Digging up Długa

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.

In a thousand years somebody will dig up that 2 zł you dropped when you were trying to get your keys out of your pocket.

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

UPDATE
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.
The End


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20 thoughts on “Digging up Długa

  1. guest says:

    This near future will be very interesting.:

    the next months

    – The sukiennice museum will be open (and now it looks really great from inside )

    – the bridge will be ready in the next couple of days/weeks

    – the underground museum (photos from inside look very promising)

    – the plac Plac Szczepański will have a huge italian fountain.

    and later

    – the Czartoryski museum, (bigger with a cool roof)

    – the Kantor museum,

    – the fabryka Schindlera modern art museum

    – new plac nowy

    – new rynek podgorski

    – King Vasa chapel

    and so on.

    In 2012 Krakow should be ready for the visitors…too bad there will be no games in Krk.

  2. guest says:

    ps: on the main square there will be also a fountain this summer (but i do not like it. looks too cheap. But maybe i am wrong and it will be OK )

  3. Excellent post – I always like these sorts of “applied history lessons”.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Nice archaeology-history lesson … thank you!

  5. bob says:

    Informative and interesting post Jamie. Wonder if they are laying in a good bit of empty conduit for future use (i.e. fiber optics, coax etc)

  6. Decoy says:

    That would be the sort of joined-up thinking that would make sense.

    However whether it will actually happen that way will probably be another story…

    Let’s hope!

  7. Decoy says:

    My first encounter with the roadworks on Długa were while wandering home after consuming a few refreshing liquid beverages – meaning I did not really take too much notice of them at the time. I am lucky enough to live in the centre of Kraków so I am not normally affected by the road and tramway changes.

    However, I wanted to visit friends in Bronowice last weekend and went to Teatr Bagatela to take my usual tram there, and almost took the tram going absolutely the wrong direction, as I had not been aware of how they had realigned some of the routes.

  8. Anna says:

    Guest – it’s just a shame that:
    – the bridge is hideous
    – the underground museum will have problems with fungus and rot for most of its life and will never recoup the millions of our money that has gone into this vanity project to end all vanity projects
    – the Plac Szczepanski redesign is ghastly- tacky and out of place.
    – there’s no money for carrying out any changes on Plac Nowy (not even to pay the architects the prize money for the ‘competition’ held last year)
    – ditto Rynek Podgorski

    I’m very happy though that they’ve decided to widen the the sidewalks on ul. Dluga – wider sidewalks = higher quality of life.

  9. Rafal says:

    You are right about this dropped 2 zł ;-)

    BTW. Yhis new site look is good – clean and more informative/intuitive than last one

  10. John says:

    Ah yes, this is all very interesting except if you live on Dluga… ‘My’ street has resembled a canal now for more than a month, and even though it feels like living in Venice after a couple of rain showers, I miss pavement: My apartment resembles a beach with all the sand on the floor, all my shoes are in the very fashionable color of mud, and I can’t remember the color of my car…

    My girlfriend called me the other day to tell me she saw somebody in dreadlocks (clearly not a construction worker because they need to have shaved heads and / or mustaches as part of their job) cleaning some rock with a toothbrush in Dluga. I sincerely hope that they don’t find anything interesting (Poland was never part of the Roman Empire, right?), and delay construction works for 3 years to dig up a tea cup.

    I am also getting quite tired of all the power / water / gas / internet / whatever-more-is in-the-ground cuts. I already had to wash a couple of times with cold water from a bottle, I’ve been resetting my clocks on a weekly basis, and the middle of March without heating was quite cold…

    But I’ve been promised that soon I will be living on the nicest street in Krakow! Let’s hope soon is next month, and not 2012…

    PS – I don’t think they will lay any new cables (although I could use some modern communication technology in my building: No fast internet, no phone lines, no cable TV) – It is already quite impressive that they managed to get new water and gas pipes in before they started paving the street again

  11. Andy says:

    There was never tram number 17 on Długa street ;)

  12. guest says:

    Poland traded amber with the roman empire….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Road

    there is a famous “amber road” and cities like Kalisz

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalisz

    were well known in the roman empire…

  13. island1 says:

    I know, I couldn’t be bothered to look it up :)

  14. island1 says:

    I’m glad somebody thinks so

  15. island1 says:

    Ouch. I’m hoping my street is obscure enough that it will be decades before they get around to it.

  16. OllyEast says:

    This really interests me, as it would just not happen in the UK. I have seen it in Romania too. Over here, we always just dig up a section or half the road so as not to cause too much disruption. Imagine, completely digging up Oxford Street in London or somewhere equally busy. Maybe the need here is due to the trams, but it just makes me laugh, how it is dug up and then sometimes it seems as if it is just left as a big hole for weeks!

  17. Anna says:

    Did you hear that there’s been (another) monumental cock up and the two sections of tram track that were meant to run down Dluga miss eachother by 20cm. Something to do with the maps given to the contractor by the city being inaccurate apparently. They’ve also uncovered some old cellars that now need to be investigated and safeguarded. This isn’t going to be a good thing for the timetable. Honestly, you couldn’t make this up…

  18. island1 says:

    Oh dear.
    Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the maps were inaccurate and there are definitely cellars under those foundations pictured above—you can see the entrance in another picture I took.

    There’s a street in Lwow that has a similar problem—it’s so narrow that a tram going in one direction has to wait for the one going in the other direction to pass.

  19. A girl says:

    You’re starting to look more and more like your dad….

  20. It is really very interesting. I will check your posts often!

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