Cracow – the treasury of world heritage
Built by many generations of artists living in the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau times, fortunate to survive unscathed the ravages of war, Cracow never fails to attract and amaze millions of tourists. It enchants them with its original historical monuments and works of art. It brings crowds to a variety of concerts and festivals, not to mention the magical atmosphere of its cafés and jazz clubs.
Overlooking the city is Wawel Hill, the beating heart of Poland. There proudly stands the Renaissance Royal Castle, housing a collection of countless objects of art and the famous tapestries. The Wawel Cathedral, where Polish kings were crowned and buried, is also the national Pantheon the burial place for many eminent artists and national leaders.
Not far from Wawel Hill is Kazimierz, the area once inhabited by the largest Jewish community in Europe. Today, Kazimierz hosts concerts and exhibitions that display Jewish traditions. Each year in Kazimierz there is a Jewish Culture Festival, featuring artists from all over the world. The many cafés, exotic and quaint, are never empty. In one of them, traditional Jewish dishes are served on Singer sewing machine table tops.
The Main Market Square the largest European society salon occupies the central part of the Cracow Old Town. Here, languages from all over the world can be heard. The Cracovian hejnal, an hourly bugle call, is played from the tower of St Mary’s Church. The Gothic church, rather austere on the outside, has a very richly ornamented interior with a masterpiece of Gothic art: the high altar carved in wood by Wit Stwosz. In the very centre of the Market Square is the Cloth Hall, the oldest commercial centre in Poland. Here, you can buy souvenirs and folk art products. On the upper floor, you can visit the Gallery of 19th century Polish Painting. The Market Square frequently hosts various parades and performances. On New Year’s Eve thousands of people come here to have a good time and dance under the stars! There are plenty of cafés and restaurants around the Market Square, each in a different style.
There are also theatres and art galleries. Basements built in Gothic style create a very special ambience, suitable for jazz clubs and cabarets. Before Christmas, the annual Szopka (Nativity scenes) competition and exhibition is held on the main square. This tradition known as the Cracovian Szopka contest dates back to the time of St Francis.
Only five minutes’ walk separates the Main Market Square from the Collegium Maius, the oldest building of the Jagiellonian University established in 1364.
Both the University and the Old Town are surrounded by the green Planty, a park arranged on the site of the former defensive city walls, with memorials, statues and garden sculptures.
The Cracovian hejnal breaks off abruptly in midbar. Legend links it to the Tatar invasions, when the watchman who spotted the enemy sounded the alarm. A Tatar arrow pierced his throat in midphrase. The tune has stayed like this thereafter. Today the hejnal marks the hours for the revellers and those in pensive mood. It sounds best at dawn, when the head is "...dazzled with wine and eternity..."
There are annual events held in Cracow: the Beethoven Music Festival, Festival of ShortFilms, Festival of Street Theatre and the Music in Old Cracow International Festival. They all are highly regarded internationally and have the aura of Cracovian style about them.
But what makes the Cracovian style? To find out, visit the Jama Michalika café with its Art Nouveau decorations, Parisian ambience, the smells of the Viennese breakfasts and the typical Cracovian discussions about art, poetry and women.