Ahoy! It’s Katherine and I’m here to tell you a bit about the wonderful trip to Krakow, Poland, my husband and I recently took a few weeks ago. Huzzah!
In all of my military travels, until this trip, I had never been to Poland before. And sadly, I was so caught up in deadlines that I didn’t even have time to research Krakow before we left. (I usually do a lot of that before I take a trip somewhere I’ve never been.) So when I say I was thoroughly impressed by what I found in Krakow, I’m not exaggerating. 😉
Krakow is a feast for the eyes! It’s one of the oldest, and by far the largest, Medieval cities in Poland, dating back to the 4th Century when it was built on Wawel Hill. There, the 10th Century Royal Wawel Castle still stands. (More on Wawel Castle in another post.) Occupied by Vistulans (an early Medieval West Slavic tribe), Hungarians, and Mongols, attacked by Napoleon, Germans, and Russians, and heavily influenced by Italians and Swiss, the city is an architectural masterpiece, and a thriving center of trade that houses a wide variety of religions who all live(d) in peace. In fact, during WWII, Hitler loved Krakow so much, he kept it intact, deciding to raise Warsaw instead. You can learn more about Krakow’s fascinating history of kings and queens here.
While I was in Krakow, I had the honor of meeting another wife who’d traveled with her husband. I’m so grateful to Lady Beth for venturing out with me to visit many of Krakow’s museums, to include: the Salt Mines, Schindler’s Factory, the Collegium Maius (where Nicolaus Copernicus and Karol Wojtyta, later Pope John Paul II both studied), and magnificent cathedrals. (I’ll be posting blogs about these later too.)
Today, I want to talk about Krakow’s Czartoryski Museum. There you will find Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Lady with an Ermine, one of only four portraits of women by Leonardo in the world, and beloved by the Polish people. Prince Adam Czartoryski brought the painting from Italy to Poland in 1800 where it was displayed in the ‘Gothic House’ from 1809-1830. After several moves to protect it, the Nazi’s captured the painting and took it to Berlin. Lady with an Ermine was rescued by the Americans and returned to Krakow in 1946.
Here’s a picture of the replica of Lady with an Ermine. The original portrait is oil painted on wood, with original brush strokes still visible. No photos were allowed of the original however, which hangs in a special room. But I can honestly say, it was spectacular to behold. (As a former art student in college, I was honestly jumping for joy. Leonardo da Vinci, people! 😉
Here’s a picture of me, pretending to be Cecilia Gallerani, reputed mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, petting her weasel. It’s suggested the Ermine symbolizes the duke, who’s been referred to as the White Ermine (Ermellino Bianco).
And the surprises kept coming! Imagine how delighted I was to meander through the museum and find myself surrounded by Napoleonic War era history. (Remember I said I hadn’t done my research.) Oh, I cannot tell you how jazzed I was to be standing in front of gowns I’d seen in research books, everyday items, cutlery, china, clocks, furniture, artwork. Color me all amazement!
Here are some of the wonderful things I saw. And believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg, me hearties!