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Wednesday, July 17: Day 86 – Jagiellonian University

Poland has a dark history and complex past. From 1795 to 1918, it didn’t even exist. James Michener did exhaustive historical research and left a week before Marshall Law of 1981 was declared. If he were still alive, there would be an epic sequel.

Krakow is the oldest town in Poland starting in 966 where Boleslaw I got all the pagans to unite under Christianity.

We walked through the Barbican (the word is Turkish) which is a round building at the main gate in the moat. This gate has bragging rights of never having been breeched…but many places on other parts of the wall were breeched!!

One defender, after exhausting his ammunition, even used his button to shoot and kill a Russian general from the Barbican. He is famous in Poland.

Machicolations are holes at the foot of the city walls to throw rocks or pour oil. (I thought they were for water drainage.) This is a cousin to the murder hole which is located above a doorway or in the ceiling.

At the end of Communism, there were only fifteen restaurants in the whole city.

In September 1992, Number 16 opened.

This was a VERY big deal. Poland had finally joined the West. They served 45,000 customers in the first week. People came from all over to have their picture taken in front of it. (I get that. When my hometown of Garden City, KS, got a McDonald’s, we were a real city because McDonald’s came to town.)


The Cloth Market was a high end “mall” in the middle of the huge Market Square. Lots of trading took place here since the 1300s because all roads passed through Krakow. I thought that this small sculpture was interesting since the guide referred to it as our “Little Louvre”. I was the only one that laughed.

Here is a picture of Rob, the apple of my eye.

Jagiellonian University is where Copernicus went to college. They have records of full payment received but there is no record of his graduation. College dropout?? He certainly used these astronomy instruments dating to his time here at the college.

During WWII, all of the professors were rounded up and sent off to concentration camps. There was a public outcry as their only crime was being a Pole and having a doctorate degree. After many international pleas, they were released after about one year. However, several had died. It is a shame that the Nazis didn’t read and abide by the words of the University: More Reason Than Force

John Paul II began college here his studies were interrupted by WW II. He subsequently received a master’s and PhD. During the war he worked manual labor, most notably in a quarry. John Paul became a priest in 1946. I wondered about his experiences as Pole living through WWII. Even though it doesn’t touch on his early life, a recommended book about his life in the Vatican is highly recommended. You had better borrow it from the library as it is almost two hundred dollars on Amazon. He Liked Tuesdays Best.

Jagiellonian University is the oldest university in Poland and began in 1362 with three disciplines all which had to be approved by the pope: law, medicine, and philosophy. Soon after, theology, mathematics and astronomy followed. No women were allowed.

The oldest building is called Collegium Maius. It was originally the library but now houses an incredible museum with over 2000 scientific artifacts: microscopes, telescopes, and helioscopes to observe the sun indirectly.

Each case housed amazing artifacts: Nobel Prize medals, slide rules, weights and measures (ever heard of a scrupel?), art, tapestries, even Chopin’s piano.

Originally, globes were made of the sky. The oldest terrestrial globe called Nuremberg was made in 1492 and only shows 3 continents. (It is in a Berlin museum.)

The Jagiellonian Globe is the oldest globe showing America. It is a very small globe. One could hold it in their hand and I wouldn’t use it to study geography. Brazil next to Japan? America is where Antarctica is located??

Oldest Globe showing the Americas

By the middle of the 17th century, science had grown into more hands-on pursuits rather than text memorization.

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