Kraków, also spelled Cracow, is without a doubt one of the most picturesque cities in all of Europe. There’s something truly special about Kraków, Poland. It is the country’s second largest city and has laid witness to more of its history than any other.
Kraków: Poland’s Ancient and Cultural Capital
Kraków, Poland is the country’s main tourist destination and is known principally for its cultural richness and truly awe-inspiring historic architecture. Located in the southern Lesser Poland region and situated along both banks of the majestic Wisla (Vistula) River, the country’s longest and largest river, Kraków represents one of Poland’s oldest cities and dates all the way back to the 7th century.
The city was first incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland in 992. Later on, Kraków served as the capital city of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569 and for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1795.
Kraków, Poland was used as the central headquarters of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party General Government throughout World War II. Dissimilar to the vast majority of other Polish cities, Kraków – somehow by the grace of God – arrived at the end World War II completely intact.
Traditionally regarded as the cultural capital of Poland, and with its seven universities and nearly 20 institutions of higher learning, Kraków represents the principal center of Polish academic, scientific, cultural and artistic life. It’s also one of Poland’s most noteworthy economic hubs.
Nowhere else in the country will you have the pleasure of experiencing such vast collections of art and an overabundance of historic monuments and architectural feats.
Kraków, Poland’s Historic City Center overflows with shops, cafes, and pubs. Its Main Market Square has been described as a “medieval feast for the senses.”
While visiting Kraków, Poland, it might behoove you to consider refraining from spending your hard earned cash at establishments around Main Market Square. Generally, the lot of them are overpriced tourist traps with unbecoming clubs guarded by skinhead bouncers who are eager to pick fights with drunken tourists.
Restaurants and Cafes
Malopolska Garden of Art and Pauza in Garden
As you make your way outside of the iconic Main Market Square, you should seriously consider stopping by the Małopolska Garden of Art. Despite only recently opening its doors for business, the establishment has already gained significant notoriety within Kraków, Poland’s burgeoning cultural scene.
Malopolska Garden of Art represents one of Kraków, Poland’s newest architectural beauties and has a space that contains a library, art gallery and movie theater. Malopolska Garden of Art regularly collaborates with many of Kraków, Poland’s premier film festivals including the Kraków Film Festival. Their movie theater never fails to supply its attendees with an appealing repertoire of independent films.
Attached to and down the stairs from Malopolska Garden of Art is Pauza in Garden. It’s a solid choice for an extended coffee or tea break, and most days of the week, if you fancy, you should be able to sit in on a lecture or discussion where various topics ranging from politics, cultural and technology are mulled over.
Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art
Kraków, Poland’s Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art is truly in a class of its own. Its history dates all the way back to the 1950s. At any time day or night at Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art, you can be sure to find Kraków, Poland’s numerous artists, intellectuals, and creative types conversing about the latest cultural and political happenings.
Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art provides an eclectic mix of atmosphere, cuisine, drinks, locals, and travelers. Try anything from a delectable coffee, an unpasteurized draught beer, one of their many salads, burgers, artisan cakes – all at reasonable prices. If you really wish to take in Kraków, Poland’s culture, try one of their famous “Kraków Pretzels.”
An indoor/outdoor section of Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art is enclosed with transparent plastic walls which can be lowered during the cold winter months and opened up during Kraków, Poland’s warmer summer months. It also boasts a garden in the middle, which is open all year round.
Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Modern Art frequently hosts film screenings and other cultural events as well.
Anyone with half a brain is aware that few good things, if any, came of communism. However, milk bars are without a doubt an exception to the rule. Bar Mleczny literally translates to “milk bar” in English. Milk bars serve meals similarly to the way cafeterias work in the U.S. Meals at milk bars are subsidized by the Polish government and thus are cheap and easily available to lower-working class individuals and families.
The very first milk bar – Mleczarnia Nadświdrzańska – was established in Warsaw, Poland in 1896. Milk bars typically have dairy-based menus, although some serve diverse, non-dairy, traditional Polish dishes as well. After Poland regained its independence following the end of World War I, milk bars popped up across the country. They offered Polish people cheap but nourishing food. As a result, they gained even greater prominence during the 1930s Great Depression.
Bars and Nightclubs
Alchemia is one of Kraków, Poland’s most legendary establishments. You wouldn’t be wrong to think time has stopped when setting foot in this neat bar. Shabby-chic furniture, nostalgia-filled ornaments, wax stained wooden tables, and bizarre cryptic photographs give this bar a one of a kind, esoterically mystical ethos.
Head here if you’re looking for imaginative alcoholic chemistry. Alchemia’s staff is both friendly and skillful – and is known for their creativity in mixing up riskily alluring cocktails.
Prozak 2.0 should be characterized as a modern reincarnation of one of the oldest underground establishments in Kraków, Poland. Prozak 2.0 has occupied one of the top spots in Kraków, Poland’s clubbing scene for more than a decade now.
If for you clubbing is “about the music,” head over to Prozak 2.0 as soon as possible for a sensory experience of a lifetime. If you’re into thumping bass music, you will feel right at home here. Prozak 2.0 is more than 600 square meters, with three dance floors inside of a medieval basement, all playing the very best electronic music from a top-tier Funktion-One sound system.
Prozak 2.0 is something of a continuous maze of underground rooms on two separate levels with a total of four bars. The venue brings crowds that are fun, hip, and good looking 20-somethings who are friendly to foreigners. Moreover, Prozak 2.0 regularly hosts Europe’s top producers and DJs who often end up playing sets that last until sunrise.
One of the most prolific music venues in Kraków, Poland is Szpitalna 1. If you want to hear some progressive house or drum ‘n’ bass music, head here. Szpitalna 1 is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Kraków, Poland’s Main Market Square.
Szpitalna 1 is well known for playing host to famous producers and DJs from Poland and throughout Europe, who will guarantee sets with top-notch music. Inside of the venue, there’s ample space to dance as well as a relatively large area for sitting. Its bar serves a typical assortment of Polish vodka, beer, and cocktails.
If you want to experience a proper dose of Polish culture, visiting Klub Spolem should be at the top of your list. There is no shortage of excellent underground party establishments in Kraków, Poland. That said, Klub Spolem will more than likely provide you with the most fun.
Located in Old Town Kraków, only a few minutes’ walk from Main Market Square, the communist-inspired cellar pub Klub Spolem has both an eclectic mix of well-priced drinks as well as a neat and lively atmosphere. The establishment is covered with fixtures influenced by Poland’s historic links to communism.
Like many of the underground pubs in Kraków, Poland, Klub Spolem is a multi-roomed space with a dance floor and unconventional seating arrangements for resting your tired legs. Inside the venue, there’s actually a van from the communist era which acts as a DJ booth where popular Polish, American and European rock hits from the 60s through the 80s are played.
Klub Spolem is reflective of the way in which the Polish people prefer to relax and enjoy themselves – with lots of smiles, dancing, and drinking.
Culture and Architecture
Wawel Royal Castle
Many consider Wawel Royal Castle to be the spiritual heart of the Polish nation. During the 16th century, Wawel Castle served as the cultural and political nucleus of Poland. Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Hill represent the most historically and culturally significant sites in all of Poland. In fact, in 1978, they were both declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the Historic Center of Kraków.
Wawel Royal Castle remains a potent symbol of Polish national identity. The opulent Gothic castle that you see today has an architectural style from the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. For hundreds of years, Wawel Royal Castle has served as the place residence for the various kings of Poland.
Today, Wawel Royal Castle is one of the country’s premier art museums. It is comprised of five curatorial sections: Lost Wawel, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury and Armoury, and the Exhibition of Oriental Art, which include collections of Italian Renaissance paintings, sculptures, prints, textiles and other pieces
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica, also known as Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven, is an imposing brick Gothic church alongside Kraków, Poland’s Main Market Square. St. Mary’s Basilica was constructed in the 14th century and can easily be spotted by its two towers that overlook the square.
Each hour of every day, a trumpet signal – called “Hejnal Mariacki” – is played from the very top of the taller of the two towers. The song abruptly breaks off midway through to celebrate the renowned 13th-century trumpeter who was shot and killed while sounding the alarm just prior to a Mongol attack on the city.
The interior of the St. Mary’s Basilica is absolutely stunning. The church is illuminated by brilliantly elegant stained-glass windows that date back to the late 14th century.
Contained within St. Mary’s Basilica is Poland’s largest and most prized piece of medieval art – the pentaptych, an altarpiece crafted by Veit Stoss. The piece reportedly took a decade for Veit Stoss to complete. Standing at 42 feet tall and 36 meters wide, it’s the largest Gothic altarpiece in the entire world.
10 Resorts in Hawaii That Everyone Should Try
Planning a vacation to Hawaii? There’s a reason why it’s such a popular vacation destination.
Each island has its unique beauty – lush green mountain tops, oceanfront views, and volcanos. The culture is fascinating, the food is delicious, the weather is great, and the shopping scene is bustling.
Now to pick somewhere to stay.
If you’re looking for the right place to lodge, look no further than this list. We’ll break down the best destinations in Hawaii. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly vacation or a romantic getaway, we have you covered.
Look them over and pick your favorite:
1. Fairmont Orchid Hawaii
Fairmont Orchid Hawaii hugs Kahala Coast on the Big Island. This stunning property offers a wide variety of activities. Guests can play volleyball in the sand, visit a golf course next door, rent a poolside or beachside cabana, or take a culture hike.
Their Spa Without Walls offers massages near waterfalls or in lush gardens. If you’re feeling indoorsy, you can always head to one of their saunas or steam rooms. All of their 500 rooms have lanais (roofed porches) with an ocean view, marble tubs, and 42-inch flat-screen TVs.
Their Brown’s Deli offers house-made pizza, salads, and sandwiches. And their Kahiki bar offers drinks just a few steps away from the ocean.
Location: 1 North Kaniku Drive, Kohala Coast, HI 96743
2. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
This ultimate resort sits on the Kona-Kohala coast and offers incredible luxury accommodations. Two-story bungalows with guest rooms are decorated with Hawaiian inspired art and decor. They offer rooms with beautiful views of the ocean and suites that have private outdoor showers.
Guests can take advantage of their concierge services, which can arrange an outing to explore Hawaii’s volcanoes or a round of golf on the prestigious Hualalai Golf Course.
The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai offers guests unique experiences with nature. You can tour their Herb Garden, where a chef helps guests catch shrimp. You can learn how salt was harvested by Hawaiians in the past on a Salt Harvesting Experience. Or take advantage of the Hawaii Island Coffee Experience, where you tour a coffee farm and end with a coffee tasting
Location: 72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
3. Hotel Wailea
Hotel Wailea is the perfect location for romantic getaways. Their entire property was created with exclusivity and privacy in mind. They have over 70 luxury suites spaced apart next to the ocean. Each suite has oceanfront lanais and comes with plush bathrobes, deep soaking tubs, and luxury linens.
Their fun activities were created with couples in mind. For example, the hotel offers a map with X’s, which guests use to explore the island’s best spots for beaches, sea turtles, and snorkeling. Their restaurant, The Treehouse, offers private dinners in a secluded bungalow surrounded by fruit trees.
Hotel Wailea is the perfect place for a honeymoon.
Location: 555 Kaukahi Street, Wailea, Maui, HI 96753
4. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
You could spend a month at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and every day would look different. Nearby you can go horseback riding, explore waterfalls, visit local beaches, tee off at one of two championship golf courses, and even get a tour on a helicopter. You can go scuba diving, take fishing trips, enjoy a sunset cruise, and have the staff organize a luau.
If you want to go all out, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua offers Club Level access. This gives you access to a private lounge, where hors d’oeuvres, light snacks, and beverages are offered throughout the day. Club Level access also comes with a concierge dedicated to your needs. These extra services and amenities make the Club Level an upgrade on top of an already ultimate getaway.
Location: 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, HI 96761
5. Turtle Bay Resort
Turtle Bay Resort sits on Oahu’s North Shore and offers a wide range of unique services and activities. Guests can head to Turtle Bay Spa for seaweed body wraps or aromatherapy immersion. Guests can take advantage of wave therapy, which is a massage table that rocks gently and feels like you’re floating in water.
Guests have the opportunity to kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, take surfing lessons, and enjoy a helicopter tour. You can also swim underwater with the mythical sea turtles that are famous in the North Shore. If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can always go for a massage on the beach.
Not far away, guests can practice their swing at two premier golf courses. Turtle Bay Resort has miles of beautiful beaches lined with palm trees. Their coastline receives powerful waves making it an ideal place to go surfing.
Location: 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, HI 96731
6. Disney Aulani
Disney lives up to its reputation again with this ultimate family-friendly getaway. Disney Aulani offers fun activities for kids and relaxing alternatives for parents. Families can hit their amazing beach or one of their three pools. You can drift down their Lazy River while kids play around in their Splash Zone.
Inside their Laniwai Spa, you will find mineral pools, family treatments, vitality pools, and a hydrotherapy garden. There are plenty of eating options, including a cafe, a shaved ice hut, a snack stop, a pool bar, and a beachside restaurant that offers modern Hawaiian cuisine.
Location: 92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707
Halekulani incorporates serenity and elegance into all they do. Their spacious rooms offer ocean views and are shaded gray, which gives them a sense of sophistication. Their Waikiki spa combines modern products and techniques with local therapeutic rituals.
Their “For You, Everything” program gives guests access to cultural and fine arts events on the island. You can visit Bishop Museum, which displays artifacts from Hawaii’s royal family as well as ancient Hawaiian items. The program also grants guests access to the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, the Iolani Palace, and the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Location: 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
8. Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort
Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort sits on Kauai’s south shore and has over 100 rooms. This is the perfect getaway if you’re looking to stay physically active on your vacation.
Close-by is the Poipu beach center where guests can snorkel, paddleboard, surf, and kayak. Their staff offers various lessons and rentals. Guests can also explore Old Koloa Town, play a round of golf, or go for a cliff-top hike.
If you’d rather stay indoors, the resort has a saltwater pool with a poolside bar and grill, a fitness center, and a full-service spa. All rooms have amazing views of gardens or the ocean, and have outdoor spaces and balconies.
The restaurant Red Salt offers fresh seafood and a sushi bar on some nights. The Red Salt has an ocean view lined with palm trees and pampers guests with breakfast dishes like lemon-pineapple souffle pancakes.
Location: 2251 Poipu Road Koloa, HI 96756
9. The Royal Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian is located in the capital city of Honolulu, on the famous Waikiki Beach. It’s known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific for its beautiful color and structure. They have over 500 rooms and three towers.
Guests are treated like royalty, receiving a Hawaiian garland upon arrival. The Royal Hawaiian offers massages in a tropical garden at their Abhasa Spa. Every night, live entertainment is provided at the Mai Tai Bar. Guests can even order pastries and morning coffee in bed.
The resort offers many interesting activities such as lei-making and a Hawaiian sunrise ceremony.
Location: 2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
The Andaz Maui sits on Wailea Beach, giving guests access to a white sand experience. This oceanfront resort has over 300 rooms, each with a lanai overlooking an ocean or garden. If you want an upgrade, look into their villas, which come with a private tropical garden, a gourmet Miele kitchen, and an outdoor Viking Grill.
Their Ka’ana Kitchen offers farm-to-table Maui dishes ideal for a family outing. Couples can take advantage of a customized six-course meal paired with wine in an open-air style kitchen.
You can start the morning at Bumbye Beach Bar, where you can lounge in the lagoon pool, sipping on cool cocktails. In the evening, check out Lehua Lounge, which offers delicacies and cocktails next to crystal clear waterfalls.
Location: 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, HI 96753
How to Choose
There are a lot of great options to choose from, so how do you pick? The question you should ask yourself is: what do you want to get out of your visit?
If you’re interested in exploring the local culture and art, consider going to Halekulani, which offers a program for access to museums and events. If you want to stay active on your vacation, check out Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort, which offers a wide range of activities to keep you busy.
Then you have to consider who you’re bringing along. If you’re taking the whole family, consider going to Disney Aulani. They crafted their property and activities with children in mind.
But if you and your significant other are looking for a romantic getaway, then Hotel Wailea could be the choice for you. They tailored their secluded property and activities specifically for couples.
After thinking through your decision, pick your favorite spot, and then happy vacationing!
A Wind Spirit Cruise to Idyllic French Polynesia
If you are looking to chill on a cruise, Wind Spirit Cruise is the cruise to be! With its “destination discovery” events on tiny, private islands ranging from beach parties to feasts followed by fire-walking performances, its French Polynesian-style parties rival the best its competitors have to offer! Read on to find out more reasons to board the Wind Spirit cruise from Travel writer Richard Carroll.
A Wind Spirit Cruise to Idyllic French Polynesia
Viewed from the streets of downtown Papeete, gateway to French Polynesia, the towering four masts of the 148-guest Wind Spirit sailing yacht loom skyward, gleaming white in the dappled light, reaching toward low-hanging fickle clouds that debate whether to shower the city with a cooling tropical squall or tussle with the sun.
The gorgeous four-decked yacht, built in 1988 in Le Havre, France, and her crew of 95 are anxious to share the joys of French Polynesia: the world-renowned splendor of the Society Islands, the deep-blue sky and ever-changing sea, the colorful life teeming below the surface of the mighty South Pacific, and unsurpassed, the Polynesian people, blessed with the softer side of life, whose faces are flushed by the fresh Tahitian air.
For seven memorable days the Wind Spirit sails on ancient sea trails where once Polynesians navigated by following the stars. While the lights of Papeete fade in the mist, she eases across the waves toward Moorea with her sails unfurled to catch a strong breeze under a slow-arching sun as large-winged sea birds wheel by, skimming the surface of the rippling ocean.
Cook’s Bay is engulfed by a stunning display of 20 shades of brilliant tints covering a crazy circular Moorean landscape, making it seem as if the Polynesian Volcanic King in one of his humorous, carefree moods placed jagged steep-sided peaks, ridges and large boulder outcroppings helter-skelter in a jigsaw design to confuse the ever-drifting clouds looking for a peak on which to drape themselves.
A few buildings are scattered along the bayfront as the sun casts long dark shadow on the peaks and ridges beyond. The turquoise-hued bay blends with the surrounding emerald-green volcanic landscape like the palette of a capricious master painter who is deep into his cups. At anchor in the center of a blown-out volcano, the yacht drifts with the current as an islander and his lady paddle by in a low-slung canoe. Muscles are flexing since canoeing is a key competition sport between the Tahitian islands and Hawaii.
The Wind Spirit promises a casual dress code, a creative chef, an ocean view in all staterooms and no annoying cabin announcements — creating an absolutely stress-free experience. Anywhere on deck the view makes a new, vivid memory. Guests are encouraged to get their feet wet and experience a wonderland via drift snorkeling and diving among spectacular coral gardens. On land, there is pleasure in the lilt of the Polynesian language, where the word “hurry” is never heard and “Polynesian time” means “whenever.”
Taha’a, the second port of call, encircled by a reef and numerous islets or motus, is home to 6,000 Polynesians. Here the sweet smell of vanilla permeates the breeze because the island proudly produces 80 percent of all French Polynesian vanilla.
Guests travel the island in an open-air jeep/truck on a beautifully maintained cement road through palm groves and past coves where small boats lie at anchor and islanders are preparing coconuts for market.
The island is sparkling clean with no graffiti and little traffic, the ocean changes colors in tandem with the clouds and the welcome bouquet of vanilla scents the air. With little tourism, the world shrinks to the island’s sensibility and the everyday glory of nature in all its grandeur. The only caveat offered, “Watch for falling coconuts.”
Raiatea, the spiritual center of Polynesia, is devoid of nightclubs (the mayor is Mormon). With 45 churches, a dearth of beaches and a safe distance from the tourist trail, the island has a profoundly easygoing rhythm enhanced by the dramatic volcanic slopes, lagoons and greenery, and the resonance of crowing roosters.
A serious competition between the east and west coasts of the island over which is the most attractive is ongoing. No trash is found on either, weeds are not allowed and flowers are held in high esteem. Regardless, the folks on both coasts of this 65-square-mile island say, “We teach our kids to fish with bamboo poles and if they get lost, follow the rainbow to find your way home.”
The captain pulls anchor in a choppy sea and turns the bow toward Bora Bora while dinner is served on deck under the stars. The crew’s spontaneous line-dancing follows, while the huge sails catch a robust wind. The night’s sail brings the Wind Star to the trendy island of Bora Bora, almost entirely encircled by a reef and dotted with large upscale hotels along with slow-moving traffic. The renowned Bloody Mary’s restaurant/bar favored by wide-ranging celebrities offers guests the chance to check their sandals and shoes at the door and let the sand tickle their toes. Later in the day a catamaran carries cruisers to a small Bora Bora motu appearing on the horizon like a green gumdrop for a Polynesian dinner bordered by tall lava peaks and coral gardens.
Huahine, the last port of call, undeveloped and left alone in time, offers cultural walks to sacred sites. The one-street town of Fare has a single small market and one or two residents with portable stands selling fruit, shell necklaces and bracelets. A lady in a clothing boutique said, “When the French arrived we were naked. Now we go to the beach wearing clothes and the French are naked!”
Back in Papeete a guest departing the Wind Star whispers with a soft sigh, “The cruise and islands are far better than any postcard.”
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: www.windstarcruises.com
Watch this video for a tour of Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit Cruise Ship.
Richard Carroll is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM
Dare To Explore The Colorful Town Of Curacao
If you are a cultural-enthusiast and a language lover, a visit to this authentic and cosmopolitan Carribean Island, Curacao would undoubtedly be a dream come true for you! Colorful visually and culturally, this picturesque town is a paradise! Read on to find out more about Curacao as our Travel Writer Victor Block colors in, stories of the beautiful island of Curacao.
Deserted Beaches, Colorful Towns Await Visitors to Curacao
I knew that the Caribbean island of Curacao was unfamiliar to many Americans, but the flight attendant’s words still caught me by surprise. Announcing our destination, she stumbled over the pronunciation and admitted, “I don’t know how to say the name of that island.”
Maybe the name — pronounced cure-a-sow — is a turnoff. Perhaps sun-seekers prefer other islands with more magnificent beaches. But the relatively few vacationers from the United States who visit Curacao are richly rewarded.
Begin with the island’s intriguing history and rich cultural tapestry. Add some of the best diving and snorkeling anywhere. Throw in an architectural gem of a mini-city that combines tropical touches with European flair.
After checking out a number of beaches, I concluded that they deserve a better reputation. After all, how many do you need during a stay of a week or two? The 35-plus on Curacao include both broad expanses and tiny swatches perched in little coves protected by craggy cliffs.
Knip Bay fronts two beaches, Grote (Big) Knip and Kleine (Little) Knip. Both offer soft white sand and shade provided by large trees. The Playa Lagun, tucked in a small inlet, shelters fishing boats whose owners return to clean their catch at a small stand.
Grote and Kleine Knip are not the only places on Curacao to have Dutch names, as the island’s history and culture are closely entwined with what today is the Netherlands. Spanish explorers landed in 1499 seeking gold and other treasure. Finding none, they included Curacao on their country’s list of islas inutiles (“useless islands”).
The Dutch came next. Attracted by Curacao’s deep-water port, they took over the island in the early 17th century, and it became a colony of the Dutch West India Co. That launched Curacao’s long tradition as an important trading center. In addition to bringing wealth to the island, trade was responsible for attracting immigrants from around the world. The result is an ethnic melting pot that today includes people of more than 50 nationalities.
Some Dutch settlers built stately plantation homes, and a number of these landhuizen (land houses) now serve as restaurants, art galleries and museums. It’s worth visiting at least one to recapture that period of Curacao’s history.
The island’s history also may be explored in other ways. The obvious starting point is Willemstad, the storybook capital that combines an intriguing past with architectural treasures. Many buildings feature a tropical adaptation of 17th-century Dutch design, adorned with fanciful gables, arcades and columns. Adding color is a virtual fruit salad of peach, raspberry and other pastel hues in which many structures are painted.
That chromatic explosion is attributed to a governor-general of the island who suffered headaches that he blamed on the glare of white paint. In 1817 he decreed that henceforth only pastel colors could be used. According to some accounts, the fact that he owned a paint factory in Holland also contributed to his decision.
The Technicolor setting of Willemstad is best seen on foot. The two main neighborhoods, Punda and Otrabanda, are linked by the Queen Emma Bridge, one of three spans named by the Dutch after monarchs.
A “floating market” nestles close to the Queen Juliana Bridge. Because Curacao has an arid climate, much fresh produce is transported from nearby Venezuela in small wooden boats. The fruit, vegetables, fish and other items are sold from stands on the dock where the vessels are moored.
The Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which was built in 1732, is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. Sand on the floor is said to symbolize the wandering of Israelites in the desert during the Exodus. A small museum displays scrolls, Bibles and other religious objects.
Other little museums are gems in terms of their collections. The Curacao Museum provides an overview of the island’s lifestyles and customs. The Maritime Museum traces more than 500 years of Curacao’s seagoing history, with maps dating back as far as 1666.
A collection at the Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village focuses upon the predominant cultures of Curacao and their African roots. It is ironic that the museum occupies the site of a former slave merchant’s home and courtyard, where men, women and children once we sold to the highest bidder.
The most moving display is a full-size replica of the hold of a ship that captures the horrors of how African slaves were transported from their homeland to their new lives. People were crowded onto wood platforms where they could hardly stand, much less sit, during the grueling ocean voyage.
It doesn’t take long after leaving Willemstad to encounter a very different environment. Much of the surrounding landscape is barren and dry, the victim of sparse rainfall. In places the terrain more closely resembles a moonscape than a Caribbean island.
Christoffel Park is a green oasis in the stark landscape that is laced with pleasant hiking trails. Countless small lizards and an occasional iguana slither across the path to greet hikers.
I followed a stroll there with a refreshing dip in the sea. The beach from which I swam was pleasant and, unlike many on other Caribbean islands, virtually deserted — something good to be said for Curacao’s low profile as an inviting Caribbean vacation destination.
WHEN YOU GO
- For more information call the Curacao Tourist Board at 800-328-7222 or visit www.curacao.com.
For more of the Colorful Town of Curacao, watch this video of Travelista Teri:
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM
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