Tag Archives: Kraków

Kraków’s holiday tradition

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szopkaChristmas season in Kraków is unforgettable for many reasons. Festive Old Town churches, sausage sizzling in cosy street booths, colorful street decorations, and that special holiday spirit in the air. But there is one thing in particular about the holidays that’s uniquely special to Kraków: szopki, or nativity scenes (singular: “szopka”). What makes them unique? Szopki are not just classic displays of the creche with Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Rather, they are elaborate structures that include a mix of Kraków’s architectural hallmarks, with a cast of colorful figurines giving homage to the Newborn – or simply going about their business.

While nativity scenes are common in many countries and date back to St. Francis of Assisi’s 13th century re-enactments of the Christmas story, Kraków szopki are a peculiar twist on that tradition. In their current form they date back to the 19th century when local craftsmen – trying to make a living in a winter season when construction work stopped – started to earn extra income by making the Christmas story come to live in a new way. To preserve the craft, Kraków created an annual competition in 1937 for the most beautiful szkopki. The competition still takes place every year in December at the Main Square and the winners are then displayed in the nearby Krzysztofory Palace. Read the rest of this entry

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Foodie’s guide to Kraków

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Kleparz market in Kraków

Most visitors come to Kraków for sights – the imposing Wawel Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Church on the grand, medieval Main Square, or bustling Sukiennice Cloth Market to name just a few. But especially for those new to Poland, Kraków also provides a great introduction to that key aspect of exploring all foreign lands: food. The Main Square, where most people start their city adventure, has plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from but you can do much better in terms of originality and selection, not to mention price-to-performance ratio, by venturing out a bit. Here a foodie’s guide to some of the best restaurants and places to eat in Kraków, Poland. Read the rest of this entry

Magical Kraków

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Kraków's Main Square with St. Mary's Church

Having lived in Kraków, I find it hard to blog about it: there is just so much to say. It’s such a great place, special in so many ways, and returning there always feels like recharging batteries. The Main Square especially, even though it is probably the most touristy part of town, has this special energy. First, there is the scale: with sides about 200 meters long it is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. Then there is history: over the ages the square has been its witness. From the spot now marked by a church where St. Adalbert (Wojciech) preached back in the 10th century, through the place of homage by Prince Albert Hohenzollern of Prussia to Polish King Zygmunt I in 1525, the location where Tadeusz Kościuszko took an oath to defend the country against foreign partitions in 1794, to the commemorative plaque placed there upon Poland’s entry into the EU in 2004. Finally, there is the atmosphere: old churches next to hip cafes, high-end restaurants competing with obwarzanki stands (Polish version of a bagel), kids chasing pigeons around the local landmark of poet Adam Mickiewicz’s statue affectionately known as “Adaś”… Life here flows to the rhythm of Hejnał Mariacki, traditional tune played by a trumpeter each hour from the tower of the stunning St. Mary’s Church. Read the rest of this entry