In July 2007, I spend a few days in Kraków attending a wedding, meeting friends, visiting places I like and seeing some new ones.
Nowa Huta – shall I really go there?
One such new spot I visited is Nowa Huta. So far I have not been interested in socialist buildings made out of precast concrete slabs. “You have not been to Nowa Huta? Then you should go. There are a lot of green alleys and parks and much space between the houses”, Radek says proudly. Maybe you are right? As Fidel Castro ONLY visited Nowa Huta, when coming to Krakow, I could give it a try as well.
So – I went and liked this socialist invention. Wide alleys start from a large square named after Ronald Reagan. In addition to the socialist traces, I discover two gorgeous modern churches, a monastery and two wooden churches. My guide is the guidebook that Radek and Piotr had given to me some five years ago: Magdalena Niedzielska and Jan Szurmant, “Krakau”, Michael Müller Verlag 2011.
Starting problems: Where is the station of tram no 4?
My guidebook and the Internet say that tram no 4 goes to Nowa Huta. I find a tram station in front of the main station and buy a ticket at the ticket machine. Then I wait. No trams here. Very suspicious. A family from Denmark also looks for that tram no 4. A young Krakowian tells me that the trams leave in the tunnel. Which tunnel? With the Danish family we start to look for that tunnel. After having oscillated around and after having asked again, we find a busy tunnel, two levels BELOW the main train station. Here we board on to tram no 4.
(Later I find out that I could have caught tram number 4 just on the east side of the Planty, much closer to my Hotel Wawel).
Ah – more Lajkoniki making fun of the Mongols
We sit down in tram no 4. My neighbours leave the tram some stations later and what do I see? Two Lajkoniki. Looking at me from the seats.
And near the exit, there is another Lajkonik. They are all over in Kraków and you notice them, when you know the history: When attacking Kraków in the 13th century, the Mongols were defeated. The Krakówians put on the Mongolian cloth and celebrated their victory over the Mongols. They still do so today at Corpus Dei in June – and by placing small Lajkoniki all over in their city.
The Poles are proud of Solidarnoscj and there IS a lot of green space in Nowa Huta
A lady in the tram proudly tells us: ” Yes, we have arrived in Nowa Huta. Look at the monument for Solidarnoscj.”
Yes, we have reached the central square named after Ronald Reagan. The square is spacious and surrounded by buildings that copy the pride of a classical antique style.
After a coffee and a delicious cernik (cheese cake), I follow John Paul II’s alley. Indeed, there is much green space between the mostly well renovated houses with passages leading to more gardens and more houses.
House no 14 (Ulica Mierzwy) was the first Nowa Huta building, as this plate proudly indicates.
If only my “Müller” would not have this habit of judging with his nose in the air… what I have seen from Nowa Huta, is by far not that bad!
The wooden church from the 15th century and the monastery
There has been life in Nowa Huta before the socialist times, as the church of Saint Batholomeus from 15th century proves (Kośiól sw. Bartlomieja).
The door is open. Inside I find nice paintings – my “Müller” says that they are Rokoko.
The altar is a trompe-oeuil painted on to the wall.
Mogíla – that sounds like “grave” to me. Yes, that is correct, as I learn later from Adam Bujak: “There is a burial mound named after Princess Wanda, who according to legend threw herself into the currents of the Vistula river to avoid marrying a German.” (“The Cracow Millenium”, Bialy Krk 2014, p. 9). Her mound is just behind the monastery – I will look for it the next time.
More beautiful churches, but modern this time
The socialist government had carefully planned Nowa Huta, but being atheists they had not foreseen to build churches. The Krakówians fought for their churches and the result are two beautiful modern churches.
The first one is called Mother God of Tschenstochau (Kościól Matki Boskiej Czestochowskiej), located where the army had practiced before.
The interior is bright and makes me meditate.
A nice detail are the amber chains forming a boat
The second church is called Ark of the Lord (Kościól Arka Pana) or also Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland, consecrated in 1977 (Karola Wojtyla was the Archbishop of Kraków at that time).
Inside I find two levels. Concentrated praying is going on on the ground floor. On the first floor the painted windows and the statue of Christ provide a mysterious atmosphere. Christ is almost flying away, as if Crucifixion and Ascension were to happen at the same time. Beautiful. It was Bronislaw Chromy who has created this sculpture, as I learn later, when visiting his exhibition and pavilion in the north of Kraków.
I think that this Christ is a symbol for the will to fight for freedom that the Poles have proven over and over again – and I hope they will prove it now and in future once more.
The crew of Apollo 11 gave a rutile cristall from the moon to this church. It is now in the tabernacle at the front.
Along friendly alleys to the lake of Nowa Huta
In the distance I see some large houses probably from socialist times.
But most of the houses I come across are well renovated and, Radek was right, they are surrounded by green gardens.
When strolling along Fatimska and Bulwarowa street, I come across this happy dog that watches his territory.
Around the lake of Krzeslawice
It is closed now, as it is one of those Mondays, where all museums are closed.
Around the corner, I take a picture of another wooden church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist (św. Jana Chrzciciela). Unfortunately it is closed.
I walk back through this friendly area of Kraków to catch tram number 4 in Struga and to return to the city center.
I finish off my day with three friends on the roof top restaurant Malecon with the great view of the Wislaw or Vistula river.