Beyond the fairy-tale castle and the horse-drawn carriages, Krakow reveals a hipster side and a haunting past

Everything I’d heard about the beauty of central Krakow was true; if anything, it was undersold.

As clichéd as it sounds, the medieval center — the first recorded mention of it is from the 10th century — appears out of a fairy tale: turreted gates meticulously preserved; the art-filled, hilltop Wawel Castle; storefronts, churches and spires fronted by stone saints and angels; horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone streets; and a bugler, in a tower high above the main square, following a centuries-old tradition by playing a tune to mark the hour.

And yet — can I say this? — once the beauty wore off, I was a bit bored.

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled tourist, I’ve seen plenty of fairy-tale European towns. I hungered for grit.

I found it in Kazimierz, a neighborhood about 10 minutes on foot south of Krakow’s medieval center. Kazimierz is newer (well, 14th century) and used to be its own city back when rivers formed such boundaries. I returned over and over.

Read the rest of the story in the Los Angeles Times.