Tag Archives: Cracow

I say Krakow and you say Cracow but they say Kraków

Did we raise this one before?

What is the right way to spell / name the city lies sprawled below Wawel hill? I see it spelled these three different ways all the time and it must be jolly confusing for anyone not familiar with Poland.

Obviously, the omission of the accent on the O is simple laziness…..or is it? Is there widespread use of the K version bez the accent? The C version has no accent, at least not when I see it used.

So, which is correct and which are not and more importantly, why are the incorrect versions still widely used?

This wouldn’t be so fascinating if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other place in Poland being spelt in more than one way, the official Polish way (ignoring the German names of course). Also, this ‘abuse’ is being done not by obcy people but by Poles themselves.

If one or the other is an attempt to make a Polish town more pronounceable or understandable to foreigners then I could think of far better examples – Łódż for example.

Why does the city allow this to continue? Hell, why doesn’t the editor of the Krakow Post do something about it! ;-)

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Geo-tagged maps of Krakow and Warsaw

Here’s a cool and non-controversial thingy: maps of Warsaw and Krakow superimposed with visualizations of where people take photos. They were created by a chap called Eric Fischer, along with a lot of similar maps of other cities that you can see on his flickr page.

Using location data added to photos on Flickr and Picasa, Fischer plotted where photos were taken, and then coloured them according to whether they were taken by residents or tourists—a trick he achieved by classifying individuals who took photos in the same city over a period of more than 3 months as residents, and less then 3 months as visitors. Red dots indicate photos taken by visitors, blue by residents, and the yellow are unknown (individuals who took only one photo).

Click the image for an absolutely enormous version covering a wider area. Can you identify the hot spots? There are some clusters in outlying regions that must represent the work of local photography enthusiasts. Anyone we know?

The second map is of Krakow, but in this case the colours represent distance in time between photographs taken by the same individuals. Fischer interprets this as photos taken by pedestrians (black), photos taken by cyclists (red), and photos taken by drivers (blue).

Click the image for a huge version and indulge your compulsive pattern-recognition disorder.

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Krakow's new bridge

I’ve been following the planning and building of Krakow’s new pedestrian bridge for what seems like most of my life but has in fact only been two years. Today was the culmination: in glorious Autumn sunshine I made my first crossing, the bridge itself having inconveniently been opened in the middle of last week.

My wife, who wasn’t even my wife when this started, has suffered through innumerable expeditions to the riverbank to watch me photograph bits of concrete and scaffolding without a murmur of protest—quite a lot of tutting, but no murmurs of protest. My wife is only really interested in things that happen on stages. If they had built the thing on Mam Talent with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ playing in the background intercut it with slow motion black-and-white footage of workmen waving their hands in the air, she would have watched it 7,000 times on YouTube and cried. I’m as sorry to see it finished as she is glad. If they don’t start building something else dramatic in this town soon I’m going to have trouble filling my days.

It’s been quite a ride: thrills, spills, floods and long, long periods of absolutely nothing happening at all. The bridge plan first came to my attention back in April, 2009 when I wrote A new bridge for Kraków and it was finally opened on 30th September 2010.

The bridgeheads of the Emperor Francis Joseph I Bridge, which stood here from 1850 to 1925, were to be incorporated into the new bridge. Here is the bridgehead on the south bank in the very early stages of the project.

The bridgehead on the north bank receiving the attentions of a giant corkscrew machine (I’m not tremendously knowledgeable when it comes to bridge-building terminology). Whatever the giant corkscrew machine was trying to do, it didn’t seem to work because nothing else happened on the site for months.

Great excitement as the heavily renovated bridgeheads are fitted with big pipe-socket thingies (again, this may not be the technical term) to take the main span of the bridge.

The main span takes shape on the north bank. Already I’m wondering how they are going to get this vast piece of metal into position.

Rapid progress as the pedestrian and cycle platforms begin to take shape.

Doh! Imminent disaster as the river rises up and engulfs the structure in May of this year.

Soggy people struggle to prevent the half-finished bridge being washed away down the river.

Mystery solved: one end of the bridge is floated across the river on barges.

A tense couple of hours as the bridge is inched across the river. The architects were presumably locked away in a room with a bottle of whiskey at the time.

The Laetus Bernatek Bridge, finally, in place. This view rapidly becomes a favourite. It’s a good thing they thought about the design of the underside. The bridge was finished weeks before anybody could access it because the roads and paths leading to each end were not ready.

The completed bridge from the north bank—more or less the same point of view as the first photo above.

The cycle-side (west platform) of the bridge, the other side being for pedestrians. Contrary to some reports, cyclists and pedestrians can use the bridge in both directions, but use different sides. There is, by the way, no physical barrier that would prevent a car driving across the bridge. Somebody is bound to try this at some point. If that person is you, let me know so I can be there to take pictures of the ensuing disaster.

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Miniature Krakow

I am fascinated by scale models. There is something quintessentially human about making miniature versions of real-world objects. It is this ability to represent the world in a manageable and manipulable form that makes us what we are. The making of models, or sculptures, came long before the invention of writing and is clearly its intellectual ancestor. I like all kinds of models: scale-model aircraft, kitschy cottages, model villages, globes, miniature skeletons, train sets, sandcastles, snowmen, Naomi Campbell etc.

20,000 years of symbolic thought

I was delighted to discover that there are three miniature versions of Krakow scattered about the city: one on Plac Matejki, one on Plac Szczepański and one on Plac Wszystkich Świętych. These models take the abstraction one step further because they are representations of how these areas looked centuries ago rather than how they look now—they are abstract in time as well as scale. In each case these models were installed as part of renovations to these squares, so hopefully there will be more in the future as improvements to the city’s open spaces continue.

The Plac Matejki model showing the area as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. It features the Grunwald monument, the buildings surrounding the square (most of which are still standing today), St. Florian’s church and the street layout of nearby Kleparz market.

The approximate area covered by the Plac Matejki model on a 1914 map of Krakow.

The Plac Matejki model at street level.

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The Plac Szczepański model showing the area as it looked before 1801 when the square was created. A church and a Jesuit college stood where the square is now. You can also see the old city wall, now dismantled, in the background.

Bird’s eye view of the Plac Szczepański model. The view in the previous picture is from the left in this picture.

The area covered by the Plac Szczepański model on a 1785 map of Krakow. The street then called ul. Zydowska (Jewish Street) is now called ul. Świętego Tomasza (St. Thomas’ Street).

The Plac Szczepański model at street level.

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The Plac Wszystkich Świętych model showing the area as it was before Kościoła Wszystkich Świętych‬ (All Saints’ Church) was demolished in the 1830s. Note the braille inscription on the right-hand side of the base. I heard an interview with a blind person once in which he said he always bought tourist models of famous buildings when he visited a new city so he could get and idea of their form—these must be great for that purpose (except in the summer when the metal gets hot enough to burn your fingers).

Bird’s eye view of the Plac Wszystkich Świętych model.

The area covered by the Plac Wszystkich Świętych model on a 1785 map of Krakow.

A street level view of the Plac Wszystkich Świętych model.

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Eating Off the Beaten Track: Krakow #1

This is the first in a series of four articles on eating off the beaten track in Krakow.

There are many decent places in Krakow to eat and everyone knows it.  However, not everyone knows where to go for a quiet meal, a smoke-free atmosphere, a place with good or even great service, thoughtful décor, “unusual” food or, last but not least, very well-prepared food.  I personally prefer a combination of all six points.

Most of the places highlighted in this series are reasonably quiet or only moderately noisy and patrons are not served by people who do not immediately appear to hate their clients, their jobs or life in general. Most of these places are non-smoking or have a separate section for smokers that is well-ventilated.  The interiors are usually well-lit or don’t look like they were decorated by rummaging around in the basement/attic for stuff to put on the walls and… last but not least… the food is either unusual for Krakow or if it is usual (Polish, Italian) it’s well-prepared.

Ex-Pat Necessities Part 1:  Burgers, Bagels and Burritos

Bagelmama, Dajwór 10 – Bagels, sandwiches, wraps (American cuisine), desserts and good coffee. The food is so lovingly prepared that it’s almost wrong to eat it but you won’t be able to stop yourself – it looks great and tastes even better.  Ran by an American who loves what he does and enjoys a chat with his customers. Also, one of the few places in town to get excellent hummus. The menu is mid-priced. Their new (current) place offers ample seating with excellent atmosphere. Fairly quiet in the evenings even with other patrons around. Non-smoking.  Bagelmama will also do parties – they have a nice, big table that can probably comfortably seat 10 or 12 with elbow room.  The interior is spacious (high ceilings), softly but amply lit.  As far as I know this is the one and only place to get a bagel in Krakow.

Burrito Buffet, Warszawska 20 – Take-away or delivered Mexican food. Patrons are strongly advised to call ahead at 12 633 04 09 and place their orders in advance. Let me be clear: this is the best and hottest Mexican food in Krakow, full stop.  To answer the question of “how hot is hot?” I can assure readers that Burrito Buffet will make your food hot (or spicy, to be clear) enough that you can barely eat it. This is hot on the Mexican scale NOT the Polish scale – many lovely pieces of jalapeño liberally sprinkled throughout the food if you ask for it to be hot. Perfect! Their delivery service (with a 4 km delivery radius) isn’t the fastest but if you get your food delivered you will see that they really care – all the food is expertly wrapped, packed or boxed.  Absolutely no squished or broken stuff. The best part is that this is cheap food – 13 PLN for a burrito but a single one will likely fill you.

Love Krove's logoLove Krove, Józefa 8 – Burgers. These are your upscale burgers with rucola instead of plain ol’ lettuce but are very well prepared. An honest-to-God beef patty – THICK! – that’s by default brown on the outside and just a touch pink on the inside.  Perfect.  Not much seating here but the interior is fun to look at and the service is ok. No vinegar for your chips; this is an American-style place. A burger, plate of fries and a beer will fill you nicely and is reasonably priced (mid-priced) for what you get.  It’s not what I’d call a quiet place but the noise is kept at reasonable levels – enough to hold a conversation at reasonable levels.  There are many places to get a burger in Krakow but this is the only place that you won’t regret it.

Next time:  Steaks, ‘cakes and Sushi

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