Medieval Krakow is a delight. Some of the city walls, the Barbican, and the Florianska Gate
To get an excellent overview of the city’s history, visit the Rynek Underground archaeological museum that lies beneath the main square’s Cloth Hall–the Sukiennice.The archway on the exterior of the Cloth Hall offers cafes and the opportunity to listen to folk music at festivals in the square or hop in a carriage led by elegantly-adorned horses.
In addition to revealed cobblestones and stalls are helpful brief films about Krakow’s history–including why a bugle–the hejnal–sounds on the hour from the left tower of St. Mary Basilica.
Yet another famous clock is found in Collegium Maius, one in which important historical figures parade at 11, 1, and 3. The university’s stunning historic library is on view by tour, but the Professors’ Garden is freely accessible through a decorated archway. Copernicus is the star pupil, and the scientific instruments on display are stunning.
One of the treasures of Krakow is DaVinci’s “The Lady with Ermine” painting, which is temporarily housed in Wawel Castle while The Arsenal museum is being renovated.
It is the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, Her intelligence and writing drew comparisons to the famous rhetorician of antiquity, Aspasia, wife of Pericles. Unfortunately, none of the writing of Gallerani survived.
I was sufficiently overwhelmed by the Auschwitz reading that I failed to dip into Krakow literature beyond the Holocaust. Entering the city on a street named for Joseph Conrad, Polish author who is undoubtedly one of the most highly regarded writers in English language, I recalled this oversight.
Fortunately, The Culture Trip offers suggestions in its Literary Tour of Krakow.
And the In Your Pocket guide offers this post about UNESCO’s official City of Literature, designated in 2013:
Wisława Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 for poetry, and her medal is on display in the Collegium Maius Library; the 1980 Nobel Prize laureate was writer Czesław Miłosz. Hanna Krall looks to be a contemporary Polish writer worth reading; her novels and journalistic books are published in English: Chasing the King of Hearts; Shielding the Flame. No doubt: Krakow has been indelibly scarred by the Gestapo and Stalinist occupations.