|Wawel Cathedral and Castle built in early 1500's|
The following morning, we headed out early to walk around the historic district prior to
|Rock-salt altar and statues in Chapel of St. Kinga|
The next day, we took another tour. This trip took us to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. First mined in the 13th century, commercial mining was stopped in 1996 due to the low price of salt. But, the mines are now a major tourist attraction, hosting over a million guests each year. Through the centuries the miners have created statues and and chapels in the rock salt. The Chapel of St. Kinga being the largest and most elaborate, consists of salt crystal chandeliers, sculptures and bas-relief on the altar and walls. With over 2000 chambers, the "tourist route" provides access to roughly 1% of what is there. Descending hundreds of wooden steps, we climbed down to over 400 feet below the surface. Luckily, an elevator whisked us back up on completion of the tour.
Since the salt mine tour was a half-day excursion, it gave us the remainder of the day to explore the Old Town and visit the Wewal Castle and Cathedral. Unlike Prague, the Krakow historical district in rather small. One serious day of sightseeing could probably cover everything to be visited within the city.
Departing Krakow the next day, we needed to decide on our next stop. With accommodations already set in Amsterdam, we decided to head in that direction and stop in Berlin for a couple of days. Train tickets for that journey could not be purchased online and required a stop by the train station. After a lengthy wait, we were able to secure tickets to Berlin via Warsaw. On our arrival at the station the following morning, we waited over 30 minutes for the attendant on duty to issue tickets for our journey from Berlin to Amsterdam. There was only one other person on duty and the line behind us continued to grow. Without explanation the man trying to get our tickets kept leaving his area, consulting with coworkers and manuals. We had read about the lack of customer service and efficiency in the country as being a hold over from the communist era, and this seemed to be a prime example. Finally, as time for our train departure neared, we left without the tickets. On our arrival in Berlin, we were able to get the required tickets within a few minutes.
|Rynek Glowny (Main Square) in Krakow dating from the 13th|
century was deserted in the early morning hours.
|At Birkenau, the rail line that brought thousands of|
Jews to the camp.
|Krakow Barbica is part of the historic fortification|
that once protected the city.
|Rock-salt bas-relief in the St. Kinga chapel|
|Salt crystal chandelier in the St. Kinga Chapel|
|Traditional Polish music near the old entrance gates of the city.|
|St. Florian's Gate built in the 14th century was part of the |
city's early defense syste
|Floor of the St. Kinga chapel, with designs carved into the rock salt, looks like marble.|
|Many plain concrete structures from the Communist|
era (1945-1989) were seen in a our travels near and in