I've taken lots of pictures of the outside of the castle, but today we finally got to go inside. (Gosia came with Vera and into the castle, but she has already been inside, so while we bought tickets and explored, she went in search of something warm to drink; we made plans to meet up after.) Everything was so beautiful! We bought tickets to enter the castle (or so we thought) but it turned out we bought tickets to enter the church within the castle grounds -- Wawel Cathedral. Not to worry though; the cathedral was well worth the time and exploration. No pictures were allowed within the cathedral, but I think that made the space even better -- more reverent and holy. Even though the space was filled with tourists, everyone was absorbing the beauty and taking it in rather than taking pictures. It was refreshing. (Although I will admit that I am a little sad that I will not have the pictures to remember the beauty; it all lives in my memories now.)
When you entered the church, the first thing you noticed was the huge alter containing the intricately detailed sarcophagus of St. Stanislaus. Fresh flowers adorned the ground around the relics, and the giant pillars of the alter reached up to the forever high ceilings (which, by the way, were absolutely amazing; if you read this blog enough you know my obsession with ceilings.) behind this alter was the main alter. We then proceeded to the sacristy which lead to the side chapels as well as the tombs of the royal family members. I am always in awe at the beauty of the side chapels -- so much detail and emotion in such a small space. It saddens me that not each space gets used for its original purpose of prayer but rather is overrun with people not offering any worship at all; but still to stand in awe at the majesty of the depictions is perhaps a form of prayer, so I suppose this is better than if the spaces had no people in them at all. One side chapel was set up just for prayer and adoration, the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament displayed in intricately carved gold sitting in the main alter surrounded by fresh flowers and images of Mary with Jesus. I settled in here and prayed a rosary, such a peaceful place for reflection and prayer. Vera joined me for a bit but then continued on. When I finished, I went to join her and we continued our self guided tour.
Funny story: so when I had finished my prayer, I went to exit the side chapel (there were gates monitored by workers to ensure that people were being quiet, respectful, and not taking photos). Well when I finished, the worker was on break, so he closed the gate ... trapping me inside. Now, I'm all about spending time with the Blessed Sacramenr, but being locked in a chapel with no idea how to get out -- yikes! Thankfully another worker saw me trying to escape the chapel and helped me out. At that point, I wasn't sure where Vera had gone, so I followed the signs and found myself climbing up some very narrow, very creepy, very dark stairs through some very tiny spaces until I arrived (alone) in the bell tower. We are all very lucky I didn't have a heart attack -- my creepy meeter was reading over its limit! To be fair, the view from the top of the tower was amazing, and the huge cathedral bell was really beautiful ... but it was too frightening! I continued back down another tiny, dark, scary staircase and found myself back in the cathedral -- and found Vera!! She hadn't gone up to the bell tower but instead had been wandering inside the main cathedral. So I climbed it again! This time with Vera, immediately making it less frightening. We did sneak a few pictures in the tower -- I felt like we weren't taking pictures of the holy items within the church, so we were upholding the spirit of the ban on photos.
After the bell tower, we finished viewing all the different chapels and vaults containing the tombs and sarcophaguses of the royal family, then left. It took us almost two hours to see everything. What an amazing site! With our self guided tour over, we went in search of Gosia -- not a single wrong turn in our Google navigation walking to find her!! haha She was sitting inside Camera Cafe, so we joined her and ordered hot chocolate before venturing back out.
Next we headed to the Jewish part of the city where we had a meal of pierogi -- Polish dumplings. They were delicious!! I had two kinds: one filled with meat, the other filled with potato and white cheese. Stuffed, we went back out into the city, across the walking bridge. This bridge is Kraków's "lock bridge" (my term, not an official term) where dating couples or newlyweds place a lock, symbolizing the eternity of their relationship. Call me sappy, but I love this tradition and I love seeing the hundreds of locks adorning the bridges.
After the bridge and a bit more walking, we went to Pijalnia (this time in the Jewish part of town; last time we went to the one near Market Square) and sampled the vodka -- also delicious! Jarek joined us here after he got off work. Then we headed to the chocolate shop to grab some truffles to bring home, and then we took the team back to Jarek's apartment where we watched Friends and tried not to fall asleep -- well, Vera and I at least: all of this exploring is wearing us out!
Here are some pictures from today:
And now it is time for sleep -- my eyes are so tired, and Vera is already asleep next to me. Another successful day exploring Kraków. More adventures to come tomorrow!!