The still medieval Krakow Poland!

Let me bring you up to a wonderful find in Europe. I was taken away by some friends on a business conference to be held in a city never been before. I took this advantage with little expense on my part and went alone. It was a pleasant surprise finding another jewel in the vastness of our Europe.

This is Krakow or Cracovie in French, in Poland the eastern reaches of the European Union. The trip went well and nice memories of it still lingered, I might be back in October again if all goes well.

Krakow has a variety of architecture from Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance a reason for its recognition. All the more so, that during WWII, it remained intact.  Capital of the Lesser Poland , it is located 300 km south of Warsaw, on the Vistula river. Dating from the 7C, it is one of the oldest and most important cities in Poland, whose architectural heritage is very well preserved. The historic city is located at the foot of the Wawel Hill. Krakow was, before Warsaw, the capital of the Poland and is often considered the true center of the country with its traditions and over 1 000 years old history. It is the cultural and scientific center of the country, with the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, the second oldest university in central Europe (1364); that of Warsaw dates from 1816. Karol Wojtyła was Bishop and then Archbishop of Krakow, before becoming Pope in 1978, the first non-Italian pope for 455 years.

Brief on transports:  There is a large tramway  network connecting the majority of the districts with the city center and complemented by a bus network. This set is managed by the SIKiTL . A large part of the historical center of the city was transformed into a pedestrian zone leaving a place for horse carriages, cyclo-cabs and electric vehicles destined for the visit of the city.  The central station  (Dworzec Główny) is located just outside the old town. It forms an ensemble with the bus station, served by numerous regular bus lines, local, regional, national or International. The airport Jean-Paul II is located 11 km west of the center of the city,and the one I used as the rest walking is superb. There is a STR Special train shuttles from the central station serving the airport in 15 minutes.

A bit of history I like:

According to the earliest testimony that has been reached , of the Bishop of Krakow, Vincent Kadlubek, who lived from the late 12C to the beginning of the 13C, an imaginary ruler, Krakus (or Krak), founded the city of Krakow on the hill of the Wawel above the Dragon’s Den (the Dragon of the Wawel of the name of the cliff that dominates the Vistula) that he had just killed. This legendary king, Krakus, gave his name to the city of Krakow. The first historical writings show the Slavs settling on the banks of the Vistula in the 8C. The history of Krakow begins before the creation of the Polish State, as the capital of the people of Vislanes. It indicates that the prince of the Vislanes was baptized. It is possible that Krakow was a vassal, ally or even part of Great Moravia, then a vector of Christianity in the region. The Legend of the dragon, reminiscent of that of Saint George, could be a reminder of the abandonment of paganism. When Great Moravia was destroyed by the Hungarians, Krakow was administered by the Kings of Bohemia.

Bolesław the Valiant, first king of Poland, was crowned in Krakow in 1025. In 1038, Krakow became the capital of Poland. From 1072, Saint Stanislas, patron saint of Poland, is Bishop of the city. The Kings of Poland resided in the city of Krakow from 1305 to 1595, and where they were crowned. In 1364, King Casimir III of Poland (Casimir the Great) founded the Cracow Academy (current Jagiellonian University; the second oldest university in Central Europe.  Poland has to face the power cravings of its neighbouring countries, Prussia and Russia having views of this territory. Tadeusz Kościuszko launches a last insurgency movement from Krakow to try to maintain the independence of Poland but this ends in a failure and in 1795, the country is divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria that inherits from Krakow ( Incorporated in the province of Galicia).  The year 1809 brings the liberation to Krakow which is integrated into the Duchy of Warsaw. Between 1815 and 1846, it became a “Free City” (Free City of Krakow) with limited sovereignty. In 1846, after a new attempt at rebellion, Krakow passed under the direct control of the Austrian Empire. After the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Austria granted autonomy to the Galician Province in exchange for Polish loyalty. Krakow is once again a national symbol.

During WWI, the Krakow troops fought alongside the central empires with Germany and Austria in order to achieve greater autonomy, following a promise made jointly on 5 November 1916. In September 1939, Krakow fell into the hands of the Nazi Wehrmacht following the sharing agreement between Hitler and Stalin in Poland. It became the capital of the occupied Polish Territories not integrated into the Reich, the general government.  The district of Kazimierz is currently experiencing a strong tourism revival, mainly due to the success of the film by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s list, made on the spot. The filmmaker’s work highlights the role of a German industrialist who saved hundreds of lives by working in his factory of Jews promised to a certain death. With the Ghetto pharmacist, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, he was given the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” of the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Too bad the Gulag effect on Poland are hardly mention and the suffering under Communism.  Visitors now go to the scene of the filming and discover restaurants, cafes and bookstores drawing from the Jewish past of the city a original theme. The Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow is the largest event of its kind in the world in a community without local Jewish population.

Things to see that  like are:

The parks are great even if no time to see all of them, the best are Krakowski Park, Jordan Park ,and Błonia Park. There is a great number of Religious buildings such as 48 Catholic churches, 10 millenarian churches, 8 Protestant temples, 5 Buddhist temples, and 48 Orthodox temples, so says the city.

The Royal Castle designed in Italian Renaissance architecture, and the St. Stanislas and Wenceslas Cathedral Basilica of Krakow on the Wawel Hill where King John III Sobieski is buried. The old medieval town (Stare Miasto in Polish) with its large square (Rynek Główny, the largest medieval square in Europe, lined with colorful mansions of the 14C and 15C in the middle of which is the Sukiennice , a hall filled with small Souvenir shops. The floor of this Hall with portraits contains a museum of paintings and sculptures of the 19C of very good quality. On the east side of the Square thrones the Basilica of Santa Maria and the statue of Adam Mickiewicz; since September 2010, under the slab of the square, you can visit a new interactive museum that talks about the Krakow of the Middle Ages.

Krakow

As said , dozens of old churches and museums such as the  Jagiellonian University dating from the 14C; Kazimierz, the historical center of the Religious and social life of the Jews of Krakow. The old Theater ,and the National Museum of KrakowCzartoryski Museum (Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt), the Bunker Sztuki museum on modern Art; Contemporary arts museum of Krakow , inaugurated in 2011. Polish Aviation Museum, and the Oskar Shindler museum.

Krakow

There you go wonderful Krakow, some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourism on Krakow

Poland tourism on Krakow

It is indeed worth a detour while in this part of the world. Enjoy the re post,now with a bit more on the history I like.

And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!

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2 Comments to “The still medieval Krakow Poland!”

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