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Krakow (aka Cracow) is a Vistula River cruise port and Poland's 2nd largest city with population over 760,000 (metro around 1,73 million). One of the country's oldest cities, Krakow dates back to the 7th century. It has traditionally been among the leading centres of Polish cultural, artistic and academic life and is one of the most important economic hubs in the country.
Krakow was the capital of the Crown of Kingdom of Poland (1038-1569); Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795); Free City of Krakow (1815-1846); Grand Duchy of Cracow (1846-1918); and Krakow Voivodeship from 14th century until 1998. It has also been the capital city of Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999.
Krakow has grown from Stone Age settlement to the 2nd most important city in Poland. It emerged as a hamlet on top of Wawel Hill and in 965 was already being reported as a bustling trading centre of Slavonic Europe. After the establishment of new cultural venues and universities at the emergence of Second Polish Republic (1918) and throughout 20th century, Krakow reaffirmed its important role as a major national artistic and academic centre. The city has a total area of 326.8 km2 (126.2 ml2) and a population of around 760,000 people, with approximately 8 million additional inhabitants living within a 100 km (62 ml) radius of Krakow's main square.
After Poland's invasion at the start of WWII, Krakow became the capital city of Germany's General Government. City's Jewish population was forced into a walled zone (Krakow Ghetto), from which people were sent to German extermination camps like nearby Auschwitz never to return, and Nazi concentration camps like Płaszow.
In 1978, Krakow's archbishop, Karol Wojtyła, was elevated to papacy as Pope John Paul II. He was the first Slavic pope ever, as well as the first pope who was not Italian in 455 years. The same year UNESCO approved the first sites for its new World Heritage List, which included the entire Old Town in Cracow's Historic Centre. Krakow is classified as Gamma-global city by GaWC and cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, as well as one of the world's most unique destinations. Its cultural heritage across the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture epochs includes Wawel Cathedral and Royal Castle on the banks of Vistula river, Saints Peter and Paul Church, St.Mary's Basilica, and the largest European medieval market square, Rynek Główny. Krakow is home to one of the world's oldest universities, Jagiellonian University, and traditionally the most reputable institution of higher learning in Poland.
In 2000, Krakow was named European Capital of Culture. The city was officially approved as UNESCO City of Literature in 2013. In July 2016, Krakow hosted the World Youth Day.
Krakow cruise terminal
Next photo shows Wawel Castle, near which is located the quay where most river cruise ships dock.
The castle is in central Kraków. It was built during Casimir III the Great (1310-1370 and consists of a several buildings around a main courtyard. The castle, one of Poland's largest and is an UNESCO Site since 1978.