Rynek Underground Museum

7th Sep 2019

podziemia

If you've already visited every famous place on the surface, it is high time to dig deeper into the history of Krakow.

There is still something worth a visit, despite being hidden 5 metres beneath your feet. The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow presents an underground tourist route – an archaeological park established in 2010. Next to Wawel Royal Castle, Cloth Hall and Mariacki Basilica, the Underground Market is the most significant tourist attraction of Krakow for visitors from all over the world. Under the eastern side of the Market Square plate, there is the underground museum with total area of over 6000 square metres.

The Rynek Underground presents a permanent as well as temporary exhibitions. The first one, titled 'Following the traces of European identity of Krakow', is a multimedia time travel which enables us to move to medieval Krakow, whose intrinsic feature was trade. Right from the beginning of the tour, visitors are greeted with the sounds of traders bargaining in different languages, which evokes the atmosphere of medieval marketplace. No wonder - you are in Krakow! You can strain your ears and try to hear your mother tongue or maybe discern the English of Shakespeare's times. In the next step of the route, numerous objects make it possible for you to imagine daily life in Krakow of a few centuries ago. Reconstructions and remains of the oldest secular buildings of the city, historical farms and houses, stalls, water mains, tombs, stone roads and city walls as well as 14th-century tools and coins are a great wealth of this place. What's more, you can touch the real cloth that residents of Krakow used to wear back in the day. It is truly impressive how the museum managed to combine the old times atmosphere with new technology at the highest level. Films presenting the scenes from the past, light effects and even holograms accompany visitors on every step of their journey.

As its guests say themselves, this place proves that museum doesn't have to mean boredom. To visit, you only have to buy the ticket in the Cloth Hall. The museum offers free admission on Tuesdays. 😀

The Słowacki Theatre

29th Aug 2019

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The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow (Polish: Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego w Krakowie), built between 1891-1893 on Holy Ghost Square in place of the former Holy Ghost Church, ranks among the most precious relics of a theatre architecture in Europe.

The building, designed by Jan Zawiejski, is maintained in an eclectic style with the emphasis on Neo-Baroque. This 19th-century theatre-opera house was the first construction in Krakow, where electric lighting was installed. Originally, the theatre was called Municipal Theatre (Teatr Miejski) and only in 1909 it was named after Polish poet Juliusz Słowacki. The main facade is decorated with an inscription: Kraków Narodowej Sztuce - which means - Krakow For the National Arts. The interiors of the building are painted with frescoes by the Viennese artist Anton Tuch and embellished with a splendid curtain by Henryk Siemiradzki. The official opening of the new theatre was held on October 21, 1893 at midday and from that moment this place has been operating continuously. At the first spectacle, fragments of Mickiewicz, Słowacki and Fredro were presented. During the next five weeks only Polish repertoire was staged.

The choice of location for the Słowacki Theatre was not without heated arguments. Finally, after many disputes, the Holy Ghost Square was chosen, which resulted in demolishing of many historic buildings. The Holy Ghost Church and other architectural landmarks of this area were strongly defended by Jan Matejko himself. When his protests appeared to be fruitless, the artist renounced the honorary citizenship of Krakow city and forbade to exhibit his paintings in Krakow.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre was at its boom times. It was none other than Polish national playwright Stanisław Wyspiański who determined the unique position of this place. This great artist blessed with genius for poetry, painting, as well as stage designing, presented at the Municipal Theatre the majority of his works. The premiere of his 'Wesele' ('The Wedding') on 16 March 1901 is one of the most significant events in the history of Polish culture. In the interwar period, Słowacki Theatre managed to keep its high position, despite being among the greatest theatres of independent Poland such as these of Warsaw, Lviv and Vilnius. In 1921 the most prominent representative of Polish Avant-Garde of 20th century – Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) - made his debut here. The premiere of his grotesque and full of absurd drama 'Tumor Mózgowicz' resulted in few compliments and the wave of criticism. Just before the outbreak of the World War II, Słowacki Theatre paid its respects to the free Fatherland with a patriotic spectacle of A Hymn to Polish Arms by L.H. Morstin, performed in the Wawel courtyard. After the war started in the autumn of 1939, the staff of the theatre was soon forced to leave the edifice. For the following five years the building housed a German theatre which was the object of Hitler's propaganda. The theatre reopened for Polish audience in February 1945. In 1980, shortly after the Polish Pope Jan Paweł II was elected for the Holy See, the Słowacki Theatre staged the world premiere of Karol Wojtyła's drama 'Our God's Brother' ('Brat naszego Boga'), which attracted great interest.

The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow is recognized also as 'Krakow Salon' which gathers all honourable celebrants on occasions of anniversary parties of scholars and artists from different countries. What's more, the theatre regularly hosts international and domestic medical conferences. In 2016 Stanisław Wyspiański was chosen a spiritual guardian of this place. Nothing strange about that - it would be difficult to find more suitable patron, whom the theatre owes so much. Wyspiański's idea of searching for deeper meaning, turning back this place, Krakow and the whole Poland from mediocrity and conformity keeps inspiring.

(Źródło - Strona Główna Teatru)

Piwnica pod Baranami

18th Aug 2019

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Piwnica pod Baranami is a cult cafe, famous drink bar, jazz club and, first of all, premises of the most popular literary cabaret in Poland! The Piwnica pod Baranami (E. The Basement under the Rams), which is the name of the cabaret too, was established in 1956 by Piotr Skrzynecki and a few other students of Krakow universities. Located in the basement of 'Pod Baranami' palace at the Main Market Square in Krakow, Piwnica Pod Baranami served as the most renowned political cabaret in the country, until the end of the communism era.

With the only break between 1962-1964, Piwnica still keeps functioning. At first, it was supposed to be a gathering place for Krakow students, under the name of Klub Młodzieży Twóczej. Soon, this student club turned into a cabaret and its first performance was presented on 16 December 1956. The performances of Piwnica pod Baranami involved different texts, from the Holy Bible and philosophical treatise to press releases and manuals. Scenography was made of unanimated objects, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp. Costumes consisted of incomplete clothes, wigs and hats. During the show, banknotes and rags were thrown from the stage and the audience was pelted with chopped cabbage! On the stage of Piwnica pod Baranami professional actors and artists connected with Piwnica gave their performances, as well as special guests, who often were amateurs. Piwnica referred to Dadaism and surrealism.

At the turn of 50s and 60s, Piwnica pod Baranami became a really popular place. At the end of 50s, it was the centre of jazz music in Poland and many great Polish musicians like Tomasz Stańko started to give their concerts there. With time, the entourage of the cabaret was made up with other famous Polish artists and intellectuals including actors: Anna Dymna, Jan Nowicki, poets and writers: Czesław Miłosz, Sławomir Mrożek, Agnieszka Osiecka,Jacek Kaczmarski, director: Andrzej Wajda, and musicians: Marek Grechuta and Grzegorz Turnau. Piwnica freguently gave guest performances, i.a. in Cologne, Paris and Vienna.

Over the years the crucial figure of Piwnica Pod Baranami was its founder Piotr Skrzynecki. Skrzynecki was the embodiment of the underground style and one of the most important personality of Krakow, in 1994 he was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Krakow. After he died (1997), Society of Friends of Piwnica pod Baranami decided that Piwnica should continue to operate and they didn't stop performing. Today, Piwnica is one of the greatest cabarets in Poland. After almost fifty years of activity, the eccentric artists of Piwnica became iconic and the style of the cabaret functions in colloquial language as 'styl piwniczny' (the underground style).

Szeroka Street

2nd Aug 2019

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Szeroka Street couldn't be called in any other way, since it is the widest street of Krakow (and 'szeroka' means wide in English). The street resembles rather a rectangular square, so that it was previously called Wielka Streat (E. Great Street). Jews started to live in Szeroka Street as a result of a decree of King Jan Olbracht from 1495 which required from Jewish people to leave Krakow and settle on Kazimierz district (see: THE ORIGIN OF JEWS IN KRAKOW). Cracovian Jews moved to the area of former Bawół village, whose centre was Szeroka Street and where the lives of inhabitants were focused.

The evidence for the importance of Szeroka Street for residents of Kazimierz is the fact that four different synagogues have been located there, which was unique on the European scale. At the turn of 15th and 16th century, the first synagogue called 'Old' was built. Old Synagogue is not only the oldest synagogue in Krakow but also within the whole territory of Poland. The second synagogue in Szeroka Street – Remu – has been established in 1557 next to already existing Remu cemetery which is known from the famous Wailing Wall, resembling the one in Jerusalem. In 1620 in Szeroka 16 the third, Wolf Popper Synagogue was built. Before II World War, just behind Old Synagogue there was the fourth synagogue called 'Na górce' (E. 'on a little hill'). In fact, it just housed prayer rooms and small mikveh in the basements. What's more, on the other side of the street - Szeroka 6, there is a monumental building of ritual bathhouse, called Great Mikveh. Mikveh existed on Kazimierz from 1567 for the needs of Jewish community in Krakow. Nowadays it has been rebuilt and it is available for visitors.

Entering Szeroka from the side of Miodowa Street, you have a rare opportunity to go back in time. Old shutters, displays and signboards, where you can read the names of former owners like Nowak, Holcer, Kac, Weinberg or Kohan, evoke the atmosphere of those days. The interiors of shops and workshops have been furnished in old style and hotels and restaurants try to hark back to Jewish tradition. Despite the fact that Szeroka Street is no longer Jewish property and the synagogues are closed, it is not uncommon to meet there some orthodox Jews who are following the footsteps of their ancestors.

Szeroka Street can be recognised in some scenes of famous Steven Spielberg's film - 'Schindler's List' – where it played Zgody Square of Krakow's ghetto, known today as Plac Bohaterow Getta (E. Ghetto Heroes Square). Finally, Szeroka is really famous for the final show of annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow – Szalom in Szeroka - which is held there on every June from 1996. Within 10 days of the festival, over 150 artists present modern music and the event gathers more than 30 000 viewers from all over the world.

The Man Who Spoke But Was Not Listened

10th Jul 2019

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Wandering about Szeroka Street of Krakow Jewish Quarter, it is impossible not to stumble across a unique statue located in the heart of this place, right ahead of Remuh Synagogue. Being the work of the local artist Karol Badyna, the statue presents an old, smart man sitting on the bench with his legs crossed. The man is a Polish-Jewish hero, Jan Karski himself.

Jan Karski was a legendary courier of Polish Underground State during II World War. This glorious emissary, putting his life in danger, got across the Warsaw Ghetto to prove to the Western world the truth about the Holocaust. In 1942 Karski informed the Allies about the mass extermination of Jews in Poland. For that reason, he is known as 'the man who tried to stop the Holocaust'.

For his courageous activity, Jan Karski was awarded with the highest decoration in Poland – the Order of the White Eagle. In addition, he was honoured by Yad Vashem with the titles of the Righteous Among the Nations and the honorary citizen of Israel.

The bronze statue of Jan Karski located in Krakow was unveiled on January 26, 2016 and it is the most recent of the Jan Karski Benches' series. The remaining benches, created by the same artist, are situated i.a. in Warsaw, Washington, New York and Tel Awiw. As the author emphasizes himself, Karski memorial bench in Krakow is different from the others – it is characterized by drama of those days. When we take a closer look at details, we'll notice that the bench is in the shape of imprinted bodies – this is the symbol of absence and emptiness after these people who used to live there not very long ago. In this way the statue brings associations with the Holocaust. However, despite being so popular, Karski memorial bench meets with opposition from the closest family of the deceased courier.

'History does not want to be a story. History still lives among us.'

The Origin of Jews in Krakow

1st Jul 2019

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Kazimierz district is one of the most popular locations in Krakow. Its uniqueness results from the fact that this place for centuries used to be a home for two diverse communities of Jews and Christians. The first mention about Jews in Krakow can be found in Master Kadłubek's chronicle. The Jewish society appeared here in the middle of 14th century They were an autonomous society, being under the authority of the King only. Before World War II Krakow was inhabited by over 64 000 Jewish people, which posed 25% of all residents of Krakow. So how did it happen that Jews came up in Krakow?

Jewish people used to fled from persecution from the Middle Ages. From the end of 11th century Christians, expelled Jews from their cities and towns, accusing them for crucifixion of Christ. These operations took place as a part of the Crusades. As a result, Jewish people escaped eastward and southward, i.a. to Poland. Poland became destination of Jewish community also because Polish lands were underpopulated areas, which attracted settlers from the whole Europe. Being experts from business, Jews grew rich on providing the interest-bearing credit called usury, which they were exclusive to. Despite the fact, that this practise was strictly dispraised by Christianity and Islam, both townsfolk, nobility, clergy, and even Polish monarchs, including King Ludwik Węgierski, Queen Jadwiga, King Władysław II Jagiełło and King Kazimierz IV Jagiellończyk, took out credit from them.

Because of their continuous movement from one place to another, Jewish people were blamed for bubonic plague spreading and further persecuted. However, Polish King Kazimierz the Great did not allow for persecution of the Jews in Poland. Here they could feel safe, which resulted in increase of their immigration to Poland. There is even the famous Jewish religious song which started with words: ‘’Oh Poland, royal land, where we've been living happily for ages…’’. In the times, when Spain used to force Jews to convert to Catholicism or they were burned at the stake, in Poland some Jewish people could even receive a knighthood. The Jews - as well as nobility, clergy, the middle class and peasantry – posed a separate estate. Their main occupation was running inns in villages and engaging in usury in towns. This is incorrect to link King Kazimierz the Great with bringing Jewish people to Krakow. The followers of Judaism coexisted with local Christians for over 200 years before his kingship and it was the Duke Bolesław the Pious who in 1264 provided them with freedom of religion, trade and settlement, under the Statute of Kalisz. The King Kazimierz only sustained these privileges and extended them to the whole country, which helped him to be remembered as an especially favourable to Jewish people.

Unfortunately, at night from 29 to 30 April 1494 in Krakow there was a terrible fire which gutted a significant part of the city, including the Jewish district. The responsibility for this incident was put on Jewish community, which had its consequences in plundering and destroying their lands. As a result, by virtue of a decree of king Jan Olbracht from 1495 which required the Jews to leave the city, Cracovian Jews started to move to the area of former Bawół village, whose centre was Szeroka Street. The Jews of Krakow, Bohemia and Moravia region as well as the Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal settled on this area, which resulted in creation of Jewish town on Kazimierz district, called Oppidum Judaeorum. This part of Kazimierz was separated from the rest with walls, according to existing rules. It is necessarily to mention, that creating the Jewish district, resembling ghettos, had no association with any acts of intolerance then. Separating Jewish territories was a common practice adopted in the whole Europe in that moment. In this way, from the beginning of 17th century, Szeroka Street became a centre of Jewish town. It served as marketplace which gathered around the citizens' lives.