Friday, July 5, 2013

See Krakow and die

This phrase many of my fellow countrymen and -women cite when the name of the Polish city is mentioned. The expression is a corruption of the Italian proverb: Vedi Napoli e poi muori! When he visited Naples in 1787 during his Italian Journey our national poet made it into a German dictum: Neapel sehen und dann sterben. According to Goethe Neapolitans are so much impressed by the beauty and flair of their place that even a couple of Vesuvii nearby will not bring them to leave their city.

Our group with  a model of the Wawel in front and the real Wawel in the back.
I admit that the word Krakow does not put a gleam into my eyes. Also my second visit did not impress me beyond of what I feel for other historical places. Krakow was not destroyed in the Second World War but while its building stock remained intact I noticed a strong westernizing of the city between my first visit in October 2010 and today. The shop where I once bought the famous Krakow sausage had given up to make room for one of those many fashion label boutiques you will find in any major city around the globe. However most of the sights did not change so I do not hesitate to show some of the photos I took during my first visit in particular because this time the weather was dark, cold, and rainy.

One person you will meet all over the place is Karol Vojtyla better known as Pope Jan Pawel II. He was educated in Krakow where he worked as a priest and archbishop before he was elected pope in 1978. Many, even Catholics, criticize Karol Vojtyla's conservatism but they admit that his stubbornness in questions of faith gave a final blow to the communist bloc. Today I learned that Pope John Paul II will be canonized this year.

Vojtyla greeting the visitor from a window.

Young Pawel's pew in the Dominican church.

The highlight of a trip to Krakow is a visit to the Wawel, the former royal palace.

At the entrance of the Wawel a statue of Jan Pawel II

View of the Wawel in the rain.
The inner court

A cultural highlight is exhibited at the Wawel.

Governor Frank's seat, his addition to the Wawel in Nazi style.
Since this time my trip to Krakow was a political one our group visited Schindler's factory known from the movie Schindler's List.

Schindler's factory
The place now is a museum with an exhibition about the German occupation of Krakow as the capital of the Generalgouvernement with some reference to and a nostalgic touch of the Austrian rule before the First World War. This period generally referred to in Europe as the Golden Age was nonetheless a time of oppression and Germanization for the Polish inhabitants.

Governor Frank's proclamation.

Winter pleasures in occupied Krakow.

Schindler's desk.

Schindler's products.
Schindler's radio.

Young Vojtyla in occupied Krakow

On the other hand, the Golden Age was the time of a relatively untroubled Jewish community living in their quarter Kazimierz. Nine synagogues bear witness to their rich religious and cultural life.

Kazimierz today. Our group stayed in the Ester Hotel.
During the Nazi rule the quarter was surrounded by a wall and made into a ghetto.

Entrance to the Jewish ghetto
with the infamous streetcar number 3 running through.

The old (stara) synagogue just across from our hotel.

Another Krakow highlight is the bugler blowing his horn every hour in wind and rain
from the steeple of St Mary's Church. You can barely discern his trumpet at the open window.

Goodbye Krakow.

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