Saturday, 12 April 2014

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Krakow

I’ve been to Krakow in the south of Poland a couple of times. The first time was on a general tour, when we saw the main tourist sites, particularly Krakow’s main square with its impressive Cloth Hall, and the dozens of cafes lining the square where you can sit and watch the world go by.

The hall is home to dozens of Polish craft stalls (along with the usual tourist souvenirs, of course) and is a riot of colour with Polish costumes and hand-made jewellery.

The walking tour of the city took us into the old town, and to Wavel Castle above the River Vistula.

On this visit, we went to the nearby Wielicza salt mines where there were some amazing salt sculptures and carved reliefs, including this one of the Last Supper.

We also enjoyed a traditional Polish evening with singing and dancing.

Our next visit was part of an historical tour, and the visit to Krakow concentrated on the story of Oskar Schindler, who saved several hundred Jewish workers by employing them in his factory.

We visited the factory and actually went up to his office. As we went up the stairs, I'm not sure whether my excitement was because Schindler himself had climbed those stairs, or whether it was because Liam Neeson had done so when they were filming the movie!

Our next stop was in what had been the Jewish ghetto, in the Podgorze district of the city. In May 1940, all the Jews in Krakow were forced to live in this walled area. Over 15,000 people were crammed into an area previously inhabited by 3,000 people. There were 320 residential buildings, and four Jewish families were forced to reside in apartments intended for one family.

It is somewhat ironic that the house in this photo was the home of Amon Goeth (later to be the commandant of the labour camp) and adjoined the ghetto, whose walls were made up of brick panels shaped like gravestones.
 
From 1942 onwards, deportations started to remove the ghetto inhabitants to concentration camps, and the final ‘liquidation’ of the ghetto took place in March 1943. 8,000 Jews, deemed fit for work, were sent to the Plaszow labour camp across the river. Nothing now remains of the camp (as it was completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1945 before the Russian army arrived there). The memorial to all the victims was erected in 1964.

The Kasimierz area of Krakow had been inhabited by the Jews from the Middle Ages until they were forced into the ghetto in 1940. In more recent years (i.e. since the 1980s) Jewish people have started to return to Kasimierz. Some old sites have been restored, and the area is now thriving again with Jewish restaurants, bars, bookstores, and other shops. A lot of Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s List, was filmed in this area.

10 comments:

  1. I so loved that movie. Poland has been so denigrated, but I have met a umber of Poles (mostly musicians), and they were wonderful people. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos of this historic city. (by the way--I really think you take some beautiful photos.) Thank you

    http://marypurpari.blogspot.com/2014/04/k-is-for-krazy-little-kitty.html

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    1. Many thanks, Mary. I thought the movie was amazing.

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  2. Among my favourite towns in Poland! I do like it a lot, lovely town indeed

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    1. Agree, Claudia. Lovely and fascinating town.

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  3. the craft stalls look lovely. Seems like a very quiet place

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    1. It's crowded in the centre around the Cloth Hall, Rajlakshmi, but not so much in the areas off the usual tourist track.

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  4. Beautiful colors in these pictures, Paula. So lovely.

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