By Eyewitness Travel
Dorling Kindersley/Penguin – £12.99
It’s great when you can open a travel guidebook and already ‘be there’ from within the comfort of your own home. Such is the case with Eyewitness Travel – Cracow – 237 pages packed with inspiring photography, information, traveller’s needs and a survivor’s guide that includes six pages of maps along with a street index.
As noted at the outset of ‘’Four Great Days in Cracow’’ on page 10: ‘’There are three themes that define the most visited city in Poland – its royal past, Judaism and culture.’’ This is more than evident throughout both this guide as a whole and the city itself, as it was luckily, one of the few places in Poland to have been spared major destruction during a number of ghastly wars that so devastated much the country.
In fact not only has this wonderful conglomeration of architectural beauty and wonder, somehow preserved its many monuments and historical feel, but also its rather antiquarian persuasion. Reason perhaps being that in the early 19th Century, the city was already a popular haven for tourists from both other countries and from within Poland itself.
Unsurprisingly, Cracow and Wieliczka were in included on the very first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From a number of prime attractions (such as the Royal Castle at Wawel, the Churches of St Mary and St Anne, Remu’h Cemetery, Collegium Maius and Kosciuszko Mound) to Polish and Foreign Art, to a veritable array of countless and (sometimes imposing) churches – all of which feature a plethora of differing domes, towers and spires – to Christian, Jewish and Monastic Cemeteries, Cracow really is as equally alluring as it is steeped in history.
Suffice to say, all of the above is handsomely collected within the pages of this compact and colourful guide. Some of the photography is truly dazzling, whilst the two pages on ‘Personalities’ (who, along with the painter Jan Matejko and poetess Wislawa Szymborska, naturally includes John Paul II who, before his elevation to the papacy, was Karol Wojtyla, Suffragan Bishop and eventually Archbishop of Cracow from 1963 to 1978) are more than handy for those who’d like to delve a little deeper.
Page 153 is the beginning of the ‘Further Afield’ section that inevitably includes four pages on Auschwitz-Birkenau. These unfortunately speak for themselves.
Other than the already aforementioned maps, there’s also a helpful layout of Cracow’s Trams and Buses at the back of the guide; which, along with a street finder and numerous directories (that consist of websites, phone numbers and addresses), account for this guide as being nothing short of superb.