Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kościół Mariacki

Today we finally got to see the venerable cathedral we've been living next to!  It turned out to be as beautifully decorated as it was described; however, we were not as impressed by the way the tourists were handled.  We only were allowed to explore about half of the church's area.  The other parts were roped off or designated as "prayer only," but there were so many people, I don't know how you would find the right mindset to pray.  I also thought that the ticket office could have been more up front about the total cost of entrance to the basilica (photo-taking privileges are an "extra" charge). 

But enough complaining!  The church was still beautiful, especially the massive stained glass windows at the front and the glittering, star-painted ceiling.  During our visit, the organ suddenly began to play and throngs of well-dressed Poles were ushered in to the front of the nave.  Right in the middle of the afternoon, the parishoners were holding mass.  Although Andy and I took a seat in a pew and watched and listened respectfully, it felt weird to be there when they were trying to worship.  We were hoping to hear the deep tones of the organ again, but alas, the Polish priests seemed to like to give long sermons instead.

We moved on to visit the cathedral tower!  After waiting a bit for our turn and climbing eleven (count them--eleven) flights of precipitous steps, we were rewarded with the best views Kraków has to offer.  We even stayed long enough to hear the hejanlista (trumpet player) play the hourly melody and ring the enormous bell not far above our heads.

I should mention that we've done all of this after having gone to the gym this morning and worked our entire bodies nearly into mush.  With this and all the other walking we did this evening, it's only a matter of just how sore we're going to be tomorrow.

Rynek was even more alive than usual tonight.  We simply cannot pass up the opportunities we have to go out and be a part of this remarkable night scene, even if we're somewhat tired.  It is so hard to describe what it's like--there are busy restaurants, carriages, couples and families walking all over, street performers, jazz bands playing, and children launching illuminated helicopter toys in the air.  It feels natural both sitting still and taking it all in and actively participating in the scenes going on all around.  I'm going to miss this when I leave.


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