This is near where I was staying in Kaximierz, the old Jewish Quarter in Kraków.
Magical in daylight, magical at night.
Christmas is just around the corner, many of us will have a lot of time to do things we’d normally not do. So why not visit Poland? Too late too book? Maybe. But there’s a site that offers virtual trips across Poland and there’s plenty to look at.
Wirtualny Kraj allows you to browse various locations across Poland and go for a (virtual) walk across many cities – both major and those less known.
You can visit museums, various tourist attractions, churches, universities and even go inside Sejm, the Polish parliament (see below).
There are also some weird choices – like shopping malls – but judging by the number of visitors to those, they seem to be as popular in the virtual world as they are in the real world.
The site is a great way of exploring new destinations and potentially planning your next trip. So, if you find some time over the festive period, why not give it a try? The site has an English version too, although it didn’t always work for me.
Here’s my top 10 destinations on the site:
6. Książ Castle
9. AGH, Kraków
Or as SFGate chose to put it, “Sauerkraut for everybody!”
Yes, the two cities, which couldn’t be more distant geographically and culturally, are now twinned.
And if you’re in Kraków around the 3rd July, you can witness the official signing ceremony there.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom released a statement, in which he said:
“I am pleased that the beautiful, innovative and destination cities of Krakow and San Francisco are now sister cities. The sister city relationship is a wonderful expression of the strong relations between our two magnificent cities.”
Aaawwww, well put. According to SFGate,
The partnership is intended to foster cultural, business and civic ties between the cities.
So how do they compare?
San Francisco: is the fourth most populous city in California and the 13th most populous city in the United States, with a 2008 estimated population of 808,976. San Francisco is characterized by a high standard of living.
The great wealth and opportunity generated by the Internet revolution continues to draw many highly educated and high-income workers and residents to San Francisco. Following the arrival of writers and artists of the 1950s—who established the modern coffeehouse culture—and the social upheavals of the 1960s, San Francisco became an epicenter of liberal activism, with Democrats and Greens dominating city politics.
Indeed, San Franciscans have not provided a Republican presidential candidate more than 20 percent of the vote since the 1988 election. (source: Wikipedia)
Kraków: is one of the largest and oldest cities in Poland, with a population of 756,336 in 2007. Situated on the Vistula river (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596.
With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, Kraków restored its role as a major academic and cultural centre. After the war, under the Stalinist regime, the intellectual and academic community of Kraków was put under total political control. The communist government of the People’s Republic of Poland ordered construction of the country’s largest steel mill in the newly-created suburb of Nowa Huta.
Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish scientific, cultural and artistic life. As the former national capital with a history encompassing more than a thousand years, the city remains the spiritual heart of Poland. It is a major attraction for local and international tourists, attracting seven million visitors annually. (source: Wikipedia)
Very different, but in a strange way also very similar. I only hope that this twinning will raise Kraków’s profile internationally even more as it deserves more attention. And so does the rest of Poland, in fact.
I hope my favourite Kraków blog, krakoff.info writes something about it soon.
And I wonder whether San Francisco’s Polish restaurant Old Kraków will celebrate the news somehow….
SF image © Stuck in Customs, Kraków image © smif, used under Creative Commons licence via Flickr
I was too busy over the weekend (pre-Xmas gathering of friends in Hampshire, great food, lovely companion) to realise The Observer had a nice piece on Kraków and its annual exhibition of the best Christmas cribs in the main square.
In fact, the cribs were just an excuse for a page-long piece on how to enjoy yourself over a couple of days in Kraków. Light on the culture and history, heavy on entertainment and food.
Strangely, the piece is not available on their site, so let me quote directly from the paper:
Kraków hosts a vibrant Christmas market for most of December, but what makes it different is ‘Szopki’, a unique competition of nativity cribs. These are delicate handmade recreations of the city’s baroque churches and gothic cathedrals – some reaching 2m in height – that everyone, from schoolkids to pensioners, spends months labouring over. They are displayed in the Market Square on the first Thursday of December and the winners are then shown in the Historical Museum.
Szopki can be really elaborate, mind-blowing creations, they can be small and tacky, but they are such an unique part of the landscape in Kraków, you simply have to see them.
The Observer piece uses this short intro to give people bite-sized tips about Kraków – what to see, where to stay (‘Hotel Copernicus – this is where everyone stays’), where to have a coffee, go shopping, dining and clubbing.
I’m glad they also mentioned my favourite place in Kraków – well, one of many. It’s a small cafe in a really magical corner of the city, just off the main square, right opposite atiny church in the narrow St. Thomas Street. It’s called Cafe Camelot (images above and below) and as The Observes says,
You’ll find today’s arty crowd hanging out in Cafe Camelot. Apart from the fab cheesecake and mulled wine, there is alternative cabaret and live jazz or gypsy music in the cellar most evenings.
One thing the paper fails to mention is the window. As you enter the cafe, there’s a window in a recess to your left. They’ve managed to squeeze a small round table with lace tablecloth in there and two chairs. For me it’s the most romantic place in Kraków, I could sit in that window all night and forget about the world.
Next time you and your loved one are there, grab the table, get some red wine and listen to the music from the cellar. It’s pure magic…
Kraków? Cracow? Krakow? How on earth do you spell it? (Kraków) But more importantly, how do you pronounce it? Don’t fret – that’s why you have the Polski Blog Today just a bunch of cities, starting with the more popular ones.
has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, and it’s still a nice alternative to Prague, which – although beautiful – is often overcrowded, overpriced and over the top. Definitely, one of my most favourite places on the planet.
is the capital of Poland, and for many the first and only city they see in Poland. If you don’t like it, remember it was almost cmpletely flattened during the Second World War and then rebuilt by the Soviets. Pretty it ain’t, hence it may be worth jumping on a train and going north to
The largest Polish port forms part of the so-called tri-city. A city with rich, often dramatic history, also partly destroyed during the world, but luckily beautifully rebuilt. Forms part of a so-called tri-city, a large metropolitan area with
In the southern, or actually south-western part of the country
has become a very popular tourist destination. Kraków has always been very popular, but in recent years I’ve heard quite a few stories about Wrocław and how dynamic, attractive it has become. Yet another city in Poland, which, over the centuries, has been a part of Germany, Prussia, Austria and Poland. Fantastic architecture, rich night life, great history. Its mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz featured in a BBC documentary about Poles in Britain, The Poles are Coming. He once famously visited some British cities with strong Polish communities to try to appeal to the most recent migrants and convince them to return to Wrocław.
OK, one more city worth mentioning is
traditionally a vibrant centre of trade and industry, with the oldest cathedral in Poland. Oh, and since I’m jumping all over the Polish map, I need to mention one more northern city,
Just because I thought you’d love all the consonants in the name
I haven’t mentioned here many other important Polish cities, so look out for more consonant-packed names soon!
Warszawa church and Kraków by smif via Flickr used under CC licence
Wrocław by Mike PD via Flickr used under CC licence