Krak贸w the Brave

Krak贸w聽is a remarkably city. It’s the surprise card of a three-week trip through Central Europe. Elegant and stately 18th and 19th century buildings line the narrow streets while the huge market square dominates the center of the old city. The manageable size of the city, the ease of getting around on foot, and the palpable creative and youthful energy one senses makes Krakow a great place to visit.

Krakow. Market Square on a sunny Autumn day.

The main square, Rynek G艂贸wny in Polish,聽dates back to the 13th century: at 9.4 acres in size, it is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. This space is overpowering, hypnotic and graceful. It is irresistible at any time of the day, and with this size, never gets too crowded. Often main squares in European cities are best avoided in peak times, especially in the tourist season.

One small corner of Market Square, Krakow

The square is surrounded by historic townhouses, churches and the central Cloth Hall, rebuilt in 1555 in the Renaissance style. The cloth hall today has small tourist shops selling Polish themed trinkets. The building is long, rectangular and graceful. Other buildings edging the square, include the Town Hall Tower, the 10th century Church of St Adalbert, and many restaurants covered by market umbrellas along with heavy-duty heaters.

Market Square, Krakow
Another beautiful building lining the Market Square, Krakow

Historically, Krakow has been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural and artistic life. It enjoyed its golden era during the 15th century, with Renaissance artists and architects flocking to the city. Despite the horrors of WW2 and the Nazi occupation of Krak贸w, followed by Stalinist control of all intellectual life, Krakow has, in the 21st century, re-emerged as a place of culture and education. In 2000, Krak贸w was named European Capital of Culture. In 2013 Krak贸w was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature. There are 250, 000 tertiary students in the city. Music venues are thriving, as well as the arts and literature. You can feel the energy in the streets.

The central market square attracts excellent musicians and buskers at any hour of the day.

After the Nazi invasion of Poland at the start of 聽WW2,聽Krak贸w became the capital of Germany’s General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a聽Ghetto, which was later walled in: from there, they were sent to German extermination camps, at the nearby Auschwitz聽聽and Birkenau. During that short period, 65,000 Jews from Krakow were murdered. The reality of this horrendous evil is reinforced through a visit to Oscar Schindler’s Enamel Factory in Krakow, a museum and exhibition of life in Krak贸w under Nazi occupation 1939-45, housed on the former site of Schindler’s factory. A visit to this display, which will take around two to three hours, is a must. Catch a taxi to the factory and buy tickets there. There is no need to go with a group or a guide. Warning: the exhibition is deeply moving and disturbing. The following photo collage is a media file, which opens as a slide show, depicting a few images from this museum.

There are also tours of聽Nowa Huta, a separate district of Krakow, and one of only two planned Socialist realist settlements or districts ever built and “one of the most renowned examples of deliberate social engineering” in the entire world.鹿 A tour with Walkative Tours of Krakow with a guide well versed in the history of Stalinism, and its application in Poland, was available. But in the end, we chose the food tour,聽a great way to learn more about the traditional foods of Krakow.

The gentle sound of clip clopping horses in the streets nearby the central square.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, modern Krak贸w is brave, proud, lively and welcoming.

Yellow is the Colour of H峄檌 An, Vietnam

I was considering calling this post ‘Mellow Yellow’ but the yellow walls of Hoi An are far too bold and daring, especially in the heat of the morning, when the colour seems to glow. 聽Colour has a huge effect on my outlook: I love walking around the old town of Hoi An when the party revellers and night-time vendors are still asleep and the yellow washes over me and gives me energy.

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Yellow intersection, Hoi An, Vietnam.
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Going to school through yellow Hoi An
Morning slow starts, Hoi An
Morning slow starts, Hoi An
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Yellow Lane, Hoi An, Vietnam
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One faded yellow wall, yellow lanterns and black shutters. A perfect colour scheme.

Hoi An is聽the only town in Vietnam to have escaped the American War entirely unscathed. Today the old town, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, is a proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site, with many restored houses open to visitors.

Beautiful H峄檌 An girl.
Beautiful H峄檌 An girl in Yellow Au Dai

From now on, I will always associate the colour yellow with Hoi An, Vietnam.

For my dear friend Di G, who loves this bold colour too and knows how to use it.

Ornate

These images were taken in a new Buddhist temple found on the windswept plains above Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Sometimes a Buddhist temples can be ornate, at other times, just plain scary.

ornate and scary
ornate and scary

The ancient city of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful place to visit. The centre of the old Naxi people, today the place thrives on local tourism. Like other UNESCO sites in China, it is a pedestrianised city: all traffic must remain outside the city walls. Yunnan province is full of surprises.

1-natIn ancient times, the Old Town used to be the center of silk embroidery in the southwest of China and the most important place of the Ancient Southern Silk Road, also called the Ancient Tea and Horse Road or Ancient Tea Route.. The Ancient Silk Road started from Burma, crossed Lijiang, Tibet, journeyed through Iran, the Fertile Crescent and ultimately to the Mediterranean Sea.