Sunday, April 19, 2015
Day 13 - Krakow
This morning after breakfast we said goodbye to Shalmi, presented him with our individual thank you letters and took our final group picture.
Today we spent the day with our guide, Paulina, walking and learning the history of Krakow and the Wawel Castle district. Our first stop was at the foot of the Castle, to see the fire-breathing Krakow dragon and learn how it came to be the symbol of the city. Paulina also told us that unlike Warsaw and most other Polish cities, Krakow had not been destroyed by the German army in their war to occupy Poland, because the Nazis had decided to make Krakow their headquarters. Most buildings in Krakow, therefore, are the original buildings.
We saw the Royal Palace and the statue of Pope John Paul II that stands outside Wawel Cathedral. Also outside the cathedral, Paulina pointed out an odd assortment of massive bones that are chained to the wall above the door. While some claim these to be the bones of the Wawel Dragon, they are believed to be a blue whale, woolly mammoth, and rhinoceros, or all three. Paulina told us it is believed they have magical properties, and are credited with protecting the city from destruction during centuries of Polish partition and during WWII when Krakow was not damaged, while almost every other major city in Poland was decimated. She said that it is believed that when the bones fall, it will be the end of the world.
From here, we walked back to the square, which was all set up as the end point for a marathon being run today, and enjoyed an afternoon that included lunch and shopping for souvenirs from beautiful, hospitable Krakow, before heading back to the hotel to prepare for our final dinner this evening.