Poland: Exploring the quirks of Krakow
Every hour on the hour, a trumpeter plays a tune from a bell tower but purposefully ends the song before it's meant to finish. A dragon statue by the Vistula River spews smoke to commemorate the legend surrounding the founding of the city. An illustrious opera building lies in the center of Old Town, erected from votes that opted for the performance space in place of a running water system.
Krakow is a city full of eccentricities and traditions and quirks that leave me scratching my head with a smile.
Throngs of schoolchildren scatter across the central market square, pretending to listen as their teachers regale them with stories about Poland's former royal capital. Tourists clamor over each other to get the best shot of St. Mary's Basilica's mismatched and uneven bell towers. It's an unseasonable 85 degrees (29 degrees Celsius) with a sun that feels stronger than the one I left back in Barcelona.
With a plate of eight cabbage-and-mushroom pierogies and a pint of Okocim beer, I sit upstairs at one of Krakow's milk bars: Krakow institutions that became meccas of cheap, filling food when the city was under Communist rule. The only sounds in the bar are the clinking and clanging of forks, plus a dose of light chatter. Wooden walls and beams speak to a Pole's country cabin but nestled in the middle of Old Town.
I've only been here one day, but so far Krakow feels genuine, frills-less, and completely humbled by her subdued beauty.