Posts Tagged With: solotravel

Wavel Castle, Krakow – Walking in the footsteps of Polish Kings

A hot sunny afternoon today and I have been dreaming since last night about being one of the Polish queens walking the Royal route alongside my King in the timeless streets of Krakow. Well sounds preposterous and very bloggish to write some invented crap like this. To be honest I do take my historical travels seriously. Okay!! After these possibly ‘LOL’ statements, I need to really say that I couldn’t help writing this tripping specifically on Wavel Castle; it was indeed one of the most impressive fortress I have visited till date in Europe.

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First sight of Wavel Castle

The mighty Wavel Castle situated on Wavel Hill in Krakow is built in Gothic style. Cited in many records are evidences of earliest settlement on Wavel Hill in Paleolithic age, hence human establishments and trade grew around it. For many centuries this was the royal residence of the Polish Kings. Today this is a symbol of Polish Heritage and a reflection of its rich culture.

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The edifice of the Wavel Castle from mthe riverside

Me and my friend just had an hour in between work which was our lunch break; we decided to munch something on the way as we both wanted to tour the castle. Staying close by was a boon; we grabbed a ‘zapiekanka’ each and walked up the gentle climb to the castle entrance.

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Entrance to the castle. Rather this is the view while we exit.

The giant doors admit everyone in and you can tour the grounds and get great views of River Vistula and a part of Krakow without any entry charges.

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One such view from the grounds of the Castle

As we walked to the main square inside the castle compound, I was suddenly taken aback by the beautiful architecture of the buildings inside, the multiple domes, sculptures, the whole ambience glistening in the sun looked quite a fascinating sight..

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The inside view of the Castle Compound

The Castle compound houses the Wavel Cathedral, Museums, Royal Crypts, State Rooms and Royal Private Apartments, Sigismund Bell. You can take anywhere from an hour to maybe a day to take a tour of the Castle. With the crunch of time we had, we decided to tour the major and most talked about corners of the Castle and the first one being the Wavel Catherdral

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Wavel Cathedral and the domes of the Royal Crypts. The golden dome undoubtedly stands out.

The interior of the Cathedral was stunningly jaw dropping. Its rich golden gilded pillars and altar, silver statues and exuberant tapestries, all spelled luxury and wealth of the Polish Kings. This is supposed to be the third Cathedral as the previous two were destroyed. There are more than 15 chapels inside the Cathedral which are all ostentatiously decorated. Photography is not permitted inside. This is definitely a must visit monument in Krakow.

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The front of The Wavel Cathedral

From the Cathedral, there is an alley leading to the inside of the Castle. The beautiful creamy Castle Courtyard is flanked by stately rooms. There is also an exhibition in one of the ground floor rooms which houses the world famous painting ‘Lady with an ermine’ by Leonardo da Vinci; one of the three of of his oil paintings in the world and a close cousin of Mona Lisa in ‘being mysterious’.

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The Castle Courtyard

Next me and my pal made our way up through a dark cellar with rustic narrow wooden steps to view the Sigismund Bell. The Bell is up at the top of the Tower and its quite a gruesome climb up but an interesting one. While you climb up the dark woody staircase you will cross few huge iron bells as well.

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Bells on the climb to the Bell Tower

Finally after all the sweat and strained knees, we reach the belfry of the tower. Hanging from the wooden ceiling is this giant intimidating bronze monster, Sigismund Bell, supposedly weighing 13 tonnes. This bell rings till date on national days and important festivals and the gong is heard as far as 50 kms. A true testimony of Polish heritage.

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The Sigismund Bell

It was truly rewarding to have walked the path of the Polish Kings all the way from the Wavel Cathedral to the Stately Apartments and Courtyard and then shed some sweat on our ascent to the Bell Tower. Before we take a flight down the steps to the Castle grounds, captured some lovely views of Krahow City from behind the ‘bars’ at the Belfry.

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The chariming city of Krakow as seen from the Sigismund Bell Tower at Wavel Castle

*Note to Travelers*

– Tickets to the Wavel Castle can be purchased from the Wavel Castle Office.

– The entry to the Castle Apartments, Bell Tower, Royal Crypts, Exhibition is all through the Wavel cathedral which shall be your entry point to explore all the spots.

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Categories: castle, castles of europe, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, catherdals of poland, churches of poland, travel europe, travel krakow, travel poland, visit krakow, visit poland, wavel castle, wavel cathedral | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An evening in the charming Krakow, Poland

I stayed in Krakow for a night and was in this charming city for two days. Of course work kept me occupied and confined to a hotel during the day, but its the end of April, crisp spring weather and long days of sunlight; it did make me lucky to go around the town and explore after work. Thanks to my lovely Polish colleague and friend who was my local guide and so patient as I stopped now and then to click pictures.

Krakow is Poland’s second largest city and supposed to be a financial and IT hub. The city dates back to 7th century. After Poland was invaded by Germans during World War II, Krakow was the headquarters of the German occupied Poland. Unlike Warsaw, this city was not heavily plundered and still retains most of its old historic buildings and monuments.

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One of the first view of the old monuments as I started my walking tour to explore the city.

Irrespective of the time you are here, its fairly easy to understand the town and navigate. My short and working knowledge of the town which should assist anyone who wants to wander around in the least bit of time and enjoy Krakow. The new part of Krakow is quite swanky and has many state of the art Business Parks. Multinational conglomerates have made a beeline to this city owing its multilingual workforce, good infrastructure and strategic location with a proximity to Germany, Czek Republic, Austria.

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Krakow is located well to connect major cities in all neighboring countries and Poland as well

The UNESCO listed old town of Krakow is the one to visit to enjoy the old world charm. Like many other European towns, it is also straight from a sketchbook. Criss-crossed with cobbled streets, towering church spires, outlined with quaint restaurants, its large town square, called Grand Square or Main Market Square, locally Rynek Glowny is probably one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe.

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Grand Square at the Old Town Krakow

While you stroll around the Grand Square, there is a lot to see and observe. The most obvious monument to catch your eyes undoubtedly would be the Town Hall Tower with the ceremonious clock glaring with its hands spread out.

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Town Hall Tower

Next overlooking the Square is the grand pair of towers of St Mary’s Basilica. Yes like you I had the same question in my mind, why this Basilica has two towers? I have always seen one dome or pulpit; well there is a fable around it, of two brothers building each one and one of them dying to leave it unfinished, hence its the shorter cousin.

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The grand towers of St Mary’s Basilica or Bazylika Mariacka

Up from the taller tower, goes the daily ‘bugle call’ called ‘hejnal mariacki’. It is believed this was used as a watchtower and a trumpeter was sounding off alert to the people of the town of approaching Mongolian army when he was shot in his neck. To keep the tradition alive and honour him, today every hour the bugle sounds off and abruptly breaks off mid-melody. Do not miss it!

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Close up of the Twin Towers of St Mary’s Basilica

The Basilica is open for prayer but for a visit you have to pay 10 Zloty. I wasn’t expecting this at all, when I entered , the interiors blew me off completely. Sheer opulence and richness drips from every corner of the Basilica. The ceiling is an interesting starry sequenced with a striking blue background. The altar is the highlight with its large altar piece which is supposed to be the largest Gothic one in the world. Golden gilded figures, elaborate carvings and lavish interiors, you wouldn’t be able to get over it. Honestly I didn’t know when to stop looking at this sight and exit. Its like you cant get enough of it.

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Photography is not permitted inside. This one was clicked by phone camera as I wasnt aware. The only one photo I clicked.

Supposed to be the World’s oldest shopping mall, The Krakow Cloth Hall dates back to the 16th century, is right in the middle of the Main Square. A beautiful piece of architecture houses neatly lined shops inside, most of them sell handmade artifacts. A must visit!

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Krakow Cloth Hall

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The other beautiful view of the cloth hall market

Huddled in the corner of the Market Square is this bundle of domes, the 11th century Church of St Adalbert. More than 1000 years old, this is one of the oldest stone churches. Of course you cannot miss this one as well, as its right there though a little intimidated by St Mary’s Basilica’s flamboyance.

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Very interesting architecture of St Aldalbert Church

Next to the St Aldalbert Church is something that caught my eye. A quaint cart of souvenirs and knick knacks. While the masses were busy in clicking selfies in the Market Square, this small treasure trove certainly finds a place on my blog.

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The cute Cart of lovely Krakow souvenirs

All these monuments are packed in this large square, so the best way of course is to walk around. However you can also try these chariots driven by some lovely Polish women. Take a relaxed tour of the whole town in some charming company.

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White Chariots. Prices are unknown as we chose to walk around the town

If you are venturing a bit outside the town or traveling into the Old town from another part, the Trams are a great bet. Cant say much about the fares or timing as I didn’t get a chance to use them, but surely clicked a picture.

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Beautiful trams on cobbled streets

After having a good walk and clicking lots of pictures, we moved to another part of the town, towards the castle. Easiest way is to walk through the Grodzka Street from the Old Town. Apparently this is also called the ‘Royal Route or Royal Road’ as it is flanked by monuments. As you walk through this street, you will actually feel like one of the Royals as you cross various historic buildings, churches, giant statues.

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Cobbled Street upto Wavel Castle

As we keep walking, we cross another beautiful and very famous Church, The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, first Baroque Church of Poland.

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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

The most striking feature is the raised platform with statues of the Apostles. The interiors are beautiful and opulent too.

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The statues of the Apostles in front of the Church

As we left the Old Town Square behind us, we reach the Wavel Castle situated on the Wavel Hill. The evening views of the Castle were fantastic. Perched high this fortress has treasures inside it which we reserved to explore the next day. I will also write a separate post on the beautiful Wavel Castle.

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The Wavel Castle on Wavel Hill top

The setting sun glistening the Castle Walls with many stories hidden behind its high walls.

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One of the views of the Wavel Castle

Our walk for last few hours was one of the most amazing ones I have had in Europe. Truly felt transported back a few centuries and walking the beautiful streets amidst the timeless historical giants looking down at us. The river Vistula adds an extra charm to this idyllic town. As we called it a day and proceed ahead to the Jewish part of the town called Kazimierz to celebrate my belated birthday, we stopped for a while to admire the sunset on the horizon of this beautiful river town; And I would say my best click of the day.

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Sunset on River Vistula

Note to Travelers:How to Travel : Its really easy to travel to Krakow. It has an international airport and has good connections. You can also travel by train from major stations in Poland. I traveled to Krakow from London Gatwick and the flight was close to 2 hours. On my return I took a train from Krakow to Warsaw which is about 3 hours and costs 150 Zloty. In Krakow, wear your walking shoes and enjoy the city on foot. Alternately Trams are there as well. – Where to Stay : Preferably stay in the Old Town as its easy to explore it by walking. I stayed in Best Western Hotel which was a little on the higher side, around 400 Zloty a night. However lots of hostels and budget hotels are available in Old Town. – What to Eat : Eat at local joints. Try Pierogi which are meat or cheese dumplings, Zapiekanka which is like a crunchy long baguette with Pizza kind of toppings. Very filling and cheap. In the old town try some nice ice cream.

Categories: basilica, castle, castles of europe, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, church, churches, crakow, eastern europe, europe, grand square, krakow, old town, poland, polish, royal route, solo travel, travel, visit krakow, visit poland, wavel castle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Solo Travel v/s Not a Very Solo Travel

The quintessential debate on Solo Travel vs Travel with a companion or a group…And the argument continues…

Today is International Women’s Day . As I reflect back on all my travels in last one decade, they have mostly been Solo, however I am not a hardliner to over sell the concept of traveling alone. Yes Solo travel is fun, high on learning and it’s liberating, however travelling with a partner or a group of explorers is equally exciting, jovial and high on discovery.

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Sometimes Solo, Sometimes Together!

Why I started traveling Solo?

As a child I was an exceptionally travel sick kid. Travel was equal to nausea, puking, headache or some new ailment which did not happen to me before. The smallest journey from my school to home was a suffering with me puking almost thrice a week (good stats!). And my big sissy always leaving her friends behind to take care of Me. Honestly I could write a separate post on My many embarrassing puking moments in public. My family and Me were all on the same page – I never ever can travel alone.

Life changed and i landed up in a job which made me live out of suitcase for 25 days a month. Traveling alone for a girl in India is neither safe nor a very pleasant experience, however when you have less options you start loving what you are doing. What started as a drudgery, soon became fun. I started loving my solo trips mixed with work and exploration. Thereafter there was no looking back.

You Love it? I Love it too. Whats so wonderful about Solo Travel?

Its so exciting to travel Solo. Really?? I must be an old mad cynical woman to say this. Well traveling all by yourself has certainly lot of merits to it which i can explain from my first-hand experience. And yes it’s a fast catching up trend now.

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The tension free Solo swim.

Tough Decisions…Whats that?

When both of you or many of you are traveling together, don’t you spend endless hours first to decide where to go, how much to spend, how to share expenses, where to stay, where to eat, how to travel, what to carry, phew! endless decisions over which you squabble endlessly. Traveling Solo is so peaceful, you know where you want to go and where to eat and you freeze it then and there.

Freedom Unlimited

Solo Travel gives you the space you always want. Wake up when you want, go to your choice of places. You can decide your itinerary. You can explore places at your own pace. I have discovered more places by myself on solo trips than I have with others. Sometimes I do the touristy thing of seeing more places in a packed time, sometimes I do a traveller thing of soaking myself at one single place which I love.

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No one is seeing you. Sit freely where you like. This is yours truly at a railway station in Switzerland.

I don’t have like-minded travel friends

I love historic places. I love going to museums as well. There have been times when I have gone with friends who are not fond of museums. While I admire the sculptures and paintings they fret whats so marvelous in twisted figures and admiring overdressed Victorian portraits. By the time we walk out of the museum, we have to walk to the nearest pub to chill our disagreements. Phew! Unless you have like-minded travelers, it maybe sometimes harrowing and at times compromising situations in your travel plans.

I don’t have to impress anyone

Yes I know all you Men have this complaint that women take ages to make an appearance from the powder room even on a holiday. Don’t all shops sell exotic bikinis to sun tans to coolers all for vacations? I have waited for fellow travelers who are busy striking the right combination between their footwear and lipcolor, after all, those pouts in selfie on Facebook will call for many Likes. I am at my filthiest best when I travel alone and trust me its very relaxing to wear the same jeans or shorts for the whole trip. No makeup and a bad hair day is all mine; and I am happy.(I seldom have my own travel photos on Facebook or my blog, now you know why)

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And you can cleverly hide that unstylish outfit with some silhouette photography 🙂 I did it in the deserts of Emirates

More the Merrier! Travel with Companions is not bad at all.       

There are lots and lots of pros of travelling with a companion and friends. You are certainly in for a lot of fun and exciting times. I have traveled with family, friends in India and abroad; I had the most memorable trips.

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Catch up time. Being together is good!

Someone to look behind your back….SAFETY!

I recall one silly solo trip I did in 2007 in India. While traveling in the state of Kerala from Kovalam Beach to Trivandrum, I boarded a city bus, being tired, I slept, rather slumbered. I have no clue when I reached Trivandrum. When I opened my eyes, I was being shaken awake by the Bus Driver and Conductor and the bus was empty with only me and the two of them. Though they meant no harm to me, I was petrified to my bones being alone. I am sure many of you share this great habit of dozing off on travel like me. I miss a companion to watch over me when I land in such situations.

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A Companion in the journey of Life!

I am Sick! I am Stranded! SAVE ME!

While Solo Travel rocks, you can actually go down to rocks if you fall sick. I remember on one trip to Chandigarh in India, I was gripped by a bout of viral fever and simply couldn’t even get up from my bed in the hotel. Fortunately my cousin drove all the way from Shimla to rescue me. Have you missed flights or been sometimes in a tight spot during travel? I have been plenty of times. One horror experience was being stranded in a small place Raniganj in East India at mid-night with no communication channel. At such times, all I can think about is to have someone along with Me.

Tired of Selfies! CLICK ME!

We endlessly click photos to preserve memories. When it comes to clicking your own photos, Solo Travel really sucks. Though you can stand anywhere and make those weird faces and click selfies for Instant Messaging, a better click with the landscape in background may be a better one to preserve in your Album. Traveling with friends really is the best solution to click happy photos. Thanks to such friends who traveled with me, I could get some decent profile pictures as well.

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Clicking together, Experiencing together, traveling together!

The Itch of saying it all….SHARING!

You see Eiffel Tower, or Grand Canyon or Alps and you are just Wow. And then you want to incessantly rave about the beauty of these places. Or you expected a lot and got too less, you want to rant. Each of us want to express what we feel when we see these amazing places. There are jokes, and you want to comment on just everything to someone, don’t you miss a companion that time. I saw this grumpy portrait in Tate Modern, London who exactly resembled a person I despise at my work place. I burst out laughing in a relatively quiet gallery. Quite a shame, but I had this bad itch to tell someone about it.

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Yes only with a partner in crime can you do all under the table conspiracies.

Friends, Friends and MORE FRIENDS!

Probably the best part of traveling with people is knowing them and then befriending them. I am sure each of you would have at least one friend you would have made in your life from any of your travels. I too made quite a few, and its so good to know people of different nationalities, different walks of life and then staying in touch with them for more good times. And you never know, your soul mate may be a fellow traveler too 🙂

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Friends Forever! Friends for Life!

So whats the conclusion? I would take the middle path, as I travel heavily Solo but love going with a companion as well. My big problem is I feel my trip is ruined if I am not with like-minded friends. Glancing through my 2015 travel plans, all I can see are Solo trips. So I guess I am going to auction my companion spot. What you get is an adventurous and funny companion in return. Are you game?

Write back to me on sonalbhardwaj2006@gmail.com Would love to hear and publish your travel stories too.

Categories: solo travel, travel, travel blog | Tags: , | 7 Comments

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