Cracovia. Pasado y presente.
21 October, 2014
Krakow is the most touristic and historic city in Poland. In fact, the historic centre was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site because even the city was destroyed by the German army during the World War II, since the reconstruction of the historic quarter -known as Stare Miaso – started in 1950, trying to reconstruct it as close as possible to what it was originally.
The hearth of the city is Rynek Glówny, one of the biggest squares in Europe, always cheerful because of the street musicians and the tourists. By night, the gas lamps still light this place, projecting shadows on the walls of the buildings surrounding the square, from 14th and 15th century, giving this location an atmosphere both gloomy and romantic.
Nowadays, Krakow is a great destination for tourists but still remains all its past in order to have a promising future.
The old Jewish ghetto
It was not located in the current Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, but a bit further, in the Podgórze district. From the original, only parts of the wall remain, some of the streets and a memorial square to the heroes of the ghetto (Plac Bohaterów Getta) with big metal chairs that represent their stolen belongings when they arrived to the ghetto.
Krakow’s ghetto was founded in 1941 and as the Nazi genocide intensified, it began to be overpopulated and people died of hunger or diseases or, even worst, they were killed in the streets.
Nevertheless, stores were allowed to remain operative. Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the owner of the pharmacy Aquila (Apteka pod Orlem), had a significant role for the Jewish. The pharmacy was a valuable meeting point to smuggle with food, medicines and other valuable objects.
Because of that, Tadeusz Pankiewicz received a honourable mention from the state of Israel. In 2004, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg managed the restoration of the pharmacy, which is now part of the city History Museum, showing the murder of Jewish in the ghetto and what an important role the pharmacy had. Polanski, who escaped from the ghetto when he was a child, dedicated his Oscar award for The Pianist to Pankiewicz.
Another awarded movie made a factory near the ghetto very famous. The history of Oscar Schindler’s factory – which is now also a museum – appeared in the known movie by Steven Spielberg.
The exhibition at this factory, titled “Nazi occupation (1939-1945)” includes an exhibition, reconstructions, images, objects from that period and sounds that make the visit a vivid experience, experiencing what Polish experienced during the Nazi occupation.
Krakow Jewish neighbourhood
The Jewish neighbourhood Kazimierz, formed by one of the biggest Jewish communities in Europe before the World War II, is nowadays a charming and bohemian neighbourhood, with cheerful streets, odd stores and craft workshops, also with a great variety of restaurants serving Hebrew cuisine.
Here you can visit the Old Synagogue (the oldest in Poland), the Remuh Synagogue, next to the Jewish cemetery, or the spectacular Catholic churches of Saint Catherine or the c he Crypt at Skalka. As a curiosity, you should know that this is the place where Spielberg filmed his movie Schindler's List.
About 60 kilometres away of Krakow there is the sadly famous concentration camps Auschwitz I – first to be built - and Auschwitz II (or Birkenau), built after as an extermination camp.
You can get here easily by train or bus, leaving from the central station for trains and buses at Kraków Glówny, it takes about one hour and a half to get there.
The shameful significance of this place is because it is the largest concentration camp built during the Nazi regime and the largest extermination in history, over one million people where killed here. Nowadays, it remains as a memorial to prevent this atrocities to happen again and to not forget the atrocities that took place here.
Cracovia by FotoCavallo | Auschwitz by Gigatel Cyf Ltd. | Fábrica de Schindler by Noa Cafri | Barrio judio de Cracovia by Jakub Halun
A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.
21 October, 2014