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I would love to say worldwide trips, yet I have barely left Europe on my travels.

Daytrip to Krakow

Living in central Europe, everything is pretty close to you – there are several major cities worth visiting, only few hours of drive away. Despite this fact, I have visited Krakow for the very first time this weekend.

I have read several very general articles about Krakow and have realised, one day will not be nearly enough. However, I have decided to stick to the idea of a daytrip and focused on visiting only the downtown area. It is after all a very nice place and if you wear the right kind of shoes, you will manage it just fine. When I was listing the places I wanted to see, I have looked for architecture from different eras. The main square, Rynek Glowny, has a rather historical character and is listed as a UNESCO site. So it is a must-see-place and be warned, you will meet there the whole army of tourists. Then, this huge crowd marches along the Florian Street and mainly the Grodzka Street – down to the Wawel Castle. Going to Krakow and not visiting these places would be a crime, so I took a look as well. I have been sort of looking forward the St. Marys Basillica and the view from the top of its tower, yet it is open only in summertime. What a shame. On the other hand, the church from inside is nothling like you would expected from a gothic cathedral – very glittery and colourful at the same time. If you like to know more about medieval time in Krakow, there is an exciting Underground Museum, where you can walk through catacombs and excavation sites underneath the Rynek. As the time was short and it was not so high on my list, I did not go.

Beside all the historical monuments, I wanted to see something more peacefull and new as well. Surprisingly, the majority of tourists does not leave the axis Florian St – Rynek Gl. – Grodzky St – Wawel. So, you have to literally take few steps aside and behind second corner, you will find yourself among casual people of Krakow. When looking for some new architectural projects, I have found two nice additions inside of the downtown district from the beginning of this millenium – both of them designed by Ingarden & Ewy Architects. So they have a similiar handwriting and are rare examples of modern additions into an historical urban pattern.

The first one, Malopolska Garden of Arts [1], is located in a grid between first and second ring and it about 10min walk from Rynek through a very exciting neighbourhood (no irony here – some historical facades, some modern add-ons, and some greenery as well). The building itself is a large ‘L’ and has two entrances from two sides of a block – one wing houses a library, the other accomodates a cultural center with a garden. Underneath the library, there is a nice cafe as well – and they have delicious cakes there :). If you are entering from the garden site, it is a labyrinth but be brave! It is a very quiet place with no signs of tourists what so ever – mostly young people chilling on beanbags, candle-light, soft music, etc.

The second project, Tourist Info Pavillion [2], can be found directly on the Grodzky Street. It is very simple and narrow volume – really just a pavillion. However, the is very grandiose space on the inside and as it is so much larger than it appears from outside. I  have been very surprised.  The facade looked rather strange from the street – especially if you are just a random tourist passing by. The three peculiar windows are acctually very nice stained-glass.

You should check out the gallery attached below for some impressions. I have took a lot of pictures, yet I cannot upload all of them, so here goes just a short preview of what to expect.

[1] Further information about Małopolski Ogród Sztuki at archdaily.com or are the official site.[2] More about the Pavillion here.

 

 

GALLERY

 

 

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Seeing Istanbul (instead of sightseeing in Istanbul).

Visiting Istanbul two times and just passing by the Hagia Sophia? I can imagine, some people would consider it to be a crime – especially if you are an architect to be like I am. Still, I have intwntionally passed by it several times (even during its opening hours!).

Studying architecture, you come across Hagia Sophia right in the first semester. It is definitely one of the most important builgings ever built and there have been numerous publications written about how precious and valuable it is. As I have read
at least few of them, I am well aware of its importance and by skipping the visit, I did not want to belittle it at all. I have simply enjoyed other sights.

It has become a habit of mine, every time I visit a new town/city, I always get to its highest point to get an overview – a general impression of it. This often require walking uphill, e.g. Barcelona, Paris, or Bregenz. Sometimes the natural topography is too flat, e.g. Hamburg or Berlin, so then I at least climb few stairs or take a lift. This viewing from above helps me to create a map in my head of how the city is composed – of course, you can always just read a map but combining it with acctuall experience makes it more personal. So then, when I do my (sight)seeing, I pinpoint those to this mental plan. I often get ‘lost’ on my tours but I never get lost in the meaning I don’t know where I am. As an architect to be, I have been trained to read and understand maps and frankly, I do well. So, when I get lost it means that I go somewhere unintentionally or without any special purpose 🙂 Just wandering through streets, observing the everyday life can be more exciting than a visit of an overcrowded ancient monument. And that was the reason why I have skipped Hagia Sophia. I have seen so many perfect pictures of it that going in would be disappoiting.

It has been my experience that tourists develop a certain arrogance when walking in groups. They do not care if they get into your picture or whether they invade your personal space – as long as they get to see what those numerous guides have been talking about. So going to see that extraordinary space I have seen in mumerous perfectly staged pictures and studied about would destroy all my appreciation for it. Some things are better in our imagination.

So instead of viewing Hagia Sophia with tousand other peole, I have made my own list of sights which I went to see in Istanbul.

1st
If you are looking for a great overview of european side of Istanbul, you can always go to Galata tower. However, I would also recommend climbing up to Constantine fortification wall! I have barely met any tourists there – it might be because of the steep climb up (would not recommend for small children), but the view was so worthed as you could see the Golden Horn in its full length. Plus, I have found some nice cafes and restaurants right next to the wall remains and the delicious smell of turkish food on the street was almost surreal.

2nd
I am easilly impressed by ancient monuments or their ruins (afterall, I study architecture). However, I have been even more fascinated by rhose which are still in use. There are several byzantine cisterns in Istanbul which are worthed your time. [… to be continued.]

3rd
The food in Istanbul is really delicious. If you are looking for a lovely evening, get a ferry to asian side. No matter where you get (Uskudar or Kadikoy), it is so easy to find a nice market with fresh vegetable, cheese and other delicious stuff. I would say the nightlife in streets is not as wild as on european side but more sattle and cultural – perfect for an evening strall (even if you travel solo as I did!)

GALLERY

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