A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Wrocław or Breslau

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. 

My route begins in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny KubinPodbiel and Tvrdošín. It continues in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally I am Berlin. 

To round off my days in Poland, I stay one night in Wrocław (or in German Breslau).

I have selected the Hotel IBIS Styles Centrum. I look for a functioning hotel infrastructure and easy access to parking. Furthermore the IBIS is conveniently located, not too far from the city centre and across the train station. When getting lost, you can always find the train station in a city.

I am south of the city centre, about half an hour’s walk away from it.

Source: Tomasz Torbus, “Polen”, Dumont Kunst-Reiseführer 2011

The city centre of Wrocław stretches along the river Odra (Oder) and consists of three main areas:

  • Stare Miasto with the market square (Rynek) and the Old Town Hall as well as the University quarter. Part of the moat has been preserved.
  • The roots of the city are on Ostrów Tumski or Cathedral Isle with the cluster of churches (founded before 1000 AD).
  • Sand Island lies between the city centre and Cathedral Isle.

I was all surprised to come across the river Oder here… I know it from the “Oderbruch”, the Oder wetlands in Brandenburg, at the border to Poland. But yes, the river Oder or Odra starts in the Czech Republic, flows through Silesia, makes the border between Poland and Germany for almost 200km and ends in the Baltic Sea. 

 

Walking from the hotel to the city centre

From my hotel, I walk north towards the city centre. After some ten minutes, I reach the moat, the Fosa Miejskia on Ulica Podwale.

I like the pretty Art Nouveau houses along Ulica Podwale.

Now I am zooming in Atlas carrying not the world, but the oriel. It is so heavy that he has a brother and a sister helping him. 

 

Stare Miasto with the Old Town Hall and the market square (Rynek)

I reach the Old Town Hall. The construction of the mainly Gothic building lasted from about 1300 until the middle of 16th century, adapting to changing needs over time. In 1930, the Old Town Hall was converted into a museum. Dumont rates it as one of the most beautiful profane buildings in Eastern Middle Europe (p. 246). 

This is the eastern façade. The astronomical clock is from 1850.

Now we look at the west side of the Old Town Hall. I stand on the Rynek.

Humorous gnomes (or dwarfs) are scattered all over the city centre. There are more than 150 of them, as I read in my “old” Lonely Planet. I come across “my” first one near the Old Town Hall. 

The gnomes can be considered to be an allusion to the Orange Alternative (Pomaranczowa Alternatywa), a group of communist dissidents in the 1980’s that used intelligent humour to express their political protest. Waldemar Fidrych was their leader. 

In the narrow streets north of the Old Town Hall, I have delicious Spaghetti in a tiny Italian restaurant.

Since 1240, there has been a market square, where the Rynek is today. The Rynek is a charming mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau houses. The north and south side had been destroyed in WW II. Everything has been reconstructed or renovated. It is Poland’s second largest Rynek after Kraków.

The Rynek is full of inviting restaurants.

I plan dinner at Fredro’s. Count Aleksander Fredro (1793-1876 ) was a noble landowner and a poet venerated in Poland. Dumont calls him the “Polish Molière” (p. 249).

Here are some of the colourful houses at the Rynek. The playful façade of the pharmacy attracts my attention.

Furthermore I like this house with the frescos. Dumont tells me that it is the house of the seven electors (Haus zu den sieben Kurfürsten), painted in Baroque style by Giacomo Scianzi (1672).

The glass wall in front of the New Town Hall symbolizes the Sudetes or Giant Mountains (Riesengebirge, Karkonosze).

Hänsel and Gretel is the name of these two tiny and slim houses. In Polish they are called “Jaś i Małgosia”.

The Church of Saint Elizabeth (Bazylika św. Elżbiety) is a  Gothic brick building from the 14th century.

It was a Lutheran church from 1525 until 1946. Then it became a catholic church. It was heavily damaged by a fire in 1976 and has then been restored tastefully. 

 

University Quarter

To the north of the Rynek, I find the university. The Habsburgian emperor, Leopold I, founded the university of Breslau in 1702 as a Jesuit academy. This was a catholic institution in mainly protestant Silesia and acted as a centre of the Counter-Reformation, until Silesia was conquered by the protestant Prussians in 1741. The university was re-established in 1945 replacing the former German University of Breslau. 

This is the north view from the river bank.

This is the view from the south.

This professor-gnome-dwarf makes it very clear: This is a university!

The Baroque University Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Kościół Uniwersytecki p.w. Najświętszego Imienia Jezus) was built by the Jesuits in the late 17th century. It reflects in the windows of the modern building across.

The market hall is an Art Nouveau building constructed in 1906-1908. It is in use as a product market until today.

 

Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek) with Church of our Lady on the Sand

To get to the Cathedral Island or Ostrów Tumski, I cross the small Sand Island or Wyspa Piasek. 

The 14th century brick Gothic Church of our Lady of the Sand (Kościół Najświętszej Marii Panny na Piasku) is the dominating building on this small island.

This is the inside view with the Gothic vaults, 24m high. 

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The church has been destroyed during WW II. The tasteful stain glassed windows are modern, from 1968.

 

Cathedral Isle (Ostrów Tumski)

I approach the Cathedral Isle walking along the Odra or Oder. The two towers of the Cathedral Saint John the Baptist dominate the skyline.

I cross the Tumski bridge that in local legends tells love stories – similar to Romeo and Juliet. To the left is the Saint Peter and Paul church and in the background we see the towers of the Cathedral.

Another gnome-dwarf here.

The Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew (Kolegiata Świętego Krzyża i św. Bartłomieja) is a late Gothic brick church with two storeys.  

The lower level is closed. I can look through a grill locking the door to get an idea of the upper level. 

Elaborately cut trees lead to the Cathedral Saint John the Baptist. In Polish it is called Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela.

The current construction in Brick Gothic was started in 1244, after the Mongolian invasion of 1241. Fires damaged the church in 1540 and in 1759. Then during WW II 70% of the cathedral were destroyed. It was reconstructed after WW II.

Across the street and north of the Cathedral is the small Church of St Giles (Kościół św. Idziego; in German: Aegidius). Built in Romanesque style in the early 13th century, it is the oldest active church in Wrocław. It has survived the Mongolian attacks. 

Nearby Saint Martin Church is also of Romanesque or early Gothic style. 

 

Coffee and Legends – taking a break in the Bishop’s Gardens

Behind the cathedral, I see this friendly invitation to the coffee place in the garden.

I enter and order a coffee. With it I receive a piece of paper, carefully rolled up with a bow. It contains legends of Ostrów Tumski.

While drinking my coffee, I read the legends referring to Ostrów Tumski.

One legend tells about the dangerous power of white roses. The bishop loved Agnieszka who cultivated white roses in the Bishop’s Gardens. When Agnieszka died, the servants wanted to comfort the bishop and decorated his bedroom with white roses. The following night, the bishop died. Since that night, white roses, now considered to be dangerous, have no longer been planted in the Bishop’s Gardens.

I leave the coffee place looking back at the Bishop’s Garden with the cathedral towers in the background,…

… and cross the bridge Tumski…

… that crosses the river Odra.

 

The White Stork Synagogue southwest of the Rynek

I return to the Rynek and continue my way southwest to visit the Jewish heritage, the White Stork Synagogue (Synagoga Pod Białym Bocianem), built in elegant neoclassical style in 1829 and restored in 2010. It is presumably called “White Stork”, because it stands where there was a restaurant with the same name before.

In the adjacent courtyard, I am tempted to sit down in one of the restaurants.

However, I return to the Rynek to eat in front of the Old Town Hall at Fredo’s. I have a salad with chicken and I complete my meal with a glass of Żubrówka, the Polish vodka with the buffalo grass.

 

Good-bye Wroclaw

Evening falls. I walk back to my hotel. I take Ul. Świdnicka (former Schweidnitzerstrasse) that in the 19th century became the new centre of the city with the Opera House from 1839-41…

… and department stores like this Art Nouveau building across the moat.

In the side streets, I come across German reminiscences. 

I settle in “my” comfortable hotel IBIS. I have a glass of wine in the friendly restaurant here to say good-bye to Wrocław and also to Poland.

Tomorrow I will drive to Germany to my mother-town Berlin.

 

Background information about Wrocław and Silesia: The history in a nutshell

From the “Lonely Planet”, the “Dumont” and from various Internet sources about Silesia, Wrocław, the Piast family etc. I try to understand the major history pattern. I am not a historian, but I like to acquire a structured overview, though it may not be perfect. 

Before 990: The roots of Silesia 

  • In the 4th/5th century, the Vandal tribe Silingi (in German: Silinger) settle, where Wrocław is today. In the 6th century the Slavic tribe Slegani build a fortification on Ostrów Tumski. It is under debate, which of the two tribes is the basis for the name “Silesia” (or in German: Schlesien, in Polish Śląsk).
  • Until 985 today’s Silesia belongs to Bohemia.

985-1335: Under the rule of the Piast dynasty, first Polish and then more and more tending towards the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation

  • 985: Duke Mieszko I. from the Piast family conquers Silesia with Wrocław and integrates it in the kingdom of Poland.
  • 1000: For the first time, Wrocław is mentioned under the name of Vratislavia, in a Papal bulla. The diocese of Wrocław is one of the three newly founded Polish bishoprics. It is located, where two trade routes intersect. (In 2000, Wrocław will celebrate its 1000 years anniversary).
  • 1241: The Mongolians (or Tartars) destroy Wrocław and retreat due to successor fights in Mongolia. Wrocław is rebuilt again.
  • Late 13th century: Various branches of the Piast families reign their own duchies, one of them being Silesia. Poland is now a community of duchies with one duke being elected as the leader. The dukes of Silesia balance their politics between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. They invite Germans to settle. Soon the German colonists are a majority in Wrocław. In 1261, Wrocław takes over the town law of Magdeburg.
  • 1335: The last member of the Silesian Piast family branch dies. The last Piast king of Poland, Cazimir III the Great, declares to abstain from Silesia; he prefers to focus on expanding the kingdom of Poland to the east.

1335-1526: Under Bohemian rule as part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

  • 1335, after the renunciation of the Polish king, Silesia and Wrocław are part of the Bohemian kingdom and hence part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Wrocław flourishes as a trade and handcraft centre.
  • 1523 Silesia and Wrocław  join the reformation, the leader is Johann Hess.
  • 1526 With Ludwig II, the last member of the Bohemian-Jagellonian dynasty dies and the Habsburgians inherit Bohemia (they have married in, as usual).

1526-1741: Under Habsburgian Rule 

  • 1526: Having inherited Silesia, the Habsburgians fortify Wrocław to withstand modern weapons. Though Austria is catholic, Wrocław continues to be protestant. 
  • 1702: The Habsburgian-Austrian Emperor Leopold I founds the university of Wrocław as the Academy of the Jesuits. 
  • 1741: The last Bohemian king, Ludwig II, dies in the War against the Turks.

1741 – 1945: Under Prussian Rule and from 1871 part of newly founded Germany

  • After the wars of Silesia, Frederic II integrates Silesia in the Prussian empire with its centralistic government. The Slavic population is under pressure (even more than under the Habsburgians).
  • 1807: Napoleon conquers Silesia, tears down the Wrocław/Breslau town fortification and installs a modern town government creating the basis for its economic development towards industrialization in the 19th century; it becomes an economic and cultural centre as a well as a railway hub.
  • 1871: The state university at Wrocław/Breslau is founded. 
  • After the First World War (1914-18) Wrocław/Breslau becomes an economic and cultural centre again, satellite settlements are built around the city centre.
  • 1933: Wrocław/Breslau is part of the fascistic machinery.
  • 1945: Having been spared from the war until January 1945, the city is declared the “Fortress Breslau”. The Soviet Army sieges Breslau for almost three months. The city surrenders on May 6th 1945. It is in ruins (67% of all buildings destroyed, Dumont says on p. 245) and the death toll is high).

1945 until today: Again Polish (like about 1000 years ago)

  • 1945: Still in May, Poland takes over, based on the Potsdam agreement between US, UK and SU. The remaining Germans are expelled and Poles start to settle, above all from the part of Poland that was integrated into the Soviet Union (Poland was basicaly shifted to the west).  The city is now called Wrocław, no longer Breslau.
  • End of the 1950’s: Wrocław is an economic, scientific and cultural centre in Poland.
  • Late 1970’s: In Wrocław, the Orange Alternative (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) organizes humorous events to make fun of the communist regime (leader: Waldemar Fydrych ) 
  • 1989: After the fall of the iron curtain, Wrocław is thriving economically and as a centre of tourism. Like other major cities in Poland such as Kraków or Warszawa.
  • 2000: Wrocław celebrates its 1000 years anniversary. The circle closes. The city was Polish then (until 1335) and now belongs to Poland again.

 

Sources:

A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Szklarska Poręba

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland.

My route begins in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny KubinPodbiel and Tvrdošín. It continues in Poland: WilkowiskoKraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally I am Berlin. 

Now I am at Szklarska Poręba to find out more about my grand-father, the artist.  

 

My motivation: Find the location of my grand-father’s painting (Hermann Radzig-Radzyk)

Currently, I am interested in the life of my grand-father Hermann Radzig-Radzyk who was an artist and painter. Many of his paintings decorate my house. While doing research about him, I have found more paintings that are traded in auctions, one of them being “Der Kirchberg in Schreiberhau mit dem Reifträger”. 

Source: https://polska-org.pl/7992365,foto.html 

This painting was exhibited at the art exhibition in Berlin in 1924 (see  
Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung <1924, Berlin> [Editor]; Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung [Editor]: Katalog: Im Landesausstellungsgebäude am Lehrter Bahnhof: [dauert vom 19. Mai bis 17. September 1923] (Berlin, 1923) (uni-heidelberg.de)

“Dr. Google” tells me that Schreiberhau is now called Szklarska Poręba, that the Reifträger is the mountain Szrenica and the church on the Kirchberg is Kościół p.w. Bożego Ciała or the Corpus Christi Church. 

I like this painting. I drive to Szklarska Poręba to find the place, where my grand-father had painted it and I come close. 

However, the landscape has changed. Much more forest here now.

I return the next morning to take a photo of the same view, but with more sun.

I assume, my grand-father stayed in a pension below the point I am standing at; I saw houses, but did not dare enter the private properties.

Close below the church, there are some buildings that did not exist, when my grand-father made his painting.

My “cousin” Dietrich (the son of my mother’s best friend) owns this painting which is a slightly different view of the Kirchberg. 

More closely to the perspective of the second painting is the following photo taken by me, when walking to Szklarska Poręba Średnia .

My “cousin” Dietrich knows of this painting of the mountain Szrenica (Reifträger) that is with a friend of his in Berlin.

 

Approaching the church Corpus Christi, the church on the Kirchberg

The Corpus Christi Church was built in Neo-Roman style in 1884-86. The dukes of Schreiberhau, the family Schaffgotsch, financed the church. 

I walk around the church.

Inside are paintings by Wlastimil Hofman, a Polish painter who settled in  Szklarska Poręba after the Second World War in 1947. 

I find a tomb slab. It commemorates Germans that have died in the First World War.

The surroundings have changed since my grand-father has made his painting. There are more trees. The shop for skiing equipment indicates sports activities in winter.

The shop for mountain biking equipment may be busy in summer. Parking is free here.

I select my own perspective to take a photo of the Church Corpus Christi; perhaps it is this pond that appears in the right hand corner of my grand-father’s painting.

One day was not enough to find out everything about the painting of my grand-father. I should return and spend several days to dig deeper. In addition, I would like to benefit from the hiking opportunities, one of them being a climb the Reifträger or Szrenica.

 

Where are we geographically?

Now we are at Szklarska Poręba (in German Schreiberhau) in Silesia (in German Schlesien), close to the border between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. The mountains are called Giant Mountains, Riesengebirge or in Polish Karkonosze. The mountain above Szklarska Poręba, the Szrenica (in German Reifträger) is 1362m high.

 

Some background information about Szklarska Poręba (Schreiberhau)

This stone indicates that Szklarska Poręba existed already in 1366. At that time, it was a settlement with the German name “Schreiberhau” (also called Schribirshau).

German colonists established Schreiberhau around the newly founded glass factory. The area was part of Bohemia (since 1335) and hence part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. The landlords here were the counts of Schaffgotsch, a family that still exists today. 

The term “hau” in “Schreiberhau”, refers to the “forest clearing” needed for the settlement and the glass factory. Why was the place not called “Glashau” to reflect the existence of the glass factory? The village chronicle (Ortschronik) of the local teacher suggests that “Schreiber” (“writer”) perhaps alludes to the man who wrote the documents required to install the factory and the settlement.

In 1617 the Preussler family took over the glass factory business and managed it until the middle of the 19th century. In 1842, Franz Pohl founded the new glass factory Josephinenhüttte; it thrived and was the largest and best-known glass factory in Silesia. 

In 1902 the railway to Schreiberhau opened. It was now easier to reach the place. It became an attractive mountain resort and a centre for artists (see below). 

In 1945, the Potsdam agreement assigned Silesia to Poland. The Poles now changed “Schreiberhau” to “Szklarska Poręba” which translates to “glass forest clearing” (the German equivalent to “Glashau”). The mountain Reifträger became the Szrenica or the “hoarfrosty” mountain (the Polish word “szron” means “hoar” or “Reif”). Most of the German inhabitants were expelled from Silesia and Poles, expelled from the east, settled instead. In 1945 Poland was literally moved to the west; it lost land to the Soviet Union in the east and gained land in the west, at the expense of Germany.

Renamed to Glashütte Julia, the Szklarska Poręba glass factory continued to operate until 2000. The family Schaffgotsch moved to Schwäbisch Gmünd. Here, the former Josephinenhütte was refounded in 1951, and it worked until 1983. 

By the way: Karkonosz in Polish translates to “Rübezahl”. He is the capricious mountain troll who lives in the Giant Mountains that the Poles now call Karkonosze. Telling stories about Rübezahl has been a tradition known since the 15/16th century. Nice, how the German past continues to live in the Polish toponyms.

 

How are artists and art related to Szklarska Poręba or Schreiberhau?

In the 18th century, the first artists discovered the beauty of the Riesengebirge. Carl Christoph Reinhardt (1738 – 1827), Christoph Friedrich Nathe (1753 – 1806) und Anton Balzer (1771 – 1807) were some of the names. Later, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840, romanticism) painted here. 

Around 1900, Szklarska Poręba became a centre for artists, among them Gerhart Hauptmann (there is a museum about him). Also around 1900, Carl Ernst Morgenstern (1847-1928), professor at the University of Breslau (1883-1913), taught pleinair painting at nearby Krummhübel (Karpacz). Some of his students later belonged to the Schreiberhau Association of Artists St. Lukas (Schreiberhauer Vereinigung bildender Künstler St. Lukas) that was founded in 1922. Their seat was the Lukasmühle at the Zackerle creek (now:  Kammiena; later, in 1930 the artists moved to the hotel “the Zackerfall”).

The Lukasmühle (Młyn Łukasza) is an inviting restaurant today. 

I had selected it for dinner without knowing about its history.

It could well be that my grand-father Hermann Radzig-Radzyk was a member of the Lukas association, but I cannot find any details about that in the Internet. 

 

Strolling around in Szklarska Poręba

For one full day, I explore Szklarska Poręba. Here are some impressions. There are nice villas…

… and apartment houses. 

The winter must be busy here. The continental climate makes for good snow,…

… but nevertheless snow canons hidden behind this house wait to be used in winter. 

This is a rather “flat” slope, however the Szrenica seems to offer a variety of attractive ski runs. 

There is also a Dinopark for chlidren, with free parking (now a bit dirty…).

Above Szklarska Poręba Średnia I find the Sudecka Chata or Sudetenhütte. 

It is closed. The friendly owners prepare coffee for me. They take a vivid interest in my research and take me up to the rooms under the roof, where I have a gorgeous view of my grand-father’s church and the Szrenica or Reifträger.

There is a crane disturbing the view: Holyday Inn builds a luxury resort. Their infinity pool is “announced” with the view from the garden of the Sudecka Chata, it seems.

This is, what is going on under the yellow crane. It seems that Holiday Inn does believes in the potential of Szklarska Poręba.

At lunch time, I stop at the restaurant Płękitny Paw and have a wonderful meal in the garden, a delicious soup and excellent stuffed omelettes.

 

Good-bye Szklarska Poręba and Giant Mountains

I would have liked to stay another day to hike around Szklarska Poręba, but my hotel is fully booked. I leave and look back to the Giant Mountains, where Rübezahl, the mountain troll, is up to mischief.

I may return one day for more research and for hiking.

Now, I say good-bye and drive to Wroclaw, the capital of Silesia. 

 

Sources:

About art and artists in Silesia and in the Giant Mountains:

A Swiss butterfly in Poland: Kraków again

End of August 2021, I am on the road again, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia: Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and Terchová – Dolny Kubin, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wroclaw, and finally Berlin. 

Wow Kraków! I encountered this bus below the mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko. Yes, I agree to “wow”, Kraków is a charming city and I have good friends here.

 

To recapitulate:

This is my route in Poland, from Wilkowisko to Berlin. Now I am in Kraków, for 5 days.

 

The hotel outside of the city centre

I stay in the hotel Vistula west of Kraków in Zwierzyniec bordering the river Vistula or Wisła, in German: Weichsel. From here, it is about 3km to the city centre.

After having arrived, I have a picnic with Radosław in the garden under the tent.

The hotel offers sportive activities on the river. It seems, they also offer competitions and the winners receive a gold, silver or bronze medal. Nice.

Nearby is a camping site, safely far away from the car parking. But – a Dutchman “manages” to damage my car by driving backwards. I cannot understand that. 

Fortunately, I can complete my tour and have the car repaired, when back in Switzerland. My insurance company will deal with the Dutch insurance company. Good that the driver has given me his address and filled in all the forms required.

 

Walking to the centre of Kraków – Stare Miasto and Wawel

I walk to the city centre (Stare Miasto, Wawel and Kazimierz) twice. The first time by sunshine. I am surprised to see so many tourists.

The charming Kanonicza Ulica at the foot of the Wawel always makes me believe that I am in Florence. 

With a smile I remember that my friend from Munich and Agata once counted eleven apostles, one of them seemed to miss. But no, all twelve apostles stand in front of the Baroque Saint Peter and Paul church after having recounted them.  

To the right of Saint Peter and Paul church, I greet the beautiful Romanesque church of St Andrew.

In the solemn Franciscan Church I dream under Wyspiański’s “Creation of the World”. I have lit a candle for Ernst and he is with me in my heart.

Hello, here you are, Bronisław Chromy’s loving mama Owl with the her children in Planty. They often go unnoticed in the park just near Wawel hill. 

My second walk to the city centre occurs on a rainy day. The ducks love wet weather. Wawel hill is in the background.

The Vistula vegetable garden on the wooden boat leads to the boat dedicated to Sobieski, the Polish king who had defeated the Turks near Vienna in 1683.

Near Wawel, Bronisław Chromy’s Pies Dżok reflects in the puddle. 

In Kazimierz, I have a delicious soup at Ariel’s. Then I walk back along the Wisła or Weichsel. 

The Wawel hill looks grey in the rain and I am wet through. Very uncomfortable.

The monastery of the Norbetine Sisters reflects in the Wisła.

The mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko appears behind the trees, when I cross the bridge to get back to my hotel Vistula. 

 

The mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko

My hotel Vistula is located in Zwierzyniec at the foot of Bronisława Hill with the mound of Tadeusz Kościuszko. One sunny morning, I climb the hill. 

In 1823, the mound was completed on land granted by the Norbertine Sisters. For three years, volunteers brought earth from their villages to contribute to the 34m high tumulus for the venerated fighter for freedom. 

In the 1850’s, the Austrians built the fortress around the mound. It was destroyed in World War II, and reconstructed after it.

The view from the top of the mound is beautiful. I look towards the city centre.

And then I turn to the south.

There is a restaurant integrated in the fortification that allows to enjoy the autumn sun on the terrace.

I would almost feel like sitting down on one of the merry deck chairs, but I have to leave. I will meet Piotr’s mum in the city centre at lunch time. We spend a wonderful afternoon together.

 

Sunday walk in Las Wolski

The forest Las Wolski, located west of Kraków and belonging to the city, owes its name to Mikołaj Wolski. Around 1600, he invited the king and his court for dinner, because he wanted to build the Camaldolese Hermit Monastery. When the king donated the forest for his noble plan, Wolski gave the silver dishes from the dinner to the court. That is why, one of the hills of Lask Wolski is called “silver hill” or Srebrna Góra.  

We enter the park from the south and walk to the zoo, then to the Kopiec Piłsudskiego, another burial mound. Erected 1934-37, it is dedicated to Józef Piłsudski. He was chief of state from 1918-1922, when Poland was re-established on the world map.  

There view from the mound of Piłsudskiego,… 

… is fading a bit in the rainy weather. 

We approach Wolski’s monastery on the silver hill from behind. 

I buy a bottle of Pinot Noir in the winery Srebrna Góra that takes its name “silver mountain” from the hill.

We return to this beautiful viewpoint with birch trees. I am not sure, whether we can see the Tatra mountains in the background.

Thank you, Radosław, for this wonderful Sunday walk with the shortcut that ended up as a detour, which was precisely, what we needed to get enough exercise.

One evening, I have prepared Röschti (Swiss potato dish) for my friends. And I stayed another two days with Asha and her family. It was their son’s birthday and he started school on the same day. How exciting. 

Thank you for your hospitality. I have not seen you all for more than two years. Now I do hope to see you again sooner. 

 

Sources:

 

A Swiss butterfly in Poland – Wilkowisko and around

End of August 2021, I am on the road, to Berlin via Slovakia and Poland. My route: Munich, in Slovakia, Bratislava – Trnava – Nitra – Žilina – Strečno and TerchováDolny Kubin, Podbiel and Tvrdošín, then in Poland: Wilkowisko – Kraków – Szklarska Poręba – Wrocław, and finally Berlin.

Just after having entered Poland from Slovakia, I come across another wooden church: This is the church of the Immaculate Conception at Spytkowice. 

 

It is one of many wooden churches in Southern Poland. It dates from the late 18th century and has been enhanced later. Inside are paintings and some 17th century artefacts, as the panel explains. I find the door closed and continue my way. 

This is my plan for travelling through Poland. My final destination is Berlin.

Today I plan to stay at Wilkowisko. 

After having travelled alone for four days, I look forward to staying with the family of Radosław. Along with his mother, his father and his brother, they give me a hearty welcome, they accommodate me with love, and they show me the area around their small village: the monastery Szczyrzyc, the wooden church at Jodłówka, the Sanctuary at Pasierbiec, Tropie with the Romanesque church and the hermit’s chapel and spring in the forest, and the winery Gródek (they grow wine in Poland, too).

 

The monastery Szczyrzyc

When trying to read “Szczyrzyc”, my tongue gets blocked. But then I think of it in Russian: Щижиць. Much easier for me. Now I can remember the name. The Polish way of combining “our” characters to form the Slavic sibilant sounds is logical, but it seems somewhat complicated to me: “szcz” is just “щ” in Cyrillic and “rz” is “ж”.

The monastery of Szczyrzyc  is a Cistercian Abbey. It was founded in 1234 and has been active since then, under the Austrians, under the Nazi, under the Soviets, always. The Abbey resisted the Nazis and, in 1945, received a medal for that.

The monastery is economically active. They run a brewery, they have a farm with animals (even some friendly alpacas) and a romantic pond for fish.

The church from the 17th century has been reconstructed in the 19th century.

Behind the abbey there is this hill with a chapel.

Here the belfry guards over the monastery. 

A wonderful setting in the hills.

 

The wooden church at Jodłówka

Our next stop is Jodłówka. There is a Parish named after Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary) with a modern, new church and with the old wooden church. We look at the small wooden church.  

In 1585, it was built by the owner of the village. After his death, it was taken over by the Dominicans. Since the 18th century, the Cistercians have taken care of it. It served as the parish church, until the new church was inaugurated.

A Cistercian opens the church for us. The paintings on the ceiling and on the wall are from the 18th century and mostly relate to the Dominican order.  

There are also older paintings from the 17th century. The original altar painting is now in the new church. 

The joyful medallion below the organ alludes to music. 

I like the representation of the Ten Commandments above the pulpit. The pulpit is from the 16th century, built in Renaissance style.

May the Holy Spirit, represented as a pigeon, guide the preacher well.

Later I learn from Wikpedia that this wooden church is on the Wooden Architecture Trail in Lesser Poland (Małopolska) which includes 253 objects on 1500km, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

The Sanctuary Matki Bożej Pocieszenia at Pasierbiec

Above Pasierbiec we stop near this beautiful modern church dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation (Matki Bożej Pocieszenia).

Behind the church, there are the Stations of the Cross. I look at the sculptures and ask, who made them, perhaps Bronisław Chromy?

Radosław ‘s mum is surprised: “You know Bronisław Chromy?” She tells me that he has designed the sculptures, but he was no longer able to accomplish his work before his death. 

Beautiful, how the mother looks at her son suffering.

This is, how Bronisław Chromy interprets the Pietá.

Inside the church, angels are flying. 

I remember Bronisław Chromy’s Christ at the church Arka Pana in Kraków (Nova Huta) that I once used as a Christmas card. Just beautiful. 

Bronisław Chromy has also made profane statues like Pies Dżok, the faithful dog; the dog waited at a road junction for his master that had died. The sculpture is near the Wawel at Kraków.

In addition, there are more of his sculptures in Kraków such as the owls in Planty, the fire spitting dragon below Wawel castle or the collection of statues integrated into Park Desjusza. 

 

Tropie with the Romanesque church, with the romantic chapels in the forest and with Zamek Tropsztyn across the lake

Above the Czchów Lake, we visit the church St. Andrew and St. Benedict (kościół parafialny p.w. Świętych Andrzeja Świerada i Benedykta) from the late 11th or early 12th century. The original Romanesque choir walls have been preserved, along with remains of Romanesque paintings inside.

Below the church, benches above the lake invite to an open air service, when it is raining less. 

Nearby, we find the Chapel “Hermitage St. Andrzej Świerad” in the rainy and swampy forest. St. Świerad was the Benedictine monk who retreated here in the 10/11th century which was the reason that the St. Andrew and St. Benedict church was built nearby. 

Also here, there are benches for an open air service. 

Above the chapel, there is a spring (źródło) with an altar showing St. Świerad. It is said that he used to pray here.

Across the lake, we see the Tropsztyn Castle (Zamek Tropsztyn).

The castle (first built from wood) dates from the early 13th century, the tower is from the 14/15th century. The castle changed owners over the centuries. Already in 1608, it was described to be a ruin. After 1993, it was restored and opened to the public. Currently, it seems to be closed (see entry on google maps).

 

Winery Gródek

To round off our day, we visit the Winnica Gródek, founded in 2014. It is beautifully located in Zbyszyce above the river Dunajec and the Rożnowskie Lake.

The vineyards comprising 7 ha face east and southwest. Some voices in the Internet attribute potential to this young winery.

Yes, there are wineries in Poland. The grapes they grow are more resistant such as Solaris or Regent. 

We sit down on the balcony, wrapped up in blankets…

… and taste some of their wines that are offered with a small snack.

I like their Solaris offered and buy a bottle. I will try it with my neighbours, when back in Switzerland, and we enjoyed it. In addition I buy half a bottle of Riesling that I will share with a friend in Berlin. This Riesling, however, has room for improvement. May be, Poland is too far north, even for a Riesling that delivers its best results in Germany and in the Alsace. 

 

Good-bye Wilkowisko

My friend’s parents live in the small village Wilkowisko – a few houses scattered along one road. The name took me a long time to remember. What helped me: “Wilk” means “wolf” in Polish.

I do thank you for these two wonderful days. This corner of Europe offers so much to discover. And, now, back at home, I enjoy the delicious miód (honey) that your neighbours have produced.

My next destination will be Kraków. I look forward to “coming home”, as I have been in Kraków so many times, in pre-Covid times hopping over from Basel by Easyjet with the cheese for Fondue in my suitcase for my friends. This time I will prepare Röschti with cheese (for the vegetarians) or with thin strips of meat in a sauce (for the non vegetarians). 

 

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Again in Kraków, enjoying Polish humour and reading “the wedding”

Again, as every year, I spend a few days in Kraków in winter 2018/2019 meeting friends and sharing a Swiss cheese fondue with them. In my luggage I carry the cheese and this teddy. It is a Steiff teddy, to be more precise, and it is for the new born baby of one of my friends.

In Kraków, I enjoy some early spring days – sunny and warm. I discover some Polish humour and the Polish classic play „the wedding“ by Stanislaw Wyspiański.

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Polish humour – slippery ice rinks and remedy against both hunger and pain

Watch out – uwaga ślisko 😉 – this ice rink is slippery. The word “ślisko” already sounds “slippery”. Well, this is what is to be expected from ice rinks (smiley).

Are you hungry or do you feel pain? To the left you can eat shrimps (krewetki) and, to the right you find remedy against pain (ból), evil (zło) or any other suffering (cierpienie).

 

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Books for children with a touch of humour

I love the bookshop „De Revolutionibus“ in Bracka. It has a wonderful corner with books for children. For the children of my friends, I buy two books about Pan Brumm and his friends. One book tells about Brumm celebrating Christmas and the other about him travelling to Hawaii. My favourite picture: Brumm sits in front of a computer branded „pear“ (gruszka) that says hello to the world via a telephone modem. And look at the mouse caught in the trap…

Source: Daniel Napp: “Pan Brumm na Hula Hula”, Bona Wydawnictwo 2017, the original has been published German (Dr. Brumm).

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Reading the Polish classic play„the wedding“ in Magia

Most of the time in Kraków I spend in my favorite coffee bar, the Magia, where the black-white cat sits on ITS own sofa between the guests.

I listen to the soft and sizzling Polish language, while reading the classic play “the wedding” or “Wesele” by Stanislaw Wyspiański. He completed writing “the wedding” in 1900, when he was just 31 years old. Let me summarize the book. “The wedding” is a classic piece of literature. All my Polish friends had read it at school analyzing it in detail.

Background: In 1900 Poland was still divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria. The country had disappeared from the world map in 1792, but the Polish spirit stayed alive materializing in several uprisings – unsuccessful though. Wyspianski’s „the wedding“ talks about the reconciliation of peasants and bourgeois intellectuals from town, shows the shame that the Poles felt, when being reminded of their once grand history and tells how another uprising initiated during that wedding failed. It is sad that Wyspiański died at the age of 38 and could not see Poland resurrect in 1918.

In the first act, the play starts as a „normal“ wedding. A bourgeois intellectual from Kraków, GROOM, marries a country girl, BRIDE. The ceremony and dinner have already taken place. The stage is the room with the dinner table in disorder and with some symbolic paintings on the wall. In the background the sound of musicians and the steps of dancers can be heard. Wedding guests meet in the dinner room. They talk about the wedding, about life in Poland and about politics. One well-known phrase is: “So – what’s new in politics, sir? Haven’t the Chinese answered yet?” GROOM  and BRIDE are in love and happy to have found one another.

A rose bush stands in the garden, wrapped up in straw to be protected against frost and winter – perhaps like these bushes on the Wawel castle hill.

At the end of the first act, GROOM and BRIDE invite the rose bush to come in and join the celebration.

At midnight, the second act starts. The rose bush, now called STRAWMAN, joins the ball, and so do various ghosts from the past. I understand their roles like this:

  • Some ghosts represent the former grandeur of Poland: STANCZYK, the jester, stands for the wise king Zygmunt (1506-1548) and the hero BLACK NIGHT stands for the brave Polish army of the past vanquishing the Teutonic Knights of the Cross in the Battle of Grunwald (1410).
  • Other ghosts represent the will to fight for Poland: JAKUB SZELA was the leader of the brave farmers that fought against manorial property in 1846. VERNYHORA is the legendary 18th century Galician bard that foresaw the destruction AND resurrection of Poland.
  • One ghost is a traitor: The nobleman KSAVERY BRANICKI led a conspiracy of nobles that cooperated with the Russian Zar. This was one of the factors that led to the destruction of Poland in 1792.
  • One ghost, just called GHOST, is the dead fiancé of one of the wedding guests.

The ghosts talk to the wedding guests, one after the other. The situation escalates at the time, when VERNYHORA issues the order to the father of BRIDE, called HOST, to launch another uprising to free Poland. The uprising is to start, when the cock crows in the morning. VERNYHORA gives a golden horn to HOST. HOST hands the golden horn over to JASIEK, the best man (he is a young farmer), and asks him to convoke the army. JASIEK obeys and rides off on horseback, with the golden horn.

In the third act, morning dawns. HOST sleeps. He wakes up slowly and at last remembers the order that VERNYHORA has given to him. Farmers have come with scythes and weapons – they had been convoked by JASIEK. They fall asleep. JASIEK returns. He has lost the golden horn. He is in despair. STRAWMAN (the rose bush) enters following JASIEK and scolds him for having lost the golden horn. STRAWMAN tells JASIEK to take the arms away from the people. Then STRAWMAN starts to play soft, melodious wedding music, and the farmers dance in pairs around JASIEK that has sunk to the ground. The cock crows and the dancers continue to dance. STRAWMAN says the last sentence of the drama to JASIEK: “You oaf! You had the golden horn….” Obviously, at this “wedding”, the Polish people missed another opportunity to make their country resurrect.

I am impressed. Wyspiański wrote all this at the age of 31 years! And he was not only a poet, but an all-round Art Nouveau artist. Always when in Kraków I have to see his window showing the Creation of the World in the Franciscan church.

VERNYHORA was right about the fact that Poland was to resurrect, though he did not foresee the time. It was in 1918 that Poland reappeared on the world map. It was wiped out once more during the Second World War, resurged again after the War and even more so in 1989, when it became the fastest growing country of Eastern Europe. Will Poland continue to move forward in that spirit? Will Poland be able to “marry” the people from the country with those from the towns once more? Will Poland keep the ease of their humour?

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Saying good-bye to Kraków

Perhaps the Krakówian dragons symbolize the Polish fighting spirit? The city is full of them, particularly massing up near Bronislaw Chromy’s fire-spitting dragon in front of “its” Wawel cave.

I return to the Rynek with the cloth hall (Sukiennice) and listen to the brave trumpeter that warns the citizens of the attack from the Mongolians, exactly as he has done in the 13th century. Another example of the fighting spirit: The fierce Cracowians vanquished the Mongolians, warned by their trumpeter who was killed by a Mongolian arrow (this is the legend).

Good-bye Kraków, farewell!

 

 

Back in Kraków on the tracks of Bronislaw Chromy

I am still in Kraków and it is July 2017. Over the years, I had accomplished all Kraków excursions of my “Müller guidebook”, except number 12 “Las Wolski” (wolf forest). I try to do the excursion to the forest on a hot Thursday. But I do not get far, as I get stuck in the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy – discovering him is too attractive.

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By bus to Park Decjusza in Zwierzyniec (north of the city center)

I take bus 192 at the Cracovia Stadium. More Lajkoniki are welcoming me in the bus!

One of the bus stations on the way is called Lajkonika. Perhaps it was here that the Mongols had been defeated by the Krakówians in the 13th century?

I leave the bus at the station “Park Decjusza”. I oscillate a bit to find the park that the bus station is named after. A friendly man explains the right way to me. I am so proud that I understand him (he spoke Polish).

In the park, I come across a lady that lies flat on the grass meditating while more ladies are thoughtfully grouped around her. Is this a place of strength? Oh, I understand, I have found the Willa Decjusza that now provides conference rooms. These ladies might be relaxing from a meeting. The Willa is a Renaissance building.

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Harmonic sculptures in the park made by Bronislaw Chromy

The Park Decjusza is wild and shady. Great for a hot day. Cyclists are passing by. In the middle of the park, I find this pavilion surrounded by sculptures that are beautifully embedded in nature.

It is the pavilion of Bronislaw Chromy.

It find it difficult to capture the sculptures with my camera. These are the cyclists on the Juniper bush. They are almost swallowed by the bush and the trees.

The hands holding a rounded stone show harmony. Mother Earth seems to give support .

Inside the pavilion, a friend of the family of Bronislaw Chromy serves coffee and self made cake. He gives me a book and, when reading it, I start to understand. Bronislaw Chromy, born in 1925, is a very well-known contemporary artist in Poland. His sculptures can be found all over in Kraków: He created the dragon (or smok) under the Wawel that spits fire (the dragon is loved by children from all over the world). He also created the monument for the dog Dzok that after the death of his master kept on waiting for him. And he is also the artist that made the impressive Christ in Nowa Huta – the Christ that is being crucified while ascending to heaven at the same time.

Born in 1925, Bronislaw Chromy is an old man now. The family friend managing the pavilion talks with deep respect about the “professor”.

In the cellar I find charming paintings made by him such as these two birds – they may be about to attack one another.

The pavilion sells sculptures of Chromy such as this is peacock.

Back in Kraków I look for Chromy’s owls in the Planty near the Wawel castle. Here they are – a friendly mum with two cheerful young owls.

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Good-bye Kraków for now

From the owls, I walk around the corner to have a salad in the Bona in Ulica Kanonicza while thinking over my day. I am happy to have discovered Bronislaw Chromy who is a gifted sculptor. And I may have to finish the walk number 12 of “my Müller guidebook” when returning in December – to see the Las Wolski (or wolf forest).

Now it is time to say good-bye Krakow.

 

Back in Kraków on the tracks of Matejko and more

Another day in Kraków in July 2017. Today the weather is sweltering. Fortunately I have bought a linen summer dress at the Rynek that I am now wearing.

It is so hot and humid that it is a great day for museums. After some shopping, I visit two of them, and in between I meet more friends, for lunch and for an aperitif in the evening.

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The bookshop in Ulica Bracka with the great childrens books

Not far from my hotel Wawel in Poselska I get stuck in a cute bookshop in Ulica Bracka. It is called “De Revolutionibus”. They serve coffee and cake and have many nice books for children. I particularly like the book about cats and dogs. Look, how dogs resemble their masters.

Source: Antonio Fischetti and Sébastien Mourrain: “Psy i koty pod lupa naukowców”, Polarny Lis.

This is how the bookshop has set up the corner for children.

I buy “the wedding” written by Wyspiański. He was a painter AND an author. Agata tells me later that she read and analyzed this book at school.

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Frightening paintings in the museum of Wyspiański

Next Iook for information about Wyspiański. However, I cannot find an exhibition about this Krakówian multitalent in the museum named after him. Instead I find a special exhibition of paintings produced by prisoners in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Some were ordered by the SS to decorate houses or to illustrate orders to the prisoners. Others have been painted in secret showing the atrocities of the concentration camps. And some are memories of the life outside the camps – they were painted to give hope that one day, they might be free again. I am particularly impressed by the drawings of a formerly famous skier that had painted the mountains with and without skiers. I am suffering of what the Germans that I am sharing roots with have done… I always feel guilty and I am not able to take one photo.

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The house where Matejko lived: Ulica Florianska 41 

I had found out about Matejko, when visiting Nowa Huta and Krzeslawice. He had a cottage near the lake of Krzeslawice which is now a museum. He was born and lived most of his life in Florianska 41, not far from the Rynek. Florianska 41 is this neoclassical building that has been renovated by adding modern style elements.

Matejko was born in 1832 to become an important Polish painter of the 19th century. He engaged to remind the Polish of their identity and culture, when Poland was ruled by foreign forces after 1792. He was famous for painting historical scenes such as Sobieski vanquishing the Turks in Vienna in 1683.

It is said that his paintings helped the Polish to keep up their spirit of resistance. In addition he painted portraits and cartoons. He was a professor at the academy of arts. One of his pupils was Wyspiańsky.

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Two great places to relax: The Magia and the Bona

I go back to the shady courtyard of the Magia to have a fruit juice and meet Agata. Later I move to the Bona, a bar-bookshop in the Kanoniczka street and have a nice dry Muscat from Poland.

While I am reading, I am listening to a beautiful female voice singing opera arias in front of the twelve apostles of the Saint Peter and Paul church. This is what the place looks like later in the night.

Warm summer evenings in Kraków are a very relaxing experience! I return to the Rynek (Main Market Square) and listen to a violin player.

Look at the Sukiennice in the middle of the Rynek….

… and at Maria Church (Kosiól Mariacki) illuminated in the night.

I finish off my quiet evening with a Zubróvka (bison grass vodka) in my favorite coffee bar, the Magia, just behind Maria Church.

 

Back in Kraków discovering Nowa Huta

In July 2017, I spend a few days in Kraków attending a wedding, meeting friends, visiting places I like and seeing some new ones.

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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.

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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).

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Ahmore 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.

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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!

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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.

Across the street I find the Monastery Opactwo Cystersów Mogíla. The church welcomes me with a baroque facade. The interior is gothic from 1477, with some frescos..

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.

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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.

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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.

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Around the lake of Krzeslawice

Finally I reach the small lake of Krzeslawce with childrens playgrounds. I walk around that lake and stop in front of the museum for the painter Matejko.

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.

 

 

 

Back in Kraków – discovering places in Kazimierz that are new for me

When returning to Kraków in July 2017, I attended a wedding, met friends and visited “old” and “new” places. Let me start with Kazimierz.

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A half hour boat ride on the Wisla

In winter I saw many wooden boats parked along the shore of Zwierzyniec. Now I can see, what they are for. They are waiting at the peer under the Wawel, until they have 12 passengers. Then they start for a half hour ride on the Wisla. Great, I start the day with a boat ride.

I enter the boat called Kościuszko – after the man that fought for freedom of Poland around 1800 and is now buried on a hill above Kraków. Two friendly ladies (probably my age) offer mint toffees to me.

Another boat is called “Lajkonik”. Yes, the horse riding men making fun of the Mongolians vanquished in the 13th century are omnipresent in Kraków.

From the boat ride, I take back this great view of the Wawel castle.

After my boat ride I follow the Wislaw and enter Kazimierz from the south.

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The church of Corpus Dei or Kościól Bozego Ciala in Kazimierz

Often I have walked by the church of Corpus Dei in Kazimierz. Now I enter it. The church is an example of brick gothics, built in the 14th century. I like the cross hanging in the nave.

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The high synagogue in Kazimierz (Synagoga Wysoka)

At Józefa street I find a cosy courtyard, where I eat a zurek (sour soup). Not far from here is the high synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka that I had never taken notice of before. The synagogue is called “high”, because the praying hall is on the first floor or “high” up. This synagogue has been built in the 16th century.

In the praying hall some of the former wall decoration is left.

There is an exhibition of photos that show the normal Jewish life in Kazimierz before World War II. I am suffering – why has all this happened?

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The museum of Ethnographics in the townhall of Kazimierz

It is hot today. I look for a chilly place and escape into the Ethnographics museum that is located in the former townhall of Kazimierz. The museum has only few English explanations, but the exhibits are pretty straightforward – houses, barns and mills as well as photos and requisites that illustrate the life from craddle to grave in the 19th century. I understand that family and village life was important for the Polish that struggled to preserve their culture and language, while being ruled by Russia, Germany and Austria in the 18th and 19th century.

The top floor shows artifacts like this wonderfully carved Man of Sorrow from the 17th century.

I finish off the day in my favorite tea house of Kazimierz, the Czajownia. Then I meet Radek for dinner. We eat in the restaurant Trezo, where I have a delicious pike perch with a Riesling from Poland. Yes, Poland grows wine as well.

 

In Kraków – back again for a short visit and a Fondue with friends / II

At the start of December (2016), I was back in Kraków for a short visit. After my Friday sightseeing and Sushi with Radek, I now spend Saturday with some more sightseeing, some shopping and the Fondue evening with friends.

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Visiting the Muzeum Narodowe with an exhibition of Rodin and Dunikowski

I enter the National Museum in the Szołayski House to learn more about Wispiansky, the multitalent of Kraków in the beginning of the twentieth century. I am told that the exhibition is closed for renovation. Instead I see the juxtaposing of sculptures from Rodin and Dunikowski. The exhibition is called “visions of women”. I learn that Dunikowski admired Rodin, that he is one of the most renowned Polish artists of the 20th century and that he has survived Auschwitz. I like his powerful sculptures.

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The Szołayski House with its decorated walls is worth a visit in itself.

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Shopping at Tatuum

Tatuum is a small shop on the Rynek. I see a warm padded coat in blue color in the window, enter and leave the shop again with the padded coat, three sweaters, a pair of trousers and a knitted dress. I love to go shopping in Krakow – and it is less expensive than in Switzerland.

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Young choirs singing in the Peter and Paul Church

The Peter and Paul Church has always surprised me. Today I observe a group of girls singing and entering the church through the backdoor. Something must go on inside. I enter. The church is full. Entry is free. And one choir after the next is singing. It is the Advent and Christmas Choir Festival that lasts from December 2nd to 24th.

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I stay for a while and listen to the beautiful young voices.

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Taco: Mexican dishes prepared and served by Poles

Just next door to my hotel Wawel we have a late lunch in the Taco that serves Mexican food. I order an Aztec Soup (they call it “Taco soup” here) and a home made drink made from elder. Though the personnel is entirely Polish, my soup is pretty authentic and tasty.

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Dry wine needed – Wina Szlachetne

For the Fondue tonight, we need some more dry wine. The shop of Maryla Piskorska, Wina Szlachetne  or “Noble Wines” is always a great place for buying wine. We are in the “rue de la soif” (street of thirst), as the plate says.

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For our Fondue, we select a dry Sylvaner from Rheinhessen. Maryla Piskorska has started to offer wine from the Georgian republic made in amphores. I am curious about this wine, but I cannot take it from here in my hand luggage.

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The fondue evening – always a challenge and a great pleasure

At Dominik’s place I take a large saucepan to prepare the fondue (for lack of a caquelon). When my fondue is ready, Radek refuses to come, because he is playing football with the son of the house. I insist that the fondue has to be eaten immediately – everyone to the table, please. We dip our bread cubes. The stove we use to keep the fondue warm is designed for chocolate fondue and is to weak for cheese fondue. I have to heat up our cheese fondue several times, as it started to disintegrate. We had a great time, thank you Dominik for inviting us to your home. Back in Basel I bought a good cheese fondue stove that I will take with me in 2017 to ease fondue cooking and eating in Kraków.

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It is a sunny Sunday – and I say good-bye to Kraków

After having met some more friends on Sunday morning, I quickly visit the Rynek (market square) to say good-bye. The sky is deeply blue today and contrasts with the red bricks of St. Mary’s Church.

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With EasyJet the flight home to Basel takes something more than an hour. And already for dinner I find myself at the table of my neighbors enjoying a delicious Risotto.