Krakowskie Przedmieście is one of the oldest streets in Warsaw, having started out as a trade route in the 15th century. The rest of the history you can read in the Wiki article!
When I arrived in Warsaw and for many years afterwards Krak Przed was a potentially very nice street spoiled by too much traffic and too little walking space. It also looked like it needed a great deal of TLC.
Well it finally got that TLC when at the end of September 2006 the renovation works began. They spent the first year making a horrible nasty mess of the place, screwing up both pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the process. We endured months of obstacle course pavements as demonstrated in this shot taken almost exactly one year ago:
Slowly, very slowly, the new Krak Przed started to take shape with the first noticeable improvement being the elimination of the used car dealership that masqueraded as a car park right next to Ziggy’s column! Through the mud and fencing it was obvious that the rest of the works were going to bring big improvements too. If it ever finished.
Well, it was finished, eventually. I’m not sure when exactly because I’ve been meaning to take a photo-walk down there for ages but I suppose it must have been very close to two years after it started – i.e. late summer 2008. It’s worth noting that “two years” is quite a good measuring stick for messy things in Warsaw – the airport T2 was two years late, the excavations under Saski palace took two years to finish, Krak Przed took two years to renovate, PiS were in power for two years……….hmmmm.
So, here are some snaps of the new Krak Przed. I’m very impressed with it. It has transformed the area and finally brought the street up to the kind of standard that one would expect to see of such a thoroughfare in a significant European capital city. The traffic is minimal, the pavements are wide, flat and interesting. There are flowerpots, trees, benches, art….I love it.
This last picture shows one of the glass blobs that are scattered around the street displaying the very accurate paintings of Mr. Bellotto. As everyone knows, these were used extensively when reconstructing Warsaw after the war and they do make for meaningful breaks along the Krak Przed stroll route. Personally, I hate these paintings with a passion in terms of anything besides a record of what it used to look like. As a work of art, something to hang on your wall and look at every day – forget it. They are the things you find on the wall of an old, incontinent and slightly senile aunt surrounded by a garish frame and covered with dust. The real Canalettos are better but still deadly boring. What’s funny about these paintings of Warsaw is how everyone thinks they are by THE Canaletto – the artist who’s paintings are worth loads of moolah. Not so.
Bernardo Bellotto (1720-1780) was a Venetian painter but only the nephew and pupil of the renowned artist Canaletto. He often worked under the name of Caneletto when outside of Italy, presumably to make the most of his family connections. I notice that the paintings now displayed on Krak Przed also bear the name Canaletto in brackets so the camouflage continues – “Gee, look honey, Canaletto painted Warsaw!”. Even the Warsaw Voice (article linked to above) was fooled;
“….four glass cubes will appear with reproductions of paintings by Canaletto.”
My last point of interest on the walk was this thing;
This is located at the top of ul. Bednarska at ‘Hoover Square’. I know the Poles make great cleaners but naming parts of the city after vacuum cleaners? Anyway, this building has the appearance of a rusty bus-shelter and is described on the information board as “Zagospodarowanie Skweru Hoover’a i zabudowa obiektami kubaturowymi”. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what this will eventually be? I’m guessing a bar / coffee shop as if memory serves there always used to be some refreshment here in the warmer months at least.
For the Sherlocks amongst you, you might like to join the race to determine the identities of the two people who occupied the coffins they dug up while doing the works!
By the way, Bednarska is a nice street to wander down, if you like mountain climbing!
It goes from Krak Przed down to the Mariensztat part of town and it all has a good atmosphere. It would help if they could stop changing the tenants of the shops/restaurants down Bednarska as it gets a bit confusing when you go there for pancakes and end up with a choice of two pierogi bars instead.