I find roadworks fascinating, especially when they involve digging up ancient streets. As part of Krakow’s ongoing programme of cosmetic surgery most of the streets in the centre have been repaved, now they’re moving on to the trickier ones further out—the ones used by cars and trams. Ul. Długa (Long Street) is one of several ancient routes that led from the surrounding countryside to the gates of the old city, when it still had gates and walls. Today it’s a busy urban street with tram tracks in both directions, except it isn’t because the whole thing has now been ripped up to a depth of three feet.
Ul. Długa, looking north from the junction with Słowiańska and Pędzichów. Note the minaret on top of the building on the right, mentioned in a previous post.
I find things like this deeply fascinating. It’s a moment in history every bit as interesting to me as witnessing a famous battle or a coronation. How many centuries has it been since these foundations were last exposed, and how many centuries more until they see the light of day again?
It’s a massive undertaking and must be costing tens of millions. They’re not just repaving, they’re also laying a concrete raft along the entire length of the street, presumably to support the trams. The pavements are also being dramatically widened, which will be bliss for us pedestrians. What isn’t bliss is the major headache caused by closing one of the main roads into town and a whole section of the tram network. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this over the next few years, but the end result will surely be worth it: narrower roads discouraging cars, safe and broad pavements and a commitment to the future of the city’s trams.
A section of newly-laid concrete footing to support the tram tracks (I assume). Southern end of ul. Długa looking towards the planty.
The recent renovations of the Old Town’s infrastructure has created a paradise for archeologists. You can’t stick a spade in the ground without chipping something off a long-lost palace or monastery. The resurfacing of the Main Square was held up for years because workmen kept sinking their pickaxes into the kind of historical remains that could keep entire archeology departments busy for generations. Now we’re going to have some kind of underground museum which, to be honest, sounds extremely cool to me.
I’d love to spend some time with the crews digging up ul. Długa. They must find some amazing stuff down there. This route has been in use for a least a thousand years; that’s ten centuries of ordinary Poles wandering up and down it dropping things, getting murdered and burying stuff for safe keeping. I like to think all these guys have one or two Piast dynasty coins stashed away in a drawer at home; the kind of things museum curators would kill for but which are actually far better off out in the real world thrilling grandchildren.
Crossing Długa today I noticed a section of ancient unearthed foundation that had me dashing home for my camera and my old maps. Długa has subtly changed direction over the centuries, and is probably doing so again right now.
Note the recently unearthed limestone and brick foundations in the foreground and the way it aligns perfectly with the far corner of the dark, advert encrusted building above.
A present-day Google Earth image showing the junction in question and part of a 1785 map of the same area. The modern property line diverges at an angle of 15 degrees or so from the 18th century one. I guess we are looking at the foundations of the last building above the yellow line on the 1785 map. I wonder what it was. Who knew that was under the tram wheels every time I took a number 17.
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Reader Gre$ko has kindly provided photos and comments on the unearthed foundations being sealed and covered.
1. The find lies uncovered and unattended to for about three weeks.
2. It gets covered with dirt and lumps of concrete using yellow machines and brute force.
3. Following morning it gets uncovered using hand shovels and brushes.
4. A piece of paper is circulated and signed by a few people on site. The find is encased in concrete for future generations, wrapped in foil.
5. The archeologist sobs, sobs and walks off sobbing.