Krakow #3: Kazimierz District

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December 22nd 2019
Published: May 23rd 2020
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I had two walking tours booked for today. The first was one was in the Kazimierz, which was the historically Jewish part of the city. The tour was about the Jewish history of the area. It took me quite a while to walk to the meeting point for the tour, maybe 30-40 minutes. I didn't mind though as I got to explore a different part of Krakow. I liked walking along the streets, there were a lot of restaurants featuring cuisines from different countries and ethnicities, and some shops that looked appealing. I think if i return to Krakow, I would like to stay in this area. I got a bit lost finding the starting point of the tour as the signposting on the streets wasn't great and I took a wrong turn. I managed to right myself and reach the starting point before the tour started. The group was small, there were only 6 of us on the tour, which I think was a good number.

The tour started at the Old Synagogue on Szeroka Street. The synagogue was originally built in the 15th century, although there is some discrepancy over when as two different dates are flouted. It was then rebuilt in the 16th century by the Italian architect Mateo Gucci, borrowing styles from military architecture. Other reconstruction work happened in the early 20th century and the synagogue was one of the most important landmarks of Jewish architecture in Europe. During the invasion of the Nazis, the synagogue was looted and wrecked, and then used as a warehouse. In the 1950s, the synagogue was renovated and turned into a museum. I really liked the style of the synagogue as it was different to others I had seen. Behind us was Dzielnica Żydowska (Jewish Square), which was a lovely looking square lined with restaurants and bars. It is also known as Sezroka Street. It was the hub of Jewish commercial and religious life from the 15th to 19th centuries. We headed into the Jewish bookstore, which was interesting to look around. I liked the posters that were on the wall upstairs. The bookshop is housed in the former Wolf Popper Synagogue. Before World War II, it was one of the grandest houses of prayer in the Kazimierz District. We also saw Remu Synagogue, which is one of the oldest synagogues in Krakow. From here, we wandered through the streets of the Kazimierz, I really liked the neighbourhood, it was quite quaint and quiet.

We came to the Jewish Community Centre, which I was surprised to find out had been opened by Prince Charles. It was interesting to hear the Jewish community in Krakow is growing after the decimation of the people through the Nazi regime and also, to a lesser extent, the Communist regime. From here, we wandered to a small courtyard, which I think houses an art gallery and maybe a small synagogue, my memory is a little hazy. The space was really cute and the buildings in the back part were crying out for some rejuvenation. There were also some black and white photos on the wall to show what the area looked like in the past. It really makes me wish that time travel was possible as I would love to go back and visit different places at different times in history. Our next stop was Plac Nowy, which is the old market area. There is still a market in the circular building in the centre of the square and a flea market set up on small stalls around it. Our guide told us that he used to live in the area, but as it has become more popular in recent years, the rents have gone up an a lot of people have moved out of the area. It was also interesting to hear about people coming to reclaim their families' old homes that had been taken from them either during the war or during the time of Communism. A short walk away was the Corpus Christi Basilica, which dates back to the 15th century. We had time for a quick look around the churches interior, which was very ornate. From there, we headed down to Father Bernatek's Bridge. This bridge spans the Vistula River connecting the Kazimierz and Podgorze districts. The bridge was completed in 2010 and honours Father Bernatek, a Cracovian monk, who founded the Bonifrater Hospital in Krakow. The bridge is really interesting to look at as it has many sculptures of gymnasts doing different movements with different props along it. The bridge has also fallen to the curse of padlocks, with people attaching them to show their undying/everlasting love for their partners.

We took a short break in an art museum just across the river. Not that we saw any of the museum as we were just there to use the toilets and free wifi, and to warm up a bit. From here, we entered the Krakow Ghetto. We headed down to Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square). The square was erected in the late 1830s as a second market square for the Podgorze district and since 1880 it was known as Maly Rynek (Little Market). When Podgorze was incorporation into Krakow proper in 1915, the square was renamed Plac Zgody (Concord Square) in 1917. The square's present name was given to it in 1948 to commemorate the Polish Jews who lost their lives in the Krakow Ghetto between 1941 and 1943. This square was the centre of the Krakow ghetto. Now the square has a memorial to those who lost their lives. There are 33 empty chairs each one symbolises 1,000 lives lost. It is just heartbreaking to think of all those people who perished. At the far end of the square, there is the Eagle Pharmacy, this was ran by the only non-Jewish inhabitant of the Krakow Ghetto, Tadeusz Pankiewicz. He aided the Jews that lived there and now the pharmacy is a museum, which I would have liked to have visited. The tour finished by Oskar Schindler's enamel factory. Schindler was immortalised in the film 'Schindler's List' for saving the lives of 1,200 Jewish people that worked at his factory. You generally have to book well in advance to take a tour of the museum, which I hadn't done, so I had to add that to my list of things to do if/when I return to Krakow. I had to content myself with looking at the pictures of the people that were saved on the outside of the museum.

After the tour, I decided to get some lunch as I was feeling pretty hungry. I wandered the streets, retracing my steps, looking for a place I liked the look of. I didn't have to wander too far as I found a cute little cafe/restaurant right next to the market square we'd been to earlier on the tour. The restaurant had the imaginative name of Restauracja Polska (Polish Restuarant), not that it bothered me as since it was my last day in Poland I wanted some traditional food. There were a few things that looked good on the menu and I made a mental note to leave room for dessert. I ordered a beef stew/goulash, which was served on potato cakes. It was so good, I really, really enjoyed it. I will definitely look out for it on a return trip to Poland. The stew was rich and meaty and the potato cakes were crispy. I love cheesecake and hadn't had one in Poland, so I was eager to try how good the local one was. It didn't disappoint, it was delicious, creamy and sweet served with cream, ice cream and a berry coulis.

While I was in the Kazimierz District, there was a museum that I wanted to visit that was close by. The Ethnographic Museum is located in the 15th former Town Hall, which had been converted into a Renaissance style building in the 16th century. It was free to enter the museum, I'm not sure if it is always free or if it is only on Sundays. The museum isn't massive, but is spread out over a few floors. I spent an hour or so looking around the place. It was also quiet, which is always a bonus. The museum displays what life was like in Poland in the past. I especially liked the old style classroom. I also like the pictures on the walls and those of what I took to be the former royal family. Upstairs, there was lots of the different traditional regional costumes on display. I wished that there was more information about these in English as it would have been interesting to learn about the different designs and styles that are used in different villages and how they came about. There was also an art exhibition on the top floor, which was interesting to look around.

After leaving the museum, I headed back towards to the Old Town as I had booked the evening 'Macabre Krakow' tour. I was shocked at how busy it was when I arrived at the meeting point. There were about thirty plus people on the tour. The guide was super chill though and said sh'ed had bigger tours and basically warned me never to visit at Easter as the place is overrun with tourists. We spent about an hour and a half walking around the Old Town, stopping at different points, mainly in front of churches, with the guide telling us some tales about the city's darker history. The guide was a good storyteller and had quite dramatic, in a good way, that made the tour both fun and informative. I would love to wander the streets late at night, when it is quieter and think about the ghosts that haunt the city.

After the tour, I still had quite a bit of time to kill until my bus later that evening. Since I was close to Market Square, I headed back there to get another oscypek wrapped in bacon. It's probably a good job that I only discovered these fairly late into my trip as I would have probably needed a separate budget to buy them everyday. It was a little slice of heaven and I wish they were widely available all over the world. I also went to one of the Belgian fries stalls to have a small cone of them, they were nice, but not amazing. Then I headed to Starbucks for a coffee and to read for a bit. The Starbucks close pretty early here, so I headed back to the hostel to chill until it was time to head to the bus station for my night bud to Lviv. The bus station was a bit ghetto, and my bus wasn't on the departure board so a lot of people were really confused, me included. So we all just waited at the Flixbus platform and it turned up pretty much on time. The bus was full and I resigned myself to a night of no sleep.

Additional photos below
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Beef Stew Beef Stew
Beef Stew

Polish Restaurant

Polish Restaurant

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