Kazimierz never sleeps
Join Radio Polonia's Gabriel Stille for a
trip to Kazimierz - the old Jewish district of Krakow,
boasting a rich heritage as well as vibrant nightlife
Once an indepentent city - it merged with Krakow only
in the end of the 19th century - founded by king Casimir
the Great in 1335, Kazimierz was for many centuries
a center for Jewish cultural life. It was also a place
of relative tolerance and coexistence between Jews
and gentiles. In 1939, the Nazi invasion swept away
the Jewish Krakow.
Today, the remnants of synagogues, Jewish cemetaries
and other sites are being carefully restored. The old
synagoge, dating from the 15th century, at Szeroka
street today houses the Judaic collection of the Krakow
Historical Museum. Jews from all over the world come
here to visit the home of their ancestors. Esti Klein
Ofer comes here from Israel:
I heard many stories from my father about this district, and I was in the
house my father was born, I saw it yesterday, and here we have also Menachem
Stern. His grandfather was a neighbour of my grandfather - the same house,
and we got to know each other only yesterday! It was in Jakuba Street,
where also Mordechai Gebirtig, the famous jiddischer composer lived ... I was
always afraid of coming here to Cracow, i thought it was
something of the past, of the dead people. But here, you know, I'm still alive.
I have five children, I'm bringing them up in Israel, and
here I see the continuity of life.
Although parts of Kazimierz are being renovated, most
notably public buildings such as synagogues, churches
and museums, most of the district is still sporting
a darker, more dilapidated feel - the shiny facades
of the Krakow old town are still a few years in the
future. Maybe all the better for the in crowd - Kazimierz
has become a favourite hangout for the young and bohemian.
So, what better place to make up plans for the evening
than a dark, smokey cafe, with old photos all over
the walls and grandma-style furniture. Mleczarnia,
or the Dairy, at Meiselsa street is just the place.
Here I meet a German student:
My name is Melanie, I'm from Germany, from Berlin,
and I'm living here in Kazimierz for two weeks. We are spending this time in Krakow because
we are having a working experience. I like the atmosphere of the different
cafes here. Yesterday we visited a special cafe, it was a kind of a gallery.
This cafe is more extravagant, it is the old style we like.
Again, this is just the right place. And, if you haven't
found a place to stay, now is the time to find a hotel
or - for the one still young at heart or wallet - hostel.
There is lots of them all over Krakow, and the distances
is generally nothing to worry about. But I choose one
right in the center of Kazimierz of course - at Miodowa
street, right next to a bar called Absynt - where you
can get all kinds of varieties of the green liquor
- though not as strong as in Prague of course. But
what about a "Soul kiss" absint, becherovka,
passoa, orange juice and sprite?
So, now we are out about town. There is loads of pubs,
bars and cafes everywhere, and if you start around
from the New Square, Plac Nowy, with its intriquing
twelwe-angeled market hall in the middle - nothing
can go wrong. Now I'm at the Alchemia, right at the
square, a dark, brooding place bustling with people
and with popular concerts and exhibitions going on
downstairs. This is supposed to be one of the hip places,
but rembember to ask the locals:
It is just an occasion to meet friends. This is not the best place in Krakow.
The best place is where the friends are. Where the friends are, I'm going.
Were the barmans are friendly.
Still very true. If you grow weary of the dark, black
magic kind of places were everyone is bohemian, forgive
me, Cracovian like you, there is more mundane bars
as well. Such as this one, le Scandale, with a huge
selection of coctails. And from this point - only your
guts and possible commitments tomorrow morning can
stop you from exploring all the places all around Kazimierz
all night long.
After a long night, its good to wake up to a nice hostel
breakfast - maybe to see the rest of Cracow or to have
a closer look to some of the more cultural sites. Anyway,
any traveller will find it true that Kazimierz is well
worth the visit.