November 13 - 19, 2016: Issue 289



by George Repin

Poland’s second largest city, Kraców, is one of the country’s oldest and best preserved.  It lies in the southern part of the country in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.  Fortunately it survived World War II unscathed so that its wealth of medieval churches, baroque architecture, Wavel Cathedral and Wavel Castle  were preserved, making Kraków Poland’s  greatest tourist attraction.  

The Renaissance Castle on Wawel Hill.

Courtyard of Wawel Castle undergoing restoration.  Fragments of 16th C. frescoes are on the top level.

There is evidence of Stone Age occupation on the Wavel Hill but the present settlement dates back to the 7th Century CE. In 1038 Kraców became the seat of the Polish Government and by the end of the 10th Century was a leading centre of trade.  In 1241 the city was almost completely destroyed by Mongols and was again ravaged by the Mongols in 1259, but after defensive walls were built subsequent attacks were repelled.

The city flourished until 1586 as the medieval capital of Poland, the kings ruling from Wawel Castle. Even after the capital was moved to Warsaw Polish Royalty continued to be crowned and buried at the Wawel Cathedral.

Wawel Cathedral.  Gold dome of King Sigismund's Chapel. The vault of the dome and the plates covering the dome are coated with gold leaf. Considered the finest Renaissance construction in Poland.

Wawel Cathedral.  King Sigismund Tower on left, the Silver Bells Tower on the right and the Holy Cross Chapel in front.

As Kraców grew and developed it became, and today remains, a show case for many different historic styles of architecture.  Because of the manner in which the city expanded, from its earliest nucleus outward, the variations in style and planning can be easily recognised. Because Kraców was spared much of the destruction suffered by other Polish cities during 20th Century wars it is possible, in walking outwards from the city centre, to see the historical succession displayed by the buildings.

Florian Gate - the only survivor of originally eight gates.
First mentioned in 1307 as controlling the main entrance to the city.  The square stone tower above the gate was built in the 14th C. and the top added in the 16th C.  A favourite spot for artists to exhibit their work.

In 1335 King Casimir III founded a new city adjoining Kraców – Kazimierz - which he named after himself (Casimir in Polish is Kazimierz).
Kraków’s historic centre (including the Old Town, Kazimierz and Wavel Castle) was included as the first of its kind on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978.

Church of the Virgin Mary (St. Mary's Church) on the Market Square.  
The main body was built between 1350 and 1397 but not completed until 1666.

The opulent Baroque Church of St. Anne.

When Jews were expelled from Kraców in the 15th Century they resettled in a prescribed area of Kazimierz which over time became home for Jews fleeing from persecution in other parts of Europe.

The town square of Kazimierz.  
The Old Synagogue is at the end of the square.

The Old Synagogue.  
The oldest Jewish religious building in Poland. Now houses the Jewish Museum.

The 16th. Century Remuh Synagogue - the only one still used for religious services.  
Renaissance gravestones are in the cemetery behind the Synagogue.

By the start of World War II there were 63,000 Jews in Kraców (about 30% of the city’s population) mostly living in Kazimierz.  When the Germans occupied Kraców Jews were at first confined to ghettos and then progressively murdered or sent to nearby concentration camps (such as Auschwitz and Birkenau) where they were systematically exterminated.

Some 1.5 to 2 million human beings (90% of whom were Jews) were killed in these death factories.

By the end of the 1940s the post-Holocaust Jewish population of Kraców was about 5900.     

Photographs taken by George Repin in 2000.
Auschwitz. Prison block houses.
Auschwitz. Electrified fences.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park  

Copyright George Repin 2016. All Rights Reserved.