Welcome back to the Sr. MYWE Tour Blog. Today, we toured the medieval old town in Krakow (after getting to sleep in until 11!). Krakow is the one major Polish city to have survived unharmed through World War II, so much of its historical features are well preserved. Krakow was the capital of Poland for almost 600 years starting in the 11th century, and it contains monumental architecture dating from the middle ages and the Renaissance, as well as newer constructions.
Today we learned about Krakow’s legendary dragon, which is said to have required sacrifices of the townsfolk. The legendary leader Krak, for which the city is named, sent knights futilely against the dragon until a local shoemaker volunteered and outwitted the dragon. After seeing a sculpture of the dragon we visited the fortified castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill, looking out over the city. The cathedral contained the tomb of Queen Hedwig, who married a Lithuanian king 30 years her senior to unite the kingdoms of Poland and Lithuania, and a relic from the late Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope who is likely to be canonized.
After lunch in the old town square (I had goulash in a bread bowl with shredded cabbage and pickles), we continued to to Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the world’s oldest salt mines. Inside lie a number of beautiful chapels carved out of salt by the miners, who must have been quite pious. The most massive of these contained two towering staircases, Da Vinci’s Last Supper carved in relief, and a rock salt chandelier. It was created by only three miners over 70 years! We were grateful to have the opportunity to play a concert of chamber music inside this chapel, including pieces by Telemann, Bach, and our own Alex Mayhew and Ezra Weller (that’s me!).
From the salt mine, a cool 55 degrees F, we reentered the blazing heat of the summer day in need of a refreshing meal, which we received at a restaurant near the mine. Back at the hotel, most chose to watch the final game of the Euro 2012 Football Cup. Too bad for us Italy fans, Spain dominated in a 4-0 victory. But still, a great day.
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