WALK 5: Podgórze

Rynek Podgórski, Kraków

Podgórze used to be the right-bank part of the city of Kazimierz. However, in 1784 Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor,made it an independent Royal Free City. Situated picturesquely at the foot of the limestone ridge of Krzemionki, it was multinational and tolerant; its development attracted entrepreneurs, factory owners, and craftsmen. On 4 July 1915 it was officially merged with Kraków. However, the Second World War left a tragic mark on its history, and it is only recently that the district has been experiencing a slow revival.

The most convenient way of reaching the centre of Podgórze is along Kładka Bernatka: the Father Laetus Bernatek Cycle and Foot Bridge. While crossing the river, facing Podgórze, you can see the characteristic Aleksandrowicz townhouse (the one with two bay windows) on your right-hand side, and on your left – the modern form of the new home of Cricoteka, which incorporates the building of the former Podgórze Power Plant from 1900, the oldest element of such industrial heritage surviving in Kraków.

Local and green, Podgórze has retained its character. Moreover, it exudesan aura ofsmall town and mystery. This atmosphere even embraces the Church of St Joseph in Podgórze Market Square: the main Gothic Revival body of the church looking monumental, but this is but an optical illusion resulting from the unique triangular shape of the square that furthermore rises up towards the church itself. It may be a good idea to visit the famous Bednarski Park behind it, established on the floor of a former stone quarry. This is one of Europe’s first examples of the restoration of post-industrial wastelands. The lush gardens of the villas standing around the park prove this section of Podgórze was designed as a “garden city”.

Standing nearby is Lasota Hill, with the historic Podgórze cemetery established around 1790 at its foot. The top of the hill is graced by the diminutive Church of St Benedict from the 11th centuryand the unique “St Benedict” octagonal artillery tower: one of the 19th-century forts built by the Austrians. From here you can see King KrakusMound, possibly from the 7th century AD, considered the tomb of the legendary founder of Kraków. Its summit not only commands a panorama of the city, as on a clear day you can also see the Tatra mountains lying around hundred kilometres to the south.

The Liban stone quarry at its foot has been abandoned since the Second World War, when the Nazis developed it into a forced labour camp for Poles (Baudienst). This is where Stephen Spielberg filmed his Schindler’s List. Some remnants of props and sets have survived, including the camp roadpaved with replicas of matzevah tombstones. There are more memorials of the tragic history in Podgórze: what today is plac Bohaterów Getta (literally “the square of the heroes of the ghetto”) in 1941–43 was witness of the establishment of the ghettoand later the successive stages of its liquidation. The process is commemorated in anespecially telling manner: the memorial covering the centre of the square features 33 chair-monuments made of cast iron and bronze, and 37 ordinary ones that welcome you to sit upon them. They are a symbol of the tragedy of the Jews who used to live in the area, of whom no more than empty chairs and spaces are left. One of the buildings standing in the square is the Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka pod Orłem, today a museum) which was operated during the war by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Pole who chose to live and work in the ghetto. His support for the persecuted Jews earned him the medal of Righteous Among the Nations. After the war he recorded his memories in a book entitled The Kraków Ghetto Pharmacy.

The Nazis established Plaszow Concentration Camp in Podgórze. The victims of the camp, which operated from 1942 to 1945, are commemorated by the Torn Hearts Monument in ul. Kamieńskiego, while the former administration building of Oscar Schindler’s factory at ul. Lipowa 4 is today a branch of the Historical Museum of Kraków(MHK) presenting the life of the city occupied by the Nazis. The interactive exhibition Kraków under Nazi Occupation 1939–1945 attracts crowds of visitors. The factory halls and barracks, where the Jews saved by Schindler formerly lived and worked,were turned into the Museum of ContemporaryArtKrakówMOCAK in 2011.

Tourists arrive here fascinated not only by the countless testimonies of history and cultural attractions, but also by Podgórze’sdifferent and unique style and its charming nooks and crannies. The district is coming back to life: new places with a unique atmosphere open nearly every day, and its out-of-the-ordinary character allows endless discovery.

Date: 2018-01-25 Show ticket
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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