donderdag 31 januari 2013

Wawel, Kraków

The combination of the angle from where this picture is taken, the snowy bushes and the extraordinary light conditions makes this picture-perfect!

As you head south through the Old Town the streets begin to taper until you arrive at the foot of Wawel Hill, seat of the Royal Castle and Cathedral. Wawel lies on a small hill above the Vistula and it was here that the earliest settlements in the city began, some fifty thousand years ago.

Wawel is less a quarter than it is a rambling complex of historic buildings. Few ordinary citizens live here, and the most distinguished residents, the Kings of Poland, passed on many centuries ago. Yet the phantoms of these monarchs are ever-present, wandering about with furrowed brows, and shaking their fists at the great what-ifs of their country's history.

Architecturally, Wawel is something of a hodge-podge, with all kinds of shapes and styles jostling for attention. This might come as no surprise when you think that people have been living here since around 3000BC in the Neolithic period, and have lived and built on the hill successively ever since. However, whatever cohesion the Wawel lacks aesthetically it more than makes up for in terms of soul. For this is the spiritual home of the nation. And if one was to take England as a point of comparison, one might consider Wawel as a kind of Westminster Abbey and Camelot rolled into one. It is steeped in myth, yet with all the added poignancy of a nation that has had to endure more than its fair share of trials. And despite the apparent muddle of bits, Wawel has a charm that can exert a powerful hold. Its very lack of classical harmony becomes one of its endearing features. And besides, there are some real jewels here, among them the exquisite cathedral chapels, the renaissance courtyard and the State Rooms themselves. You can also climb up the old bell-tower or burrow down into the Dragon's Lair. All in all there is a wealth of things to do, not only for those dignified elderly folk, but for children too.

Thank you very much Ewa!

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