Friday, January 3, 2014

With an imposing, 14th-century gothic church nearby, horse-drawn carriages and a historical market square, I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect place for a Christmas market.

The Main Market Square, called the Rynek Glówny, in Krakow offers an impressive backdrop for a Christmas market. On Sunday, after a 3-hour train ride from Warsaw, we arrived at the market with our visiting friends. Lucky for us, the market, which traditionally starts the last week of November, stayed open until Dec. 31. this year.

I couldn’t wait to explore the market!
St. Mary's Church, re-built in the 14th century (originally built in the early 13th century), dominates Krakow's Main Market Square.
The scent of sizzling fat Polish sausages immediately hit my senses. Several busy stalls sold all kinds of delicious pork products such grilled kielbasa, various sausages, sauerkraut cooked with porky-goodness bits and a smaller form of Poland’s national dish of golonka (roasted ham hock). And dear readers, you know how much I love pork!
While the guys ordered grilled kielbasa for us, I wandered over to a stall selling Hungarian lángos (a deep-fried flat bread made of a potato-based dough)  – the same ones I had eaten at the Great Market Hall in Budapest. Later on, we were tempted not just once, but four times by the grilled oscypek, a smoky, salty sheep’s milk cheese from the Tatra mountains. This warm cheese is particularly tasty with a dollop of tangy cranberry compote.
After our bellies were full, we continued to warm up our bodies with Poland’s mulled wine, which was sold from dozens of giant barrels with medieval lettering reading: “GRZANIEC.”

Krakow’s Christmas market also offered about 40 rustic wooden stalls selling the folk art and handicraft items that were plainly missing from the markets we recently visited in Copenhagen. We found traditional  Polish pottery, embroidered tablecloths, metalwork, hand-carved spoons, Nativity scenes and bowls, stained glass Christmas ornaments, wooden swords for children, handmade candles, woolen slippers and hats and jewelry as well as gingerbread cookies from Toruń and other sweets. If you're looking for a particular folk craft or decoration, you certainly will find it here!
Our friends were delighted to explore this Christmas market as well as the stalls inside the historic Cloth Hall with us.
Christmas lights inside Krakow's Cloth Hall market.
When we tired of shopping, we roamed Krakow’s cobblestone streets and visited numerous beautiful churches. Did you know that Krakow trails just behind Rome with its abundances of churches per square mile? In fact, in the Middle Ages, Krakow was known as “Small Rome” for its many churches, according to our Rick Steves’ guidebook. (I’ll try to share some of my church photos soon.) 

This was our third trip to Krakow, and I’m betting it won’t be our last. Visiting this festive Christmas market certainly cinched that deal!
Cobblestone streets decorated with Christmas lights in Krakow, Poland.

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BacktoBodrum said...

This looks like a fairytale - with pork! What's not to like. You are certainly well placed to travel in Warsaw.

Joy said...

@Annie, the market was indeed a porky fairytale! :-)

kasia said...

Hi Joy you didn't make it to zakopane but had oscypek anyway told you that near mountains Xmas stalls are full of everything glad you enjoyed it ;)

Joy said...

@Kasia, We loved the cheese! We took some home and we ate it with one of my homemade berry compotes. Don't worry - Zakopane is on our 2014 travel list! :-)