The Royal Road

The Royal Road

The Gothic-style Barbakan, built in 1499, is one of only three such fortified outposts still surviving in Europe and also, the best preserved. The Road passes the old fortifications through Floriańska Gate under a defensive tower. It is the original entrance to the city and the only gate, of the eight city gates built in the Middle Ages, not dismantled during the 19th century modernization of Kraków.  Inside the Old Town, the Road continues along Floriańska Street and enters the Main Square. On the left-hand side, at the northeast corner of the square stands St. Mary's Basilica. The Road passes the Church of St. Wojciech in the south-eastern corner of the square, and leads down Grodzka Street along a number of historic landmarks and two smaller squares featured on both sides. The baroque 16th century Church of Saints Peter and Paul fascinates the visitor with its size and the raised sculptures of the apostles in the foreground. Grodzka ends at the foot of the Wawel Hill

The whole district is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland.  The Royal Road passes some of the most prominent historic landmarks of Poland's royal capital, providing a suitable background to coronation processions and parades, kings' and princes' receptions, foreign envoys and guests of distinction traveling from a far country to their destination at Wawel.

The Royal Road starts outside the northern flank of the old city walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz. It begins at St. Florian's Church (Kościół św. Floriana), containing the relics of St. Florian – the Patron Saint of Poland – miraculously saved numerous times. St. Florian's Church was also the starting point for royal funeral processions, concluding at Wawel Cathedral.

The Royal Road crosses Matejko Square (pl. Matejki) and the Grunwald Monument (which unveiled in 1910 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, one of the most important battles in history of Poland, when Polish army defeated Teutonic Knights' army, the monument is topped by a huge sculpture of Wladyslaw Jagiello, the Polish king and chief commander of army during the victorious battle), passes the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych) on the right-hand side and crosses Basztowa Street – to the medieval barbican (Barbakan).

The Royal Road in pictures – Part 1.  From top to bottom and from left to right: Matejko Square and the Grunwald Monument (St. Florian's Church can be seen at the back), the Barbakan, the Floriańska Gate, the Floriańska Street and the Main Market Square.

The Royal Road in pictures – Part 1. From top to bottom and from left to right: Matejko Square and the Grunwald Monument (St. Florian's Church can be seen at the back), the Barbakan, the Floriańska Gate, the Floriańska Street and the Main Market Square.

The Royal Road in pictures – Part 2.  From top to bottom and from left to right: St. Mary's Basilica, Sukiennice, the Church of St. Wojciech, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Grodzka street and the square at the foothills of Wawel Hill.

The Royal Road in pictures – Part 2. From top to bottom and from left to right: St. Mary's Basilica, Sukiennice, the Church of St. Wojciech, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Grodzka street and the square at the foothills of Wawel Hill.

Throughout the year the Old Town is lively and crowded. Today the Old Town attracts visitors from all over the world. According to recent official statistics, in 2016 Krakow was visited by over 12 million tourists including 2.9 million foreign travelers.  There are many tourists, indefatigable florists, and lined up horse-drawn carriages waiting to give a ride. The place is always vibrant with life especially in and around the Main Market Square.  No surprise that the square is so packed with visitors and not the best place for agoraphobics!  The first time you see the place is really impressive, but then you try to avoid it as it is impossible to walk for 2 meters without stumbling on other tourists.

There is always something going on in and around the square, like folk music festivals or food festivals.  This is the place for you to buy your souvenirs or taste traditional delicacies like oscypek cheese, sausages and pierogi.

Krakow is always vibrant with life especially in and around the Main Market Square.  No surprise that the square  is so packed with visitors, and not the best place for agoraphobics!

Krakow is always vibrant with life especially in and around the Main Market Square. No surprise that the square is so packed with visitors, and not the best place for agoraphobics!

While here in the main market square, one can listen to the heynal, which is played each hour from the highest tower of St. Mary's Church. The church is familiar to many English-speaking readers from the 1929 book "The Trumpeter of Krakow" by Eric P. Kelly.

Oscypek cheese

Oscypek, is a smoked cheese made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region, south of Krakow. Since 2007 Oscypek is a protected trade name under the EU's Protected Designation of Origin geographical indication. It needs to be made from at least 60% sheep’s milk, and can only be produced between late April to early October when the sheep feed on fresh mountain grass. Before that, any milk they have is needed for the lambs. Any cheese that doesn’t fit the criteria must be sold as serki góralskie (Highland cheese).

An old lady selling Oscypek at

An old lady selling Oscypek at "Stary Kleparz" (Farmer's Market) a couple of blocks north of the the Barbikan.

A similar cheese is made in the Slovak Tatra Mountains under the name oštiepok. In Poland, there is also a smaller form called redykołka, known as the 'younger sister' of oscypek.

Oscypek is made using salted sheep's milk, with the addition of cow's milk strictly regulated by the protected recipe.

Unpasteurized salted sheep's milk is first turned into cottage cheese, which is then repeatedly rinsed with boiling water and squeezed. After this, the mass is pressed into wooden, spindle-shaped forms, called oscypiorka, in decorative shapes. The forms are then placed in a brine-filled barrel for a night or two, after which they are placed close to the roof in a special wooden hut and cured in hot smoke for up to 14 days. This golden-hued, spindle-shaped cheese has also very specific criteria concerning shape: it must weigh between 600 and 800g and measure between 17 and 23cm. Oscypek, can come into other sizes and shapes, but those are not protected by EU.

Oscypek-like street vendor.  All these kinds of smoked cheese tastes like oscypek, but it is not oscypek, as it does not follow all the criteria set by the EU.

Oscypek-like street vendor. All these kinds of smoked cheese tastes like oscypek, but it is not oscypek, as it does not follow all the criteria set by the EU.

Oscypek-like street vendor.  All these kinds of smoked cheese tastes like oscypek, but it is not oscypek, as it does not follow all the criteria set by the EU.

Oscypek-like street vendor. All these kinds of smoked cheese tastes like oscypek, but it is not oscypek, as it does not follow all the criteria set by the EU.

The cheese’s history can be traced back to the Vlachs, a tribe that arrived in Poland from the Balkans around the 12th and 13th Centuries and brought the tradition of shepherding and cheesemaking to the region. The name oscypek comes from the word ‘scypać’, which means ‘to split’ in the local dialect. This is related to the molds which are split into two parts. Other sources state that ‘scypać’ refers to pinching or kneading – another important part of the cheese-making process to make it more elastic and pliable. The first mention of cheese production in the Tatra Mountains dates back to the 15th century, in a document from the village of Ochotnica in 1416. The first recorded recipe for oscypek was issued in 1748 in the Żywiec area.

Oscypek is as delicious as it is beautiful. It almost feels like a “firm mozzarella”. But while the texture is comparable, the taste is anything but. Oscypek is much sharper, brinier and smokier. There are many ways to prepare oscypek.

Traditionally, it’s eaten raw, grilled or fried, but it’s also delicious when added to salads or pasta dishes. It goes very well with lingonberry preserve.

Souvenir brought back home.

Souvenir brought back home.

Comments

03.11.2019 04:15

Rob

What a great adventure.

15.10.2018 08:50

Jane

The first time I read such an interesting review on Krakow.