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Poland’s special day.

KRAKOW TOURS – Since early morning households have been buzzing with last minute preparations for the most festive supper of the entire year – Wigilia – eaten as the first star appears in the night sky.

Today is not a national holiday, though employees will be finishing work early and rushing home to get ready for what awaits.

In the evening family and friends sit down to the Christmas Eve table. And there are certain must-dos which have to be observed during the occasion, regardless of the family’s social and financial status or any additional regional customs.

The table cloth must be impeccably white with a small bundle of hay underneath it. A separate, empty plate should be set for an unexpected guest or exhausted wanderer who may knock on our door.

The Wigilia feast consists of twelve courses, including such delicacies as pierogiuszka and barszcz (various kinds of dumplings with beetroot soup) or fried carp, just to name a few of a whole gamut of possibilities.

However, the whole supper begins with breaking the oplatek, or Christmas wafer and exchanging best wishes among the gathered. Many families still find enough musical courage to engage in singing beautiful Polish carols.

Kids too, have their joyous moments as Santa makes his stop over in Poland on Christmas Eve. To crown the daylong celebrations there is Midnight Mass, which attracts millions of faithful to churches across the country.

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Events, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Guide on Ebay

KRAKOW TOURS – You can get the great ‘Krakow Inyour Pocket’ guide book HERE on EBAY.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Madonna – Czestochowa Pilgrim season

KRAKOW TOURS – More than 60 pilgrimages are arriving at the Jasna Gora monastery, a Catholic shrine in southern Poland, for the feast of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, celebrated on August 26.

The pilgrimages number several dozen to several thousand participants. The biggest group, of some 8,000 Catholic faithful from Tarnow, has been on the road for almost a week now. Two thousand people have set out from Lodz. Some pilgrimages have a long tradition of several hundred years, like the 542nd walking pilgrimage from Pabianice in central Poland.

During this year’s pilgrimage season, which started on May 30, more than 100,000 people walked to Czestochowa in 157 groups.

There were 54 biking pilgrimages. Forty five pilgrims arrived on horseback. The longest route – 640 km – was covered by a Kashubian pilgrimage from Hel Peninsula in northern Poland

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Events, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz

Arbeit Macht Frei, image by Peter Harpley

KRAKOW TOURS – Close Window Print Story Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA

Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press Tuesday, July 20, 2010 9:23 Poland

With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot. The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his … Read More

via The perpetual view’s Blog

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Polish Legends # 8 – The Polish White Eagle

KRAKOW TOURS – A thousand years ago, or maybe even more, there lived three brothers, Lech, Czech, and Rus. For many years they had been content in their villages, but the families grew larger and they needed more room to live.

The brothers decided to travel in different directions to search for new homes. Lech, Czech, and Rus traveled with their troops for many days. They rode their horses over mountains and rivers, through forests and wild country. There were no people to be found anywhere, not a town or tiny village. On the crest of a mountain top, they separated, each going in a different direction. Czech went to the left, Rus went to the right and Lech rode straight ahead, down the mountain and across vast plains.

One day Lech saw a spendid sight. He and his troops had come to a place where a meadow surrounded a small lake. They stopped at the edge of the meadow as a great eagle flew over their heads. It flew around in great swooping circles, then perched on its nest, high on a craggy rock. Lech stared in awe at the beautiful sight. As the eagle spread its wings and soared into the heavens again, a ray of sunshine from the red setting sun fell on the eagle’s wings, so they appeared tipped with gold, the rest of the bird was pure white.

“Here is where we will stay!” declared Lech. “Here is our new home, and we will call this place GNIEZNO … (the eagle’s nest).

He and his people built many houses and it became the center of his territory. They called themselves Polonians, which means “People of the Field”. They made a banner with a white eagle on a red field and flew it over the town of Gniezno, which became the first historical capital of Poland.

And, now you know how Poland began . . .

June 15, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , | Leave a comment

Polish Legends # 7 – The Pigeons of Krakow (Ver 2)

KRAKOW TOURS – At various points in the medieval ages, Krakow was under siege, and the defenders were slowly losing their hopes – not to mention supplies.

On one ocassion they were so desperate that they started to eat the Krakow pigeons. The Krakow authorities opposed this, thinking the pigeons could be useful in other ways – like bringing small quantities of grains or other foods to the city. After a few more days, one of the Krakow defenders decided to try and sneak through the enemy lines to find out if help is on the way. He took a few pigeons with him to contact the city. After some time, one of his pigeons landed on the roof of one of the houses. It was quickly captured, and on his leg the defenders found a note that infused their hearts with hope: “Relief will come in six days, hold on”.

The Krakow defenders prepared to attack on the sixth day, to help their rescuers crush the opponent by catching them in crossfire. On the evening of the fifth day, nobody even noticed that another pigeon landed on the tower of one of the Krakow churches… At dawn on the sixth day, the Krakow knights attacked with double confidence in their force, expecting the rescuers to come any minute.

The sieging army was so surprised that it gave hardly any resistance, and fled, leaving behind almost all of their camp. Krakow knights were beaming with happiness, and only in the evening someone caught the pigeon that flew in the day before. A note tied to his leg said: “Flooding river. Crossing impossible. Rescue won’t come. Give the city up”.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Polish Legends # 6 – The Pigeons of Krakow (Ver 1)

KRAKOW TOURS – When it comes to Polish cities, Krakow certainly has the highest pigeon-per-square-foot rate.

The Krakow pigeons – mostly residing on the Main Square – have become one of the city’s symbols, and many-a-legend has been told about their impact on Krakow’s history.

It seems, though, that it’s only the Krakow tourists who are so fond of the pigeons, and many inhabitants seem to feel that they do more harm than good. Apart from the obvious threat they might pose to the landing and starting airplanes of the Krakow Airport, the pigeons are also a threat to the city’s landmarks, especially when it comes to aesthetics.

Anyway, tradition is tradition, and hardly anyone can imagine Krakow without its pigeons.

Back in the medieval ages, Poland was divided into several regions of relative autonomy – this period of “Regional Disintegration” lasted between the 12th and 14th centuries, and the lack of a strong central authority weakened the Polish lands. No wonder then, that Henry IV, a Polish prince residing in Krakow, decided to try and become the king of all of the Polish lands. As it usually happens in legends, Henry contacted a witch, who told the Krakow prince that to achieve his goal, he should go alone to Rome and present the pope with a large quantity of gold. She offered him assistance – she turned the prince’s knights into pigeons, and they quickly flew all the way up to theSt Mary’s Church’s tower, and started to rip out small parts of the stone and bricks, that fell on the ground turned into gold. Having collected enough, Henry left Krakow, leaving his knights-pigeons behind to keep the city safe. However, the Krakow prince never got to Rome – he spent all of his gold on girls, food and drink, got lost along the way, and never even returned to Krakow. Poland wasn’t re-united until Wladyslaw Lokietek was crowned Polish king in theWawel Cathedral in 1320, and Henry’s knights are still waiting for their king on the Main Square.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish Legends # 3 – The Legend of Wanda

KRAKOW TOURS – The Polish Woman who chose to drown herself rather that marry a German!

Her name was Wanda, and she was very beautiful and although she was but a young girl when she became Queen, she had wisdom and understanding far beyond her years. She loved her country very dearly and she ruled wisely and justly over the people who looked upon her with the greatest of love and respect.

With all her qualities, her beauty and her wisdom, many princes sought to marry her, but Wanda would accept none of them, for she had not yet found one who was pleasing to her and who would help her to rule wisely and well over her beloved country. Poland was dear to Wanda, above all else, and she spared no effort to make her people happy. She waged war against aggressors who tried to invade her country, herself leading her soldiers in the battlefield. Her presence inspired them to defeat many foes.

Wanda’s fame spread far and wide, and even a German prince, named Rytigier, heard of her beauty, her valour and, what was even more attractive to him, he heard that the lands of Poland were fruitful and rich. He therefore sent messengers with a letter to Wanda. The messengers were received at Wanda’s court with courtesy and hospitality, as was always the custom in Poland. It was noticed that they were rough, uncivilized men who seemed surprised at the luxury and comfort of Wanda’s Court. After they had rested and changed their apparel, they were ushered into Wanda’s presence. Although on the face of it they seemed respectful, they looked about them with an air of appraising the value of everything they saw before them, as though it would soon be theirs.

Wanda read the letter and turned deathly pale. The contents were clear enough; Rytigier asked her for her hand in marriage, stipulating that as her dowry she should bring him the lands of Poland, and threatening war in the event of a refusal . Now Rytigier had a very powerful army, famed all over Europe as the strongest and best equipped of any prince. Wanda’s army, on the other hand, had lost heavily in recent wars. To accept Rytigier’s proposal of marriage was unthinkable. Wanda could not, would not subject her country to a German rule. She looked at the messengers and shuddered. To wage war might be fatal with the armies so ill-matched. Defeat at the hands of the Germans would certainly bring the cruellest possible reprisals to the Poles. But, in a firm voice, Wanda made her answer. She refused to surrender herself and her country to the Germans. She had made her decision. Wanda would sacrifice her life for Poland.

She retired to her private quarters and there prayed to the gods that they would grant Poland freedom from the Germans in return for her sacrificing her life. Her prayer was granted, and Wanda threw herself into the river Vistula. When her body was recovered, she was buried with all honours, and a mound was raised to her memory beside that of her father, Krakus.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish Legends # 1 – The Trumpeter of Krakow

Krakow ToursKRAKOW TOURS – In Cracow (Krakow), the ancient capital of Poland, there is a Church in the Market Square. It is a tall, graceful building built of brick, in the Gothic style, with a richly adorned interior.

It had two towers, one of which is a little higher than the other and more ornate. From the taller tower a fanfare is played by a trumpeter, every hour. It is repeated four times, but always ends abruptly, on a broken note. Here is the legend behind this tradition:

One day in the 13th century, an old watchman, keeping watch over the city of Cracow saw in the distance a cloud of dust which grew bigger with every passing moment. It was a large army of Tatars galloping towards the city. These invaders from the east had more than once advanced to Krakow and even farther, and they had pillaged and burned, looted and murdered and carried off the people to be slaves.

There was only one thing the trumpeter watchman could do. He must play the Hejnal, over and over. That would surely arouse the citizens, they would certainly be aware of approaching danger. So he played, again and again. At first the people of Krakow were puzzled. But eventually they realised that an attack was imminent.

Away on the far meadows the Tartar warriors were mounting their horses and drawing their swords. But already the old watchman could see the Polish archers arriving.

The archers took up their positions along the battlements as the tartars galloped towards the city. But by now the Polish arrows were flying. They rained down on the tartar invaders, wave after wave. Eventually the Tartars were forced to retreat, and Cracow was saved from the Mongols!

When the joy over the victory died down they realised that the trumpeter who had warned them was nowhere top be seen. So one of his friends went to look for him. However, when he reached the tower he found that disaster had struck. A single Tartar arrow had pierced the old watchman’ s throat and he had died. The trumpet was still clasped in his hands ready to blast out a final note.

The Cracovians would never forget the act of the old trumpeter watchman, and it was decreed that a bugle call should be played each day in memory of the hero. And so for hundreds of years the ‘hejnal’ has rung out over Cracow’s rooftops for the noble watchman who saved the city.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Flood – What a difference a week makes

KRAKOW TOURS – It’s just over a week since I took the photos of the very high water level in the Wisla river, here’s an update of how it looks today 28/5/2010.

The inset is a reminder of how it looked last week.

You can view the full flood pictures HERE

May 28, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Horrors discovered as flood water recedes.

Damaged farms, ruined fields, trash, rotting corpses and carcasses are emerging from under water as flood is gradually subsiding in the south of Poland.

The financial losses caused by flood are hard to estimate, says the government’s crisis centre. Many roads throughout the country are still impassable and power lines still down. The death toll, which so far has reached fifteen, is still on the rise as new dead bodies are being discovered. Today, the corpse of a young girl was found in Mlynowka River in the southern region of Podbeskidzie.

Water is slowly subsiding in the region but still 150 ha are under water. In Czechowice-Dziedzice, prisoners from a correctional facility in Jastrzebie Zdroj are pumping out water from the flooded area and a rescue team is providing owners of the flooded houses with food.

In Podkarpackie region the Vistula River still exceeds the emergency level and flood alerts are still valid in several villages and the town of Tarnobrzeg, one of the towns hardest hit by flood water. Over 70 rescue workers from Ukraine are pumping out the flood water from basements, drainage ditches and fields using 12 highly efficient water pumps.

Soldiers from chemical units are preparing to disinfect flood-affected areas, from which water has already withdrawn. Inhabitants of these areas are being vaccinated against tetanus. Although the flood situation in the south of Poland is stable, it may soon deteriorate again, warns forecasts, as heavy rains and thunderstorms are expected there today.

In the Mazovia region, central Poland, water is also subsiding but sanitary services warn of epidemics as water in adjacent wells and water pipes is contaminated. In the flood-stricken areas many buildings are in danger of collapsing and will have to be demolished. Teams consisting of doctors, vets and building inspectors are visiting households to check if people are fine and houses safe enough to dwell.

After the great wave, the level of water in the Vistula River in Warsaw is going down. “It’s getting better. We are monitoring embankments every 30 minutes and so far they haven’t soaked or damaged,” Arthur Lauda from Warsaw Fire Services said. Firemen are cutting out trees on embankments in Port Czerniakowski because their weight may breach the construction.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Joke of the day

KRAKOW TOURS – The lower house of the Polish parliament came to a very bewildering decision, this week, over the proposed bill banning smoking in public places.

The bill, that would have brought Poland in line with other EU countries, was amended very liberally by Sejm (the lower house of parliament) now allows the owners of pubs and restaurants to decide for themselves whether they allow smoking on their premises.

I ask, what is the point of having a law that allows owners to now do something that was, and is, surely their right anyway. Why not pass a bill that allows the public to either walk or take a bus, or allow motorists to drive a car of the colour of their own choice.

It’s a pathetic watering down of an EU policy, whilst I don’t agree with the majority of EU policies, i quite like this one and it’s a shame (from my point of view) that Poland has decided to waste this opportunity to make their many great bars and restaurants a more pleasurable experience for non smokers.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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