We arrived on a stunningly gorgeous fall day, the kind of day that friends who have lived here suggested was anomalous. Nonetheless, the intense blue sky made the old square especially magical. Like all medieval cities, Krakow had a commercial district at the center of the city, a square dominated by public buildings. Krakow’s was a particular surprise after Prague’s. The alignment of streets is a bit more regular, a grid pattern, making what I’ve seen so far easily negotiable (meaning, I didn’t get lost). Prague’s center is a warren of twisting and narrow streets; Krakow’s open up and lead easily to recognizable destinations.
At the center of the Square is Cloth Hall, the original trading center of the city, and some say the oldest shopping mall in the world. The inner length of the building (longer than a football field) is still a market, more of a bazaar, featuring mostly knick-knacks, Polish souvenirs, and craft items. The upper floor is a museum featuring 19th century Polish art.
The heart of the square, however, is Bazylika Mariana, the Basilica of St. Mary. The 14th century gothic character seemed familiar, but the brick work surprised me; I tend to associate monumental churches with massive stone work. I’ve always been impressed with the work of brick layers since I can’t imagine maintaining a straight line for laying bricks evenly while perched 80 feet up.
We did not take a carriage ride, though several were available. The carriages clop around the square at an elegant pace, but I don’t think I could maintain a dignified expression in such a vehicle. When parked, the horses and driver pose patiently.