This is a fun thing to do in Krakow. I came across a site featuring old photographs of the city and wondered what these places look like now. Here’s an example: a shot of Plac Nowy in the Kazimierz district taken in 1979 and the same view (more or less) taken today (Sunday 13th April, 2008).
Kazimierz is famously the hip and trendy bohemian quarter of Krakow and Plac Nowy is hip central. To misquote Douglas Adams, the place is so hip it can barely see over its own pelvis. Plac Nowy is ringed by distressed bars, cafes, dives, hangouts and other sorts of places lusted after by romantically inclined Westerners. You can barely move for quirky accordion/French horn trios, stubbly desperados, world-weary danger chicks, and people seriously considering writing a novel. It’s a great place to get tremendously drunk while pretending that you’re suffering on some obscurely existential level. I go down there sometimes; often the revelers are inclined to poke me with a stick to see if a human being of such enormously advanced age could possibly still be alive. I tell them I remember when all this was fields.
Here are some of my observations on what 30 years have wrought.
1. There are a hell of a lot more traffic signs than there were 30 years ago (nice to see that stop sign has survived though, almost in the same place). This could mean: a) There’s a lot more traffic than there was 30 years ago; b) Traffic is a lot more stupid than it was 30 years ago; c) Somebody thinks traffic is a lot more stupid than it was 30 years ago; d) Somebody’s making a tidy profit from erecting traffic signs.
2. This is the only apartment in the entire square that hasn’t had it’s old wooden windows replaced with nasty bright white PVC ones (or PCV as they, bizarrely, call it here). Suddenly I have an overwhelming desire to take a look inside that apartment and see if anything else has changed since 1979.
3. The rather attractive round building in the middle of the square has had a ‘back to basics’ make over. Somebody’s stripped off all that yellow paint or render and taken it back to the naked brick. Must have been a hell of a job. I quite like the yellow look.
4. Smart new German motors. It never ceases to amaze me what people will spend their money on.
5. Potential hoodlum carrying some kind of space-age shiny food. A far cry from the days when stick-thin lads and lasses hauling satchels stuffed with school books trod these streets.
6. Pigeon invasion. In the wider photo I took there are dozens of pigeons in evidence. There are none at all in the 1979 scene. More tourists, more money, more junk food lying around on the streets, more pigeons. I’m sure there’s a moral in there somewhere.
7. Pavements have improved only marginally. Honestly, the number of times I’ve almost snapped a foot off on ridiculously wonky paving is not funny.
If anybody has or knows of a source for more of these old pics I would dearly love to hear about it.
I sometimes rave about Krakow’s architectural oddities over on Wyspianski Unwinding.