Trendy Kazimierz District
your final day exploring the twisting streets
of the Kazimierz District,
where many of the buildings are in the process
of being renovated. While these serene streets
now echo with the din of patrons at trendy restaurants,
smoky cafés and bars, the silent synagogues
are the last vestiges of what was once a bustling
Jewish Quarter prior to World War II. In the
15th century, the Jewish population of Kraków
was forced to resettle in the nearby town of
Kazimierz, whose walls were finally torn down
in 1822 to allow the Jewish population to integrate
with other Poles. During World War II, the Jewish
community was again relocated—this time
to Podgórze, south of Vistula River and
today another Kraków neighborhood.
Housed in a prayer house dating from the 1880s,
the Centre for Jewish Culture
(ul. Meiselsa 17) features exhibitions of contemporary
Jewish artwork, lectures, and concerts that
educate and reinforce the memory of the Jewish
community in Poland.
It was also in this neighborhood that Steven
Spielberg filmed scenes for his award-winning
movie, Schindler’s List,
based on the life story of industrialist Oskar
Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jewish lives
during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Fabrika
Oskara Schindlera, the Schindler factory, is
located in Podgórze at ul. Lipowa 4.
At Plac Bohaterow Getta 18 you’ll find
the Pharmacy Under of the Eagle,
where Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Gentile, maintained
his pharmaceutical shop inside the Ghetto during
the war. It’s now a museum dedicated to
life in the Ghetto. Nearby, a small remnant
of the Ghetto wall can be seen at the southwestern
end of ul. Lwowska.
to the 15th-century Stara Synagoga,
or Old Synagogue, Poland’s oldest synagogue.
Here, on ul. Szeroka, what was once the main
destination for Jewish culture now houses the
Museum of the History and the Culture
of Kraków Jews.
The bright interior highlights a large 16th-century
replica of an ornate black iron bimah (pulpit),
which dominates the center of the synagogue
and is surrounded by exhibits that include life
stories evidenced by historical records, photographs,
and various personal possessions.
to modern Jewish life in the district with a
walk over to the 15th-century Remuh
Synagogue on (ul. Szeroka 40) and the
city’s only remaining active Orthodox
synagogue. Its Renaissance-designed cabinet
housing the Torah is the original that was saved
from destruction. Remuh’s cemetery also
escaped ruin, and here you can see intriguing
Renaissance grave markers. Note that visitors
are expected to cover their heads and pay a
small entrance fee.
It might be time to take a break and delve into
the revitalized square in front of the Old Synagogue.
This large square is lined with trendy multicolored
restaurants and a small leafy-green area with
benches where you can sit in quiet contemplation.
Szara Kazimierz, across the
way at ul. Szeroka 39, is an elegant contemporary
eatery both in cuisine and décor. Large
colorful paintings stand out in the bright interiors,
and the flavorful fusion of international cuisines
is prepared quickly and with flair. Feast inside
or dine outdoors if weather permits.
If you have extra energy and want to experience
a bit of Polish kitsch for the rest of the day,
head back to the railway station (ul. Worcella)
and catch one of the mini-buses that leave every
ten minutes for the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates from
the 13th century, these are the oldest mines
in the world. They contain 215 miles of tunnels,
though only 1.25 miles of passageways are open
to the public. The salt trade was a major asset
to the local economy; salt production eventually
totaled a third of the royal income. If the
work was grueling, at least the miners found
some artistic relief: The Chapel of St. Kinga,
named after Princess Kinga of Hungary, is a
complete underground church embellished with
salt-carved chandeliers and altar. During the
Communist period, workers were “encouraged”
to create more non-denominational sculptures—thus
were born several salt-mining dwarves.
Wierzynek is located in two ancient buildings
will probably be on your mind after all that
salt! At ul. Jana you can sample your last taste
of Polish cuisine—peasant style—at
Chlopski Jadlo. Here you can
even eat in bed—at a table made to look
like a bed, anyway. Portions are hearty and
reasonably priced. The pierogis arrive steaming
and the kielbasa is zesty. Beware of the hunk
of bread: As is customary in many Eastern European
restaurants, if you eat it you pay for it. And
that spread isn’t butter, it’s probably
lard. If you’d like a more sophisticated
dining experience, the famous Restaurant
Wierzynek (Rynek Glówny 15),
which dates from 1364, overlooks the square
and has hosted many a celebrity.
Finish your last night in this rich city by
dropping in at the Budda Drink &
Garden Bar (Rynek Glówny 6).
The lovely courtyard will lead you past the
stained-glass entry and leave you staring at
the spiral staircase topped by a turban-esque
banquette. It is hoped you’ll be in the
company of that special someone, because the
Kama-Sutra décor says it all. In addition
to mellow music, earthy tones and the, um, unique
interior design, this bar serves up clever cocktails
that are just right for the cozy booths.
more information on Kraków check out,
the official site of the Polish National Tourist