homes for well to do city dwellers.

On entering the city limits of Krakow, I knew right away that we were in a much larger city than Bratislava and Kosice. Traffic was thick and slow. I had the GPS in the BMW programmed to guide us to a plaza close to where our apartment was located in the old town. Finding parking was a panic. We ended up at an attended 24 hour parking garage that would cover us for three days of parking for a mere 105 Zloty, the equivalent of maybe $30. A bargain given that it was staff operated 24 hours around the clock, and I wouldn’t have to worry about the BMW at any point in time.

 

Arrival

It was a short five minute walk from the parking garage to the pedestrian center of the old town on Florianska Street. I gasped as we walked through the gate into  the old town, having passed a McDonald’s in the process. I reflected on the lesson learned from my experience in Bordeaux, where our apartment there on Saint Catherine Street was within walking distance to a McDonald’s, and the location turned out to be too touristy.

Florianska street was definitely well touristed because it was part of the “Royal Route”, which starts at the Florianska Gate and works its way to Wawel Castle through the Market Square – passing right by our apartment. The route was taken by Polish kings as the preferred path to their coronations in the 14th through 16th centuries, and has many of the old town’s attractions along the way. So naturally, there were tourists. And a McDonald’s.

It was a good choice to have selected Bratislava and Kosice as the first and second stops on the Western Slavic Countries itineraries because they were good warm-ups for the grander, more visited Krakow.

 

Settling in

The apartment was fabulous. It was grand, spacious, and very accommodating for two people. While it had a single bedroom, it was capable of entertaining a dozen guests. It had ten foot ceilings, large doorways, and near floor to ceiling windows that faced on to Florianska Street. An unbelievable three night residence, priced competitively, centrally located, and less expensive than a hotel room within walking distance of the old town.

 

After settling into our new home for 3 nights, we were ready to stretch our legs and do some initial exploration in the vicinity of the apartment. The area is truly steeped in history, with consistent architecture from the 15th and 16th centuries throughout – with no damage from the wars that scarred so many beautiful European cities. I must have looked like country bumpkin on his first visit to New York City – wide-eyed as I walked around taking it all in.

We were famished after driving all day with a light meal for lunch. Fortunately, our lovely hostess left us several strong recommendations for restaurants focusing on local fare. She insisted we visit Ogniem I Mieczem (The Fire and Sword) first to set the expectation for food in Krakow, advising us to take a taxi, which we did. The meal was spectacular, and is detailed in the Food Scene section. The food was so good, and so filling that we did not take a taxi back to the apartment, electing instead to walk off some of the thousands of calories we just enjoyed. What a great introduction to the Krakow.

 

Walking tour

Normally I like to roll my own for this sort of thing, but there was an organized walking tour of the old town that met at 10:00 by the Barbican, which was very close to our apartment, so we joined them. I wanted to get the lay of land from a local. As it turned out, our guide was a graduate of the famous Uniwersytet Jagiello?ski (Pope John Paul II’s Alma Mater), with a degree in history. He was a tall, bearded man in his late 30s, called himself a BFG (big friendly giant), although his name was Calen. He was very knowledgeable, and entertaining.

The tour hit some of the highlights of the old town – Main Market Square with St Mary’s church, Cloth Hall and Town Hall Tower, remains of Medieval city walls with Barbican and St Florian Gate, St Francis Church, Bishop’s Palace and “Papal window”, Wawel Hill with Cathedral and Wawel Castle, and the Wawel Dragon.

 

Discovery Trek

We did the “Royal Route”, which starts at the Florianska Gate and works its way to Wawel Castle – as mentioned previously, this was the route taken by Polish kings as the preferred path to their coronations in the 14th through 16th centuries. But we also criss-crossed the old town, and headed to the Jewish quarter – called Kazimierz. We then walked a good stretch of the Vistula River as we circled our way back to the old town.

The photo gallery tells the story. But the feeling I had as I walked the old town and the surrounding sights was that of a deeply historic city, untouched by the horrific bombings and battles of the wars of the 19th century. The city was in impeccable order, clean, and well preserved. The crowds were there, but they too were orderly, and generally lacked the tourist density everywhere I walked. Krakow was the Poland of old, the ancient seat of the Polish Monarchy, the pride of the country, and having heard Calen describe it over a period of several hours, the most beautiful and important city in Poland. I could not have argued. Krakow was one of the most beautiful immersive traveling experiences I’ve ever had. I hope the photos do it some justice.