Cracow - Poland's cultural capital 1. part

by Lars Haagen Petersen

Cracow is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It's an ancient city in southern Poland near the Slovakian border. Cracow which lies near the river Vistula (Wisla) has about 750.000 citizens and is the third largest city in Poland.

The river Vistula and the St. Stanislaus church  (Kosciól na Skalce) – November 2010

Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic centres.
The city has grown to Poland's second most important city. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic center.


After the invasion of Poland by Germany at the start of World War II, Kraków was turned into the capital of Germany's General Government and Hans Frank, became the Nazi Governor-General of the region. The Jewish population of the city was moved into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and the concentration camp at Płaszów.

The Gothic towers of St. Mary's Basilica - November 2010

St. Mary's Basilica is a Brick Gothic style church located next to the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland. The church was built in the 14th century and its foundations date back to the early 13th century, serving as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture. It is 80 m high and is particularly famous for its wooden altar carved by Veit Stoss. Some of its monumental polychrome murals were designed by Poland's leading history painter, Jan Matejko (1898-1891). In 1978, it entered the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the historic center of Kraków.

Every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a trumpet signal - called "Hejnał mariacki" - is played from the top of Saint Mary's tallest tower. The plaintive tune is played to commemorate a famous 13th-century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before a Mongol attack on the city.

Saint Mary's Basilica also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were later built, e.g. abroad, especially churches such as Saint Michael's and Saint John Cantius in Chicago, are designed in the Polish cathedral style.

The famous Polish brewery Zywiec has brewed beer since 1856, but is now owned primarily by shareholders behind the Dutch brewery Heineken - November 2010.

Pope John Poul II poster  – November 2010


In 1978—the same year UNESCO placed Kraków on the list of World Heritage the archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years and the first ever Slavic pope.

Rynek Główny - Igor Mitoraj's sculpture – October 2010

Rynek Główny is a spacious marked square in the city centre surrounded by historical townhouses, palaces and churches. The centre of the square is dominated by the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall). On one side of the Sukiennice is the town hall tower, on the other the Church of St. Wojciech (St. Adalbert's) and Adam Mickiewicz Monument. Rising above the square are the Gothic towers of St. Mary's Basilica.

Rynek Główny November 2010

The picture down under is taken

inside the Sukiennice

The picture to the left is from

Rynek Główny

The center of the square is

dominated by the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall).

The picture to the right is a flower "shop" near the Sukiennice

The pictures are from the city centre - Rynek Główny - November 2010

From Planty park - November 2010

Planty Park is one of the largest city parks in Kraków and surrounds the Stare Miasto (Old Town), where the medieval city walls used to stand until the early 19th century. The park has an area of 21 ha and a length of 4 km. It consists of a chain of thirty smaller gardens designed in varied styles and adorned with numerous monuments and fountains. There are over twenty statues of noble historical figures in the park, including monuments to Nicolaus Copernicus, Jan Matejko, Queen Jadwiga and King Wladyslaw II Jagiello.

The park forms a scenic and popular footpath, which in the summer is surrounded by stalls of all kinds, which at the same time is a cool and shady refuge from the nearby busy streets. Most of the historic sites of Old Kraków are located within the Planty park belt along the Royal Road, which crosses the park from the medieval suburb of Kleparz - through the Florian Gate - at the northern flank of the old city walls.

The historic Wawel Castle on Wawel Hill, adjacent to the river Vistula, forms the southernmost border of Planty. The greenbelt was established in place of the medieval walls between 1822-1830 as part of the urban development projects to preserve the concept of a "garden city".

Planty park area lies like a green oasis all around the old part of the city and protects against the noisy traffic from the outside world - November 2010.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the expanding city had begun to grow beyond the boundaries of the old defensive walls. The walls were in disrepair due to lack of maintenance after the partitions of Poland. As a result, Emperor Franz I of Austria-Hungary ordered the demolition of the old fortifications.

Click on the 3 pictures to enlarge them.


From Planty park - November 2010



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