Cracow's ABC

Labyrinths of charming alleys, many historic buildings, one of the biggest market squares in Europe, dancing in the streets of Old Town, diginified Wawel - your complete guide do Cracow.

Artists

Cracow is the only city in Poland inhabited by so many artists. Actually, it seems to be easier to name those who are not famous here.

Breweries

The first breweries were set up in Cracow as early as in the 14th century. Almost each of the medieval streets boasted one of its own. On top of that, beer was brought from Świdnica, famous for its excellent quality. Nowadays you can try dozens of beers, ranging from local varieties (Strzelec, Okocim) to more exotic ones.

Chakra

Chakra is a place where the energies of the Earth and Universe meet. There are only seven planetary chakras in the world, including Cracow, Delphi, New Delhi, Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome and Velehrad. The one in Kraków is believed to be located on the site of the Romanesque St. Gereon's Church at Wawel.

Dragon's cave

Once inhabited by the famous Wawel dragon, now it is the best-known cave in Poland. The 81 metres long underground tunnel is reached down 135 steps. Other parts are off-limits, accessible to cavers only.

Environment

Surrounded by industrial development, Cracow tops the list of the Polish cities that emit the greatest amount of air pollutants.

Forum

Ranking among the most renowned hotels in Cracow, the Forum is sited on the riverbank and overlooking Wawel. Completed in 14 years, it was a five star hotel visited by such eminent figures as S. Spielberg, H. Kohl, M. Gorbachev, V. Havel and F. Mitterand. Closed only recently, it awaits either an investor or a complete demolition.

Ghosts

The most famous of Cracow's haunted houses is the one situated at the southern exit (road to Wieliczka), just before the city border. Do not be misled by its ordinary looks.

Heraldy

The oldest representation of Cracow's coat of arms was preserved in the 13th-century seals. Nowadays it contains a three-towered wall with an open gate and a white crowned eagle.

Idée fixe

The most popular idea of that kind is the bizarre concept of transferring the capital back to Kraków, which is abhorred by the locals. Another brilliant idea is the construction of a cable car in the city or the organization of Winter Olympic Games.

John Paul II's window

Poland's most famous window, in the Bishop's Palace in ul. Franciszkańska 3. Whenever coming to Cracow, the Pope appeared there to address the crowds gathered outside. On the first occasion, in June 1979, he made the famous comment: "It's not easy being a pope in Rome, but in Cracow it would be impossible as I would have to stand in the window all the time".

Krakuska

A cap that came to symbolize an average Pole; rather unjustly, as the villagers around Kraków were more accustomed to wearing hats.

Lem

Stanisław (1921-2006) The greatest Polish science-fiction author and one of the internationally Polish best known writers, praised both by critics and readers for his brilliant imagination, erudition and linguistic artistry. Born in Lviv (now Ukraine), he had to move to Kraków shortly after the war and spent here most of his adult life, contributing to local papers such as Tygodnik Powszechny and publishing many of his books in the Wydawnictwo Literackie.

Mineral water

Cracow has several sources of underground water with a high mineral content, including these of Jurassic, Cretaceous, Miocene and Tertiary origin.

Nobel prize winners

Two of Poland's greatest poets, honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature, have strong links with Cracow. Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) studied at the Jagiellonian University and has lived and worked here since then, while Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) spent the last 10 years of his life in an apartment in ul. Bogusławskiego, presented to him by the city authorities, and was buried in the Pauline Church.

Okół

An early medieval settlement that eventually evolved into the town of Cracow. Today, the centre of the long-gone fort is occupied by plac św. Marii Magdaleny. Originally, the square seems to have been a marketplace and the focus of everyday life in the settlement. Archeologists found here some remains of 11th-century buildings as well as the foundations of a 14th-century town hall and cloth hall.

Pigeons

One of the best-known symbols of Cracow, the pigeons (there are four species living in the city) are as much hated as loved by the locals and visitors.

Rivals

The main rival of Cracow is, understandably, Warsaw. It may result from a conflict between the former and present capital, but some people say it is actually a matter of different characters. The establishment of a railway connection between the two cities, with the travel time now less than three hours, may be the first step to reunite the two rivals.

Student's town

The University campus situated at the junction of Czarnowiejska, Armii Krajowej and Piastowska streets is considered a city within a city, looking its best in early spring, when students go picnicking in front of their halls of residence.

Titles

Cracovians are said to be very conscious about titles, especially in everyday life. It is the only city in Poland where they are inherited.

UNESCO

Cracow's Old Town, Wawel and Kazimierz were inscribed on UNESCO's original World Heritage List. Created in 1978, it honoured 12 most precious historical monuments in the world, including the pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China.

Vampire

Karol Kot, dubbed by the press as "Cracow Vampire", was a notorious serial killer charged with brutal murder of at least two people and attempting to murder another ten. Born in 1946, 22 years later he was sentenced to death and hanged. In the 1960s, as a secondary school student, he terrorized the Cracovians - who were so scared that, when leaving home, they put  metal boards, books or other objects under clothes to protect themselves against being stabbed by the psychopath. Kot was arrested a few months after he passed his final exams. As he said, he liked the taste of blood.

Wisła Kraków and Cracovia

Two football clubs that antagonize not only their staunch supporters but also most ordinary Cracovians, even if normally they are not much interested in sports. The local derby is the number-one sporting event in the city's calendar, always leading to actions that have nothing to do with sports rivalry. Rooting for either club is commonly regarded as a duty of every citizen.

Zakopianka

(Cracow-Zakopane road) Always crowded and dangerous, during serious road accidents it can be totally impassable. Plans for the construction of a new route running south are still on paper.

For more information look at Pascal