Elvis Presley Monument

5th Feb 2020


While wandering about Skałki Twardowskiego city park in Zakrzówek district or relaxing by Zakrzówek Lagoon, it is worth to explore a bit more of this area to stumble upon a beautiful monument of Elvis Presley.

Walking down along Pietrusińskiego street towards Skałki, you will soon realize that you find yourself in Elvis Presley Avenue which has existed in Kraków since 2005. It is quite extraordinary, since Kraków is the only place apart from Memphis with the Elvis Avenue like that. Being 300 metres long, the alley leads to the spot where the monument devoted to the Rock'n'Roll king is located.

Revealed on June 2005 on the Music Days of Kraków, the statue was erected to commemorate the life of the legend. However, the location for it was not chosen at random. Skałki Twardowskiego is where Polish fans of Elvis used to gather in the 70. The initiative of renaming the avenue after Elvis Presley was undertaken by various organisations, such as Polish Association of Extracurricular Interests, Royal Elvis Club 'Good Luck Charm' and Organizing Committee 'Elvis Presley's Avenue'. It was believed that the talent of the King needs to be remembered and his attributes, such as hard work, selflessness and kindness towards people should serve as a role model. On every anniversary of his death, Presley's fans continue to meet by the statue to recall his legend and perform his songs.

Elvis Presley is the icon of popular culture and the owner of one of the most recognizable voices of all time. The King of Rock'n'Roll is famous for performing country music, rhythm and blues as well as gospel for which he won three Grammy Awards. His romantic ballads rapidly won hearts and minds of audience all over the world.

The Rock'n'Roll king died on August 16, 1977 at his mansion in Memphis, being only 42. In the last years of his life, Presley suffered from depression, was resigned and discouraged from music. He was increasingly getting fat and used to abuse his organism by taking alternately sleeping pills and stimulating drugs. The direct reason for the death of Elvis was a cardiac arrest. To this day the residence of the King remains a destination of people who keep believing that Elvis Presley is still alive

Wieliczka Salt Mine

14th Feb 2020


Wieliczka Salt Mine is a real gem of the southern Poland and a must see tourist attraction while staying in Kraków. The numbers speak for themselves - in 2018 the salt mine was visited by almost 1,75 million people from over 170 countries, which is a new record of this place.

Clearly, fame of Wieliczka grows from year to year and tourists are not intimidated by the 800 steps which they need to climb during their adventure. Everyone wants to see the salt deposits which were formed about 13,6 million years ago. The underground Tourist Route was created at the turn of 18th and 19th centuries and continued to be expanded over the years. Spread over nine levels, the mine has 245 km of tunnels, but only 2% of the labyrinth was made available for tourists, who cover the distance of about 3 km. Going down into the depth of 135 meters, they can admire wonderful salt sculptures, underground saline lakes and visit 20 magnificent chambers, including the most impressive Chapel of St. Kinga. Being the most remarkable chamber on the route, it astonishes with its size, crystal chandeliers hanging over visitors’ heads and biblical scenes presented on the walls.

According to a local legend, the emergence of salt in Wieliczka town is due to a Hungarian Princess Kinga, who lived in 13th century. Having married the Duke of Kraków Bolesław Wstydliwy, Kinga was gifted by her father with a mine located nearby Marmarosz town. Unable to take her marriage gift with her to Poland, she dropped into one of the mine shaft her engagement ring. On arrival to Kraków, Kinga ordered the miners, who were brought with her to Kraków, to dig in the ground in search for her jewel. In this way the miners came across the first lump of rock salt in Poland with Kinga's ring inside it. It has been believed that this ring brought salt from Hungary to Poland and for this reason Kinga has been recognized as one of the patrons of miners.

But there is also more realistic way of explaining the discovery of salt mines on Polish land. In the distant past, during the neolithic period, salt used to be extracted from local springs through heating their salty water, so-called brine, in small clay pots. In fact, Wieliczka is the place where the oldest vessels in Central Europe designed for salt extraction was excavated. This valuable competence of salt acquiring was passed down for generations - this art was extremely appreciated as salt was essential for preservation of meat and fish. However, at the turn of 11th and 12th centuries, surface salty waters began to dry up and there was an urgent need to seek for brine underground. As a result, they started to construct wells. When such a well was successfully dug, salt water was drawn and heated just like before. One time while digging such a well, the first blocks of rock salt were found. This accidental discovery of 13th century revolutionized the method of salt extraction forever. Within the same century the first mine shaft was hollowed out.

The development of salt industry in the area of Wieliczka town falls within a period of Kazimir the Great reign. It is important to mention that the incomes from salt excavations in Wieliczka constituted even 1/3 of all the incomes the royal treasury. The huge profits from salt mining made it possible for the king to found the first higher educational institution in Poland – the Krakow Academy. At the end of the Middle Ages, about 300-350 miners were employed in Wieliczka Salt Mine and even 7-8 tonnes of salt were produced there every year. The salt mine began to grow in popularity and therefore the first visitors were allowed to visit the underground city. It was recorded that the very first guest of the mine was Nicolaus Copernicus, who, in all likelihood, paid a visit there in 1493. Until 18th century salt in Wieliczka was acquired not only from salt blocks but also from brine. It was only in 1724 when salt evaporation was abandoned and mining methods were used exclusively. The number of tourists were constantly increasing and Wieliczka became recognizable on the map of Europe, being more often mentioned in European literature and appreciated by various great researchers and travellers.

The year 1978 proved to be a breakthrough for the reputation of the mine in the world, because this is when Wieliczka was included into the World Cultural and Natural Heritage UNESCO List. In 1996 a decision was made to cease production of salt in Wieliczka Nevertheless, there are still several hundred miners who work underground every day and make sure that the mine is a safe place for tourists. In addition, they still improve this place – renovate historic chambers and expand the tourist route – to keep it in good condition for next generations and attractive for the tourists. And it surely is: salt cauliflowers on the walls, stories of mine ghosts and numerous multimedia presentations highlight the beauty of Wieliczka Salt Mine and encourage to explore the mysteries of this underground world.

KL Płaszów

28th Feb 2020


Kraków has been recognized as a historic, cultural and university city on the map of the world. It is hard to believe that only a few kilometers from the Old Town of Kraków there was a concentration camp, where thousands of prisoners of different nationalities were being unjustly imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis during World War II.

KL Płaszów was a Nazi German Labour Camp for Jewish people, created in October 1942 in Kraków-Płaszów, which later became a concentration camp. It was located on the site of the pre-war Jewish cemeteries from 1887 and 1932, which were devastated for this purpose, and occupied the area between Wielicka and Swoszowicka streets. As other concentration camps, Płaszów was guarded by barbed wire and numerous watchtowers as well as SS soldiers. On January 1944 this labour camp was transferred into Płaszów Concentration Camp.

Originally intended for 4,000 Jews from Krakow Ghetto, which was liquidated on March 1943, in the peak period of 1944 the camp was inhabited by even 25,000 prisoners. Both Poles and Jews were imprisoned there, but they lived in separate sectors. There were about 1,000 Polish prisoners until August 1944 but this number grew rapidly after the Warsaw Rising. However, the majority of the prisoners were Jewish people. They worked very hard in a quarry, owned by the trade company Liban&Ehrenpreis. Apart from that, they were employed in sewing uniforms for SS soldiers and printing various documents and orders of Nazi regime, at vehicle workshops, carpentries, blacksmith's shops and stables. Sometimes prisoners worked outside the camp, in sub-camps located by large production plants. One of them was a nearby Enamel Factory of Oscar Schindler known from the famous movie of Steven Spielberg Schindler's List.

One of the ways to start the visit in the Płaszów camp is from the 'grey house' at Jerozolimska Street. The grey house was built in the 1920s as a house for cemetery's workers. During existence of the camp, it housed the office of the Camp Commandant Amon Goeth but also other camp's SS officers such as Hujar, Zdrojewski, Landsdorfer, Ekert and Glaser used to reside there. In addition, the cellar of the building served as a camp prison, where the soldiers used to torture the camp's prisoners. The prisoners of Płaszów were well aware that once someone was imprisoned in this infamous torture chamber, they would never see him again. Unchanged since the war, the grey house holds communal flats today and there are plans to organize a memorial site there. While shooting the Schindler's List, the grey house was presented as a villa of Amon Goeth.

On February 1943 SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Goeth became a commander of the Płaszów camp. Through his behaviour towards prisoners, Goeth made himself a reputation as extremely cruel and merciless person, who was responsible for many executions. His aim was to set an example to his subordinates and teach them how to treat prisoners. Goeth used to work at the grey house, but he spent his private time at the villa located only a few metres further on Heltmana 22 Street. Commandant Amon Leopold Goeth was arrested on September 1944 by German authorities and charged with corruption and violating the regulations. Only after the war Goeth was imprisoned again by Americans and recognized as war criminal. Delivered to Poland, in 1946 he was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to death by hanging. The verdict was carried out on September 13, 1946 in Kraków. The last words of Goeth were: 'Heil Hitler!'

KL Plaszów claims many victims. Jews were killed there by means of starvation, beating, diseases, hard labour and executions. There are a few mass graves on the site of the camp with thousands of dead bodies. At the end of 1943 the authorities of the camp had planned to set up gas chambers and crematorium there but finally the ideas were not realized. They murdered the prisoners by shooting instead. The most popular place of execution was a 6-metre deep hole Hujowa Górka, named after the SS-man and executioner Albert Hujar. The exact number of victims of KL Płaszów is hard to state but it is estimated that during the period of the camp activity approximately 30,000 prisoners were murdered there.

Apart from that, a great number of Płaszów prisoners were being sent to Auschwitz. After liquidation of the camp, the last group of about 600 prisoners from Płaszow were sent on foot to Auschwitz Birkenau on January 14, 1945. To cover their crimes, Nazis forced the prisoners to dig out the bodies and burn them. Those prisoners who were able to walk were taken westwards – those who were to weak were shot in the camp. Around 2,000 people survived the evacuation from Płaszów. On January 18, 1945 KL Płaszów was taken over by the Red Army.

While following Schindler's traces, one should end the tour in front of the memorial to the Płaszów camp victims, which is visible from the distance. The monument was created in 1964 to commemorate all the victims murdered by Nazis in Płaszów Concentration Camp. Out of 225,000 Jews living in Kraków voivodeship before World War II, only 15,000 survived the Holocaust. The names of the survivors can be found at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warszawa.