Rynek Główny is one of the city’s most popular places to stage free events, such as concerts, festivals, and crafts shows. Similarly, the bend in the Vistula River at Wawel is another favorite festival spot. More often than not, when we go downtown on the weekends, we stumble unexpectedly upon a major concert or art display in Rynek Główny. So far, it seems like there’s been a festival or major event every weekend we’ve been in Krakow—and the best are still to come!
In the span of 2 days, we went to 3 different events for 3 different festivals. On Friday we watched a 3D video art display projected on the side of Wawel Castle. Four artists created four very different works set to music or a soundtrack. One artist created a construction scene on the castle, as if workers were building the castle, while another projected a hand sketching faces and scenes on the Castle. In the photo below, the hand is drawing a classic Krakow tableau. (See the video here.)
The next day was the annual Dragon Festival that would culminate in a Dragon Parade on the Vistula River near Wawel Castle. We called our friends Doug and Sylwia to come with us to the parade. But they had an even better idea: turns out, one of Sylwia’s favorite Krakovian bands was playing a free concert in Rynek Główny that same night as part of a festival celebrating Krakow’s musicians.
The band Kroke, one of the first neo-Klezmer bands in a city known for its Klezmer music, was accompanying a female artist who sang haunting songs in a multitude of Slavic languages. After this concert finished, the MCs encouraged everyone to head to the Vistula to watch the annual Dragon Parade.
Every year, an arts group develops a parade of dragons that marches down the river while fireworks burst behind them. This year featured a dozen giant Macy’s Parade-like balloons of fanciful dragons doing battle on the river, replaying the legend of the Dragon of Wawel Castle. (A clearer and more professional photo is here.)
We sat on Wawel hill, just beneath the castle, to watch the parade and pyrotechnics.
This past weekend was a St. John’s Fair (sort of like the Renaissance Fair), a huge free Wyclef Jean concert, and a traditional summer solstice festival where women set wreaths of flowers into the river (Wianki).
One weekend, three festivals. Thank you Krakow for your creativity and playfulness!
Here is a short video of the 3D video art presentation we blogged about earlier here. A hand is drawing Rynek Główny, with St. Mary’s Basilica in the center, the Castle in the background, and the red rooftops of Krakow all around. Again, note this is projected onto the massive defensive walls of Wawel Castle.
At the end of August and the beginning of September, we spent two weeks in Austria and Germany. Sean attended an Aikido seminar with his Sensei from New York, Yamada Sensei, in a small town in Bavaria called Bernau am Chiemsee, while Melinda hung out in Salzburg, Austria, and Munich, Germany.
We drove with Doug and Sylwia to Bernau via Vienna. We spent two days and one night in Vienna.
It took us about 6 hours to drive to Vienna from Krakow. Along the way, we passed through the Czech Republic and stopped for gas in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
Here’s the sign marking the border with the Czech Republic. (We try to get these for our collection, whenever we pass over a border.)
The border with Slovakia.
And the border sign for Austria.
We left Vienna in the late afternoon on our second day on the road. As the drive edged closer to southern Germany, we could see the northern foothills of the Austrian Alps. We made a pit stop at a gas station in the mountains that just so happened to be perched above a beautiful Austrian Alpine Lake. (Here’s a short video of the area.)
A short while later, we arrived in Bernau am Chiemsee, a tiny village in the Germany’s Bavaria. A local gym hosted the seminar and also happened to be situated in a beautiful landscape.
The dojo was surrounded by green farmland and forested hills. Here’s the view from the front door.
The next day we visited a nearby town called Rossenheim. The little town had a very festive atmosphere, with the men dressed in traditional lederhosen and the women in drindl dresses. Rossenheim was celebrating its annual harvest festival.
We enjoyed our lunch on one of the main squares and walked around the town.
The Aikido seminar started later that evening. Doug, Sylwia, and Sean suited up for a week of intense classes with Yamada Sensei.
Melinda caught a train to Salzburg, just across the border in Austria.
For the next week, Sean stayed in Bernau practicing Aikido with students from across Europe and Melinda explored Salzburg and Munich, Germany.