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June Events

2015-05-30

Corpus Christi procession with a vast crowd of the faithful led by Krakow archbishop is held this year on Thursday 19 June. It goes from the Wawel Cathedral to the Main Market Square.
Our Lord’s statue is carried to four street altars among a shower of flower petals scattered by young girls in white first communion or folk dresses. Traditionally four altars decorated with young trees and flowers are placed along the route of the procession. The first is placed by the church of St Giles, and the other three in the Main Square. A fragment of the Gospel is read out by each of the altars.
On the first Thursday after the Corpus Christi the Lajkonik Parade takes place. It is an old traditional Polish celebration that commemorates Poland's victory over the Tatars in 1241.
The main hero of this event is Lajkonik – a bearded fellow, dressed in oriental clothes and riding on an artificial horse. He always passes the traditional route from the imposing Norbertine Convent in the Zwierzyniec Quarter to the Main Market Square.
He is accompanied with colourful local folk bands and buskers. During his whole march which lasts around 6 hours, Lajkonik beats by mace every met passer-by for luck so do not avoid this merry man on your way!
Garlands (‘Wianki’) midsummer festival (now on Saturday 21 June) is one of the most picturesque events of the year in Krakow. In Krakow it has always started with girls floating wreaths of flowers and magic herbs with lit candles down the Vistula (Wisla) river. They were to keep evil spirits away, protect the maker from illnesses and guarantee a good marriage.
You can start your day with a breakfast on the the roof of the Tourist Information Centre by the banks of the Vistula! Polish, Oriental, Asian or Mexican cuisine, health food etc. will give you strength for the entire day!
Wianki it’s also a Fete de la Musique.- stages with classical music, folk, reggae, jazz, rock, singer-songwriter song and electronic music will be spread out across the city centre.
St. John’s Fair by the Czerwieński Boulevard held from June 20th to June 22nd offers the possibility of purchasing unique souvenirs and meeting the figures known from history books.
Master craftsmen and apprentices, musicians, courtiers, knights, merchants and warriors will come from distant lands and times.
The highlight of the day is a fireworks display upon the riverbank opposite the Royal Wawel Castle.
June ends with a famous Jewish Culture Festival in the former Jewish quarter of Kazimierz.
Exhibitions, lectures, workshops, book launches and even introductions to cuisine are held to explore and present different aspects of Judaism.
On the closing night there is a huge concert on Szeroka Street presenting klezmer and other traditional forms of Jewish folk music.
 

 

Polish traditinal Easter celebrations can sweep you off your feet!!

2015-04-01

Easter starts with the Palm Sunday commemorating Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The main attribute associated with that day are the palms but despite of the name they hardly resemble the real palm branches. Typically, they are bouquets of common box, dried flowers and willow twigs,moss, herbs, coloured feathers and ribbons. It is believed that a palm blessed at a mass has special properties as it can prevent diseases as well as bring wealth and bumper crops. A village of Lipnica Murowana is known for it's famous palm contest. Some of them reach even several metres high (36m!!)


Good Friday
The day of Christ’s death is a day of fasting and commemorating the Way of the Cross also called "Calvary". The most famous Calvary takes place in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (Zebrzydowska Calvary), a small town located only 40km away from Kraków. The Passion play - a theatrical depiction of the suffering and death of Christ attracts thousands of worshippers.
“Holy Sepulchres” are set up in churches. The installations of figures of Christ resting in grottos are rich in symbolism and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Apart from their religious significance, the tombs sometimes refer to Polish history, current events, and social issues. The most exceptional Sepulchres are presented in the Piar's Church, Franciscan's Church and Order of Capuchin Friars Minor Church in Kraków.


Holy Saturday
On Holy Saturday people bring baskets of their Easter food( „święconka” ) to church for a special blessing. The basket should contain at least seven kinds of food, each with its own symbolism. Bread, a symbol of Christ's body, ensures good fortune. Eggs stands for re-birth and life's victory over death. Dyed, painted, scrapped off eggs are very often small masterpieces shared within a familly members and friends. Salt is a life-giving mineral, believed to keep away an evil. Smoked meat ensures health, fertility and abundance. Cheese represents friendship between man and nature. Horseradish isa symbol of strength and physical fitness. Easter Cake symbolizes skills and perfection.
Holy Sunday


As tradition requires, Easter breakfast,held after the Resurrection Mass, begins with a sharing of the blessed eggs.An Easter table is lavishly laid with hams, sausages, pâtés, roulades, roast pork loins, a variety of poultry dishes, eggs, pound cakes, mazureks, round wheat cakes, cheesecakes, etc.. One of the compulsory dishes is sour „żur”soup with white sausage or smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg and white sausage. Chocolate Easter bunnies, chickens and lambs are kids’ favourites.
Easter Monday


A traditional śmigus-dyngus, is a day on which boys used to sprinkle girls with water. Maidens sprinkled with water on that day had a greater chance of getting married.
Nowadays one should not forget about the whole family and friends as well as a total strangers ;-) This rite of purification symbolizes a good health and fertility. Cracow has its unique Emaus festivity. This folk tradition commemorates the meeting oftwo disciples with the Risen Jesus on the road to Emaus. It’s a great pleasure to wander between many market stalls filled with a traditional toy depicting a Jew holding a coin, modern plastic gadgets, candyfloss and other goodies.
 

 

Polish snak and Fat food

2015-03-01

You can’t leave Poland without trying the most famous snack from Kraków!
Begin your day with an obwarzanek which is usually mistaken with a bagel but in reality this snack from the XIV century is totally different. It is made from yeast-leavened wheat dough that commonly contains butter, sugar, salt, water and it is boiled before baking. Hence it has a crunchy crust, dens and chewy texture. The traditional shape of obwarzanek is round with a hole in the middle. The shiny surface is sprinkled with salt, poppy or sesame seeds. They are sold from a white& blue carts located on the streets of Kraków. Colours of the carts are equal to the flag of Krakow. They symbolize purity and the Vistula river. 150 thousand pieces are sold every day from 180 carts!
Other tasty snack is a slice of a rye bread spread with a lard (smalec). Pork fat with pork meat and skin usually contains also chopped onions, sometimes even chopped apple. A slice of a fermented cucumber on top of it creates a great starter. Cucumbers pickled in vinegar (korniszon) are called gherkin in the UK but their origin is Central and Eastern European cuisine. Fermented cucumbers (ogórek kiszony) are pickled in a jar with brine, garlic, dill and horseradish.
Herrings , herrings, herrings (śledź).. there are thousand of ways to serve them. The best “anti- hangover” option is the one seasoned with sunflower oil or with sour cream. Pickled herrings served with chopped onions, peeled and chopped hard-cooked eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper, sprinkled with dill or parsley are delicious. Herrings were very popular in the Medieval times especially in meatless periods of fasting .
“Zapiekanka” is a legendary snack from the Kazimierz district. It is a baguette, cut in half, sprinkled with mushroom and cheese, baked in the oven. The classic version comes with chives and ketchup but now you can choose from a dozen of tasty toppings.
You can end your night out having a grilled sausage (kiełbasa) from a communist-style blue van (“niebieska nyska”) located next to the market called Hala Targowa. You will wait in a long queue with students, police officers, ambulance drivers and some party animals but it’s definitely worth it! :-)
 

 

Walking tour on Kazimierz district (Jewish Quarter)

2015-02-01

In recent years the definition of central Krakow has come to include not only the area enclosed by the Planty, but also the district of Kazimierz. Formerly a separate town, Today it is a Krakow city neighbourhood which we arrive at by descending from Wawel Hill.
The history of Krakow and its Jews whispers to us from every corner of Kazimierz. It can be felt in the layout of narrow streets and market squares, in the little buildings and Jewish cemeteries. After the tragedy of the Second World War and the massacre of the Jews by the Nazi invaders, Kazimierz was abandoned and for decades fell into ruin. The way was cleared for today`s explosive development of this part of the city by the breakthroughs of the late 1980s and the early 1990s.


Kazimierz made its way to the big screen, thanks to Steven Spielberg, who shot his Oscar-award-winning Schindler`s List here. The world famous Jewish Culture Festival, organized since the early 1990s has, from its inception, focused on the history and traditions of these people who once lived among us, through workshops, lectures, and exhibits. Today we can speak of a rebirth of Kazimierz and of its new face.
The key to understanding the popularity of Kazimierz is its extraordinary, age-old tradition of tolerance: for hundreds of years, two nationalities and two great religions coexisted here in harmony. Not far from the synagogues rise the churches of St. Catherine and Bożego Ciała /Corpus Christi/,  while the destination of the procession held on St. Stanislaus` Day is the church of the Order of St Paul,  “Na Skałce” /Church on the Rock/. The local clubs, cafes, and galleries are the place to meet for those who have deemed the Main Square as having become too “touristy”. Every visitor discovers for himself the extraordinary character of Kazimierz, where alongside exclusive hotels and restaurants there are craft workshops with leather goods, shoes, or engravings. This side of the area can be experienced by strolling about Plac Nowy, or down Miodowa and Józefa Streets, or visiting Szeroka Street, where the concert finale of the Jewish Culture Festival is held each year.
Kazimierz is also a place particularly appreciated by lovers of antiques. Here on Plac Nowy and Hala Targowa in the nearby Grzegórzki district there are bazaars of antiques.


In 2010, at the level of the former Podgórski bridge, the new Father Laetus Bernatek footbridge for pedestrians  and cyclists, connecting the Kazimierz and Podgórze neighbourhoods , was put into use.
 

 

70th anniversary of liberation of AUSCHWITZ

2015-01-25

There are still many people who deny the existence of the concentration camps or to whom Auschwitz does not ring a bell. Others believe that Poles established those camps during the Second World War and only Jews were the victims.


Auschwitz concentration camp will celebrate 70th anniversary of liberation on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. It’s a perfect moment to remind its story.
Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz Birkenau is the only camp on the UNESCO list. Founded in 1940 on the territory of Poland, incorporated to the Nazi Germany in October 1939. At first it was dedicated to imprison political opponents and intellectuals, mainly Poles. However German criminals, Soviet POWs, Bohemians, Yugoslavians, Jehovah Witnesses, clericals, homosexuals were also captured there. They got a tattoo on their arm: an ID number instead of their own surname.
First transport of over 700 prisoners arrived to Auschwitz on 14 June 1940. First commandant of the camp was Rudolf Höß. After the conference in Wannsee a decision of a “Final Solution” was made hence from spring 1942 Jews were relocated from the ghettos to the camp. First attempt of killing the inmates with the Cyclone B gas was held in September 1941 but from spring 1942 the action was conducted on a large scale.


The complex KL Auschwitz was divided into 3 sections:
- Auschwitz I: a “commanding center”, mainly a work camp.
- Auschwitz II- Birkenau : an extermination camp equipped with the gas chambers and crematories where over 1 million people were killed.
- Auschwitz III – Monowitz: a forced labor camp.


August 1944 was the moment when the camp was evacuated step by step. The Nazis started to wipe out the tracks of the camp’s existence. The archives were burned, one crematory was dismantled, others prepared to be blown up. Only one day before the liberation of Poland, on 17 January 1945 the last Death March set out to the Reich.
The camp was freed on 27 January 1945. Around 7.5 thousand managed to await this moment however not all of them survived.
Total number of the victims ranges from 1, 1 million to 1, 5 million people. However other data shows that even 5 million inmates were killed there. This statistic is based on the first Intelligence Report on Auschwitz concentration camp made by Witold Pilecki - Polish rittmeister who voluntarily got imprisoned in Auschwitz, organized a resistance movement there, managed to escape from the camp and informed the Western Allies of the Holocaust. After the WWII he was sentenced to death by the Communists upon the accusation of collaborating with the Western enemies.
Among around 8 thousand employees of the Auschwitz camp only 750 were sentenced after the war. Polish Institute of National Remembrance started new investigation 3 years ago and soon is going to publish the whole list including 9, 5 thousand names. Around 50 former camp guards who are still alive can be sentenced in future.

 

Trip to Zakopane

2015-01-01

Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains is a city called the “winter capital” of Poland, famous resort visited by the most eminent citizens of Poland, among them Nobel prize winners such as Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Lech Wałęsa, Wisława Szymborska, Czesław Miłosz. John Paul II was also passionate about the Tatra’s and stayed here during his pilgrimage in 1997.
Winter sports fans have an acces to a very popular Kasprowy Wierch peak as well as other parts of Tatra Mountains with a range of ski slopes. No matter if you prefer skiing , snowboarding or cross-country skiing- your visit here will be a great experience! If you are lucky you might even meet some Polish championships on your way- Justyna Kowalczyk or Kamil Stoch .
The FIS Ski Jumping World Cup are held on the Wielka Krokiew ski jump. You can get on top of it by a cablecar . Take a glance from a start bar and you will get an impression of how does competitors (for ex. Adam Małysz) feel before jumping. If you are in a lazy mood hop on a dog sled, a sleigh or a cab for a ride.
Summer is perfect for hiking. The Giewont mountain in a shape of a  sleeping knight is a symbol of Zakopane. There are many hiking trails for more or less experienced tourists. The most beautiful are the Kościeliska Valley with caves and a trail to the biggest Morskie Oko lake. Do not be surprised that if you get off the beaten tracks a brown bear crosses your path!
The city centre is also worth a visit! The Krupówki mall is rather commercialized but you can still buy here some traditional hand made wooden or leather items. At the end of the walkway you can jump in to a cablecar and reach the Gubałówka peak. Take a brake here, relax lying down on a deckchair and admire beautiful surroundings. Another option to consider are go- karts or a ropes course.
My favourite spots in Zakopane are the Kościeliska street and the Kuźnice district. Traditional mountain chalets and villas, the oldest church of Zakopane with a Meritorious Cemetary on Pęksowy Brzyzek are a must see! You will step back in time  when visiting the “Atma Villa”where a famous  Polish composer  Karol Szymanowski used to live as well as the “Koliba Villa – a branch of the Tatra Museum with a 19th century architecture, equipment and ambient.
Do not forget to devour a tasty local cheese –oscypek, a slice of bread with lard and sour cucumber, meat and sauerkraut soup (kwaśnica) and a waffle with fresh fruits& whipped cream to spoil yourself totally J
Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains is a city called the “winter capital” of Poland, famous resort visited by the most eminent citizens of Poland, among them Nobel prize winners such as Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Lech Wałęsa, Wisława Szymborska, Czesław Miłosz. John Paul II was also passionate about the Tatra’s and stayed here during his pilgrimage in 1997.
Winter sports fans have an acces to a very popular Kasprowy Wierch peak as well as other parts of Tatra Mountains with a range of ski slopes. No matter if you prefer skiing , snowboarding or cross-country skiing- your visit here will be a great experience! If you are lucky you might even meet some Polish championships on your way- Justyna Kowalczyk or Kamil Stoch .
The FIS Ski Jumping World Cup are held on the Wielka Krokiew ski jump. You can get on top of it by a cablecar . Take a glance from a start bar and you will get an impression of how does competitors (for ex. Adam Małysz) feel before jumping. If you are in a lazy mood hop on a dog sled, a sleigh or a cab for a ride.
Summer is perfect for hiking. The Giewont mountain in a shape of a  sleeping knight is a symbol of Zakopane. There are many hiking trails for more or less experienced tourists. The most beautiful are the Kościeliska Valley with caves and a trail to the biggest Morskie Oko lake. Do not be surprised that if you get off the beaten tracks a brown bear crosses your path!
The city centre is also worth a visit! The Krupówki mall is rather commercialized but you can still buy here some traditional hand made wooden or leather items. At the end of the walkway you can jump in to a cablecar and reach the Gubałówka peak. Take a brake here, relax lying down on a deckchair and admire beautiful surroundings. Another option to consider are go- karts or a ropes course.
My favourite spots in Zakopane are the Kościeliska street and the Kuźnice district. Traditional mountain chalets and villas, the oldest church of Zakopane with a Meritorious Cemetary on Pęksowy Brzyzek are a must see! You will step back in time  when visiting the “Atma Villa”where a famous  Polish composer  Karol Szymanowski used to live as well as the “Koliba Villa – a branch of the Tatra Museum with a 19th century architecture, equipment and ambient.
Do not forget to devour a tasty local cheese –oscypek, a slice of bread with lard and sour cucumber, meat and sauerkraut soup (kwaśnica) and a waffle with fresh fruits& whipped cream to spoil yourself totally J.

If would you like to go for a trip to Zakopane and see most attraction like ski jumping, Krupówki street check our offer and book day tours to Zakopane.

 

Christmas Market on the Main Square in Krakow

2014-12-19

White Christmas reminds me of my childhood.. Now, I’m no longer a child and white Christmas in Kraków  is a rarity.  However despite of the weather a festive ambient is all around the city.
Xmas period starts already in November: the obvious signs are the song “Last Xmas” by Wham! played in a radio and Xmas decorations in the supermarkets… so commercialized ?
In reality, the Yuletide in Poland officially begins on December 24th and continues till February 2nd.
The Christmas market in Kraków is one of regular features of the city’s festive season. Traditionally it starts in the last week of November and lasts till December 26th    at least if not prolonged till January 6th, the Epiphany festival.
The Main Market Square has been a trade venue since the Middle Ages until nowadays. Traditional wooden stalls aligned in the city center attract many visitors. They look out for Xmas decorations, gifts, toys, cards etc. If you need a unique masterpiece and you are ready to pay more than for a Chinese adornment you should get a glass bauble. Hand made, decorated in a different pattern are the highlights of the market.
Ones you feasted your eyes on you should not forget about your body’s needs ?
Shopping spree can be dulcified by hot, nutritious dishes. You will be attracted by a smell of  osypek – smoked grilled cheese served with a cranberry jam, bigos- a hunter’s stew, kapuśniak- cabbage soup, grilled sausage. Douse yourself in mulled wine seasoned with clove, cinnamon, raisins and nuts.
Another attraction is the occasional free entertainment, usually provided by children ensembles and village artists singing carols.
You can’t miss an exposition  in a branch of Historical Museum of Kraków - the Krzysztofory palace. There are dozens of Nativity Scenes- szopki on display. The tradition of creating cribs dates back to the 19th century when craftsmen made decorations in order to earn some money during winter. First competition though was held in December 1937 and the tournament takes place every year on the first Thursday of December. The cribs’ characteristic features resemble historical buildings of Kraków. In some, immobile wooden figurines are replaced by movable puppets, at times depicting historical or legendary figures. Detailed, colorful, sparkly masterpieces are definitely worth paying a visit!

 

Salt Mine in Wieliczka

2014-12-15

The Mine, which is in fact an underground town is counted among the unofficial wonders of the world. Salt was produced in Wieliczka as early as 3500 BC. Over the years 2040 chambers were cut into solid salt rock on nine levels of which 224 are considered historic with depths ranging from 57 to 330 meters. A system of drifts and shafts totaling 350 kilometers in length links the chambers.


Over the centuries miners carved magnificent chapels and charming underground lakes as well as dozens excavation activities can be found in the mine. The route accessible to visitors is a 3.5 kilometer long section situated 64 to 135 meters below the surface. The 12 meters high St. Kinga`s Chapel with magnificent salt chandeliers never fails to impress visitors. The chapel which is 55 meters long and 17 meters wide can accommodate as many  as 500 people.

Another attraction of the mine is the spa situated 135 meters below the surface in the Wessel Lake chamber. Respiratory diseases nose, sinus, throat and larynx infections asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease as well as allergies, skin diseases and metabolic disorders are treated in the healthy microclimate of the salt chambers.
 

 

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps

2014-12-15

Auschwitz-Birkenau camps

After the defeat of the September Campaign of 1939, when Polish soldiers had attempted to repel the German invasion, the town of Oswiecim and the surrounding areas were incorporated within the Third Reich. At the same time its name was changed to Auschwitz. By the end of 1939, at the SS and Police Headquarters in Wroclaw (Braslau), the idea of setting up a concentration camp had already been proposed. The official justification for this plan was based on the overcrowding of the existing prisons in Silesia, and on the necessity of conducting further waves of mass arrest among the Polish inhabitants both of Silesia and the rest of German-occupied Poland.


Several special committees were convened, whose task it was to consider the most favorable location for such a camp. The ultimate choice fell upon the deserted pre-war Polish barracks in Oswiecim. Situated some distance away from the built up area of the town, they could quite easily be expanded and isolated from the outside world. Another factor not without significance was the convenient position of Oswiecim - an importand railway junction - within the existing communications network.


The order to proceed with plans to found a camp was given in April 1940, and Rudolf Hoss was appointed its first commandant. On June 14, 1940, the Gestapo dispatched the first political prisoners to KL Auschwitz - 728 Poles from Tarnów. Initially the camp comprised 20 buildings - 14 at ground level and 6 with an upper floor. During the period from 1941 to 1942 an extra story was added to all ground-floor buildings and 8 new blocks were constructed, using the prisoners as the work force. Altogether the camp now contained 28 one-storey buildings ( excluding kitchens, storehouses etc. ) The average number of prisoners fluctuated between 13-16.000, reaching at one stage        ( during 1942 ) a record total of 20.000 people. They were accommodated in the blocks, where even the cellares and lofts were utilized for this purpose.
As the number of inmates increased, the area covered by the camp also, grew, until it was transformed  into a gigantic and horrific factory of death. The monstrosity in Oswiecim - KL Auschwitz I - became the parent or "Stammlager" to a whole generation of new camps. In 1941 the construction  of a second camp, later called Auschwitz II-Birkenau, was commenced in the village of Brzezinka 3 kilometers away and in 1942 the camp in Monowice near Oswiecim-KL Auschwitz III-was established on the territory of the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. Furthermore, during the years 1942-1944, about 40 smaller branches of the auschwitz complex came into being these fell under the jurisdiction of KL Auschwitz III and were situated mainly in the vicinity of steelworks, mines and factories, where prisoners were eploited as cheap labour.


The camp in Oswiecim ( KL Auschwitz I) and in Brzezinka (KL Auschwitz II - Birkenau) are now maintained as museums open to the public. The most important constructions  and objects in Birkenau are the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform were the deportees were selected and also a pond with human ashes. In Auschwitz such a construction is the "Death block"


Furthermore in both camps are well preserved blocks and a part of prisoners barracks, the main entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers as well as barbed wire fences. Some of the constructions destroyed by the Nazis were rebuilt from the orginal elements - for instance the ovens in the crematorium I. Some objects were completely destroyed by the SS obliteratingthe traces of their crimes. In the cases of special importance the constructions were reproduced by the museum and placedin the same area as they were during the existence of the Auschwitz camp. Above all these are the "Death wall" and the collective gallows at the rool-call ground.


The prison blocks in the camp at Auschwitz contain exhibitions portraying the history of Auschwitz or tracing the torments of the various nations whose people were murdered here. Above the main gate at Auschwitz - through which the prisoners passed each day on their way to work (returning 12 hours or more later) there is a cynical inscription: "Arbeit macht frei" (Work brings freedom). and on the small square by the kitchen the camp orchestra would play marsches, mustering the thousands of prisoners so that they could be counted more efficiently by the SS.
Everybody should go there and see what happened there because those place is very important so high recommendation.

 

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