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  • #342352

    Anonymous

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    Top to bottom, left to right: Main Market Square, Wawel Castle, Barbican, St. Mary's Basilica, St. Peter and Paul Church, Collegium Maius

    Kraków (also Krakow, or Cracow), is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic hubs. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596; the capital of the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918; and the capital of Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

    The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000 whereas about 8 million people live within a 100 km radius of its main square.

    After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, Kraków was turned into the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was moved into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and the concentration camp at Płaszów.

    In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II – the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Cracow's Historic Centre.

    Etymology

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    Flag.

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    Coat of arms.

    The name of Kraków is traditionally derived from Krakus (Krak, Grakch), the legendary founder of Kraków and a ruler of the tribe of Lechitians (Poles). In Polish, Kraków is an archaic possessive form of Krak and essentially means "Krak's (town)". Krakus's name may derive from "krakula", a Proto-Slavic word meaning a judge's staff, or a Proto-Slavic word "krak" meaning an oak, once a sacred tree most often associated with the concept of genealogy. The first mention of Prince Krakus (then written as Grakch) dates back to 1190, although the town existed as early as the 7th century, inhabited by the tribe of Wiślanie.

    The city's full official name, used on ceremonial occasions, is Królewskie Stołeczne Miasto Kraków, meaning "Royal Capital City of Kraków". In English, a person born, or living, in Kraków is a Cracovian (Polish: Krakowianin).

    Early history

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    Woodcut of Kraków, Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

    Kraków's prehistory begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill. A legend attributes Kraków's founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragon, Smok Wawelski. The first written record of the city's name dates back to 966, when Kraków was described as a notable commercial centre owned by a Bohemian duke. Mieszko took Kraków from Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.

    In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish government. By the end of the 10th century, the city was a leading centre of trade. Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Adalbert's, a cathedral, and a basilica. The city was almost entirely destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. It was rebuilt in a form practically unaltered, and incorporated in 1257 by the king, with city rights based on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for its citizens. In 1259, the city was again ravaged by the Mongols. A third attack followed in 1287, repelled thanks in part to the new built fortifications.

    The city rose to prominence in 1364, when Casimir III of Poland founded the University of Kraków, the second oldest university in central Europe after the Charles University in Prague. The city continued to grow under the joint Lithuanian-Polish Jagiellon dynasty. As the capital of the Kingdom of Poland and a member of the Hanseatic League, the city attracted many craftsmen, businesses, and guilds as science and the arts began to flourish.

    Golden age

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    St. Mary's Square with St. Mary's Basilica (left)

    The 15th and 16th centuries were known as Poland's Złoty Wiek or Golden Age. Many works of Polish Renaissance art and architecture were created then, including ancient synagogues in Kraków's Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, such as the Old Synagogue. During the reign of Casimir IV, various artists came to work and live in Kraków, and Johann Haller established a printing press in the city after Kasper Straube had printed the Calendarium Cracoviense, the first work printed in Poland, in 1473.

    In 1520, the most famous church bell in Poland, named Zygmunt after Sigismund I of Poland, was cast by Hans Behem. At that time, Hans Dürer, a younger brother of Albrecht Dürer, was Sigismund's court painter. Hans von Kulmbach made altarpieces for several churches. In 1572, King Sigismund II, the last of the Jagiellons, died childless. The Polish throne passed to Henry III of France and then to other foreign-based rulers in rapid succession, causing a decline in the city's importance that was worsened by pillaging during the Swedish invasion and by an outbreak of bubonic plague that left 20,000 of the city's residents dead. In 1596, Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa moved the capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from Kraków to Warsaw.

    18th to early 20th century

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    Kraków's growth since the late 18th century

    Already weakened during the 18th century, by the mid-1790s the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had been twice partitioned by its neighbors: Russia, the Habsburg empire, and Prussia. In 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko initiated an unsuccessful insurrection in the town's Main Square which, in spite of his victorious Battle of Racławice against a numerically superior Russian army, resulted in the third and final partition of Poland. Following the Uprising, Kraków became part of the Austrian partition in a province of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte captured former Polish territories from Austria and made the town part of the Duchy of Warsaw. Following Napoleon's defeat in Russia, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 mostly restored earlier structures, although it also created the partially independent Free City of Kraków. As in 1794, an insurrection in 1846 failed; resulting in the city being annexed by Austria under the name the Grand Duchy of Krakow (Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Krakowskie).

    In 1866, Austria granted a degree of autonomy to Galicia after the Austro-Prussian War, and Kraków became a Polish national symbol and a centre of culture and art, known frequently as the "Polish Athens" (Polskie Ateny) or "Polish Mecca". Many leading Polish artists of the period resided in Kraków, among them the seminal painter Jan Matejko, laid to rest at Rakowicki Cemetery, and the founder of modern Polish drama, Stanisław Wyspiański. Fin de siècle Kraków evolved into a modern metropolis; running water and electric streetcars were introduced in 1901, and between 1910 and 1915, Kraków and surrounding suburban communities were gradually combined into a single administrative unit called Greater Kraków (Wielki Kraków).

    At the outbreak of World War I on 3 August 1914, Józef Piłsudski formed a small cadre military unit, the First Cadre Company—the predecessor of the Polish Legions—which set out from Kraków to fight for the liberation of Poland. The city was briefly besieged by Russian troops in November 1914, but they were pushed back afterwards. The Austrian rule in Kraków ended in 1918 when the Polish Liquidation Committee assumed power.

    1918 to the present

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    Archaeological Museum Garden in Kraków

    With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, Kraków restored its role as a major academic and cultural centre with the establishment of new universities such as the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, including a number of new and essential vocational schools. It became an important cultural centre for the Polish Jews with a Zionist youth movement relatively strong among the city's Jewish population. Kraków was also an influential centre of Jewish spiritual life, with all its manifestations of religious observance from Orthodox, to Chasidic and Reform flourishing side by side.

    Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Nazi German forces turned the city into the capital of the General Government, a colonial authority headed by Hans Frank and seated in Wawel Castle. In an operation called "Sonderaktion Krakau", more than 180 university professors and academics were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, though the survivors were later released on the request of prominent Italians. The Jewish population was first confined to a ghetto and later murdered or sent to concentration camps, including Płaszów and Auschwitz in Oświęcim. Roman Polanski, the film director, is a survivor of the Ghetto, while Oskar Schindler, the German businessman portrayed in the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List, selected employees from the Ghetto to work in his enamelware plant (Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik, or Emalia for short), thus saving them from the camps.

    Kraków remained relatively undamaged at the end of World War II. After the war, under the Stalinist regime, the intellectual and academic community of Kraków was put under total political control. The universities were soon deprived of their printing rights as well as their autonomy. The communist government of the People's Republic of Poland ordered construction of the country's largest steel mill in the newly created suburb of Nowa Huta. The creation of the giant Lenin Steelworks (now Sendzimir Steelworks owned by Mittal) sealed Kraków's transformation from a university city to an industrial centre. The new working class, drawn by the industrialization of the city, contributed to its rapid population growth.

    In an effort that spanned two decades, Karol Wojtyła, cardinal archbishop of Kraków, successfully lobbied for permission to build the first churches in the new industrial suburbs. In 1978, Wojtyła was elevated to the papacy as John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In the same year, UNESCO placed Kraków Old Town on the first ever list of World Heritage Sites.

    #366319

    Anonymous

    Geography

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    Vistula River and Dębnicki Bridge

    Kraków lies in the southern part of Poland, on the Vistula River, in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 219 m (719 ft) above sea level; half way between the Jurassic Rock Upland (Polish: Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska) to the north, and the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, constituting the natural border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic; 230 km west from the border with Ukraine. There are five nature reserves in Kraków, with a combined area of ca. 48.6 hectares (120 acres). Due to their ecological value, these areas are legally protected. The western part of the city, along its northern and north-western side, borders an area of international significance known as the Jurassic Bielany-Tyniec refuge. The main motives for the protection of this area include plant and animal wildlife and the area's geomorphological features and landscape. Another part of the city is located within the ecological 'corridor' of the Vistula River valley. This corridor is also assessed as being of international significance as part of the Pan-European ecological network. The city center is situated on the left (northern) bank of the river.

    Climate

    Kraków has an Oceanic climate (Cfb) according to the Köppen climate classification system, one of the easternmost localities in Europe to do so (East of Tarnów, and north of Kielce the January mean dips below −3 °C (27 °F) and thus becomes continental (Dfb) in nature). The city features a temperate climate. Average temperatures in summer range from 18 °C (64 °F) to 19.6 °C (67 °F) and in winter from −2.1 °C (28 °F) to 0 °C (32 °F). The average annual temperature is 8.9 °C (48 °F). In summer temperatures often exceed 25 °C (77 °F), and sometimes even 30 °C (86 °F), while winter drops to −5 °C (23 °F) at night and about 0 °C (32 °F) at day; during very cold nights the temperature drops to −15 °C (5 °F). In view of the fact that Kraków lies near the Tatra Mountains, there is often blowing halny – a foehn wind, when the temperature rises rapidly, and even in winter reaches to 20 °C (68 °F).

    Districts

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    The 18 districts of Kraków, with Vistula River running west to east

    Kraków is divided into 18 administrative districts (dzielnica) or boroughs, each with a degree of autonomy within its own municipal government. Prior to March 1991, the city had been divided into four quarters which still give a sense of identity to Kraków – the towns of Podgórze, Nowa Huta, and Krowodrza which were absorbed by Kraków as it expanded, and the ancient town center of Kraków itself.

    The oldest neighborhoods of Kraków were incorporated into the city before the late 18th century. They include the Old Town (Stare Miasto), once contained within the city defensive walls and now encircled by the Planty park; the Wawel District, which is the site of the Royal Castle and the cathedral; Stradom and Kazimierz, the latter originally divided into Christian and Jewish quarters; as well as the ancient town of Kleparz.

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    Matejko Square at Kleparz is one of the city's more important public spaces

    Major districts added in the 19th and 20th centuries include Podgórze, which until 1915 was a separate town on the southern bank of the Vistula, and Nowa Huta, east of the city centre, built after World War II.

    The current divisions were introduced by the Kraków City Hall on 19 April 1995. Districts were assigned Roman numerals as well as the current name: Stare Miasto (I), Grzegórzki (II), Prądnik Czerwony (III), Prądnik Biały (IV), Krowodrza (V), Bronowice (VI), Zwierzyniec (VII), Dębniki (VIII), Łagiewniki-Borek Fałęcki (IX), Swoszowice (X), Podgórze Duchackie (XI), Bieżanów-Prokocim (XII), Podgórze (XIII), Czyżyny (XIV), Mistrzejowice (XV), Bieńczyce (XVI), Wzgórza Krzesławickie (XVII), and Nowa Huta (XVIII).

    Among the most notable historic districts of the city are: Wawel Hill, home to Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral, where many Polish kings are buried; the medieval Old Town, with its Main Market Square (200 metres (660 ft) square); dozens of old churches and museums; the 14th-century buildings of the Jagiellonian University; and Kazimierz.

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    The socialist-realist born Nowa Huta district is now, Kraków's largest

    The Old Town district of Kraków is home to about six thousand historic sites and more than two million works of art. Its rich variety of historic architecture includes Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic buildings. Kraków's palaces, churches and mansions display great variety of color, architectural details, stained glass, paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.

    In the Market Square stands the Gothic St. Mary's Basilica (Kościół Mariacki). It was re-built in the 14th century and features the famous wooden altar (Ołtarz Wita Stwosza), the largest Gothic altarpiece in the World, carved by Veit Stoss. From the church's main tower a trumpet call (hejnał mariacki), is sounded every hour. The melody, which used to announce the opening and closing of city-gates, ends unexpectedly in midstream. According to legend, the tune was played during the 13th-century Tatar invasion by a guard warning citizens against the attack. He was shot by a Tatar archer while playing, the bugle-call breaking off at the moment he died. The story was recounted in a book published in the late 1920s called The Trumpeter of Krakow, which won a Newbery Award.

    Demographics

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    Krakow had a recorded population of 754,854 in 2009. According to the 2006 data, the population of Kraków comprised about 2% of the population of Poland and 23% of the population of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. Selected demographic indicators are presented in a table (below), compiled on the basis of only the population living in Kraków permanently.

    In the 1931 census, 78.1% of Cracovians declared Polish as their primary language, with Yiddish or Hebrew at 20.9%, Ukrainian 0.4%, German 0.3%, and Russian 0.1%. The ravages of history have greatly reduced the percentage of ethnic minorities living in Kraków. The official and unofficial numbers differ, as in the case of Romani people. Hence, according to the 2002 census, among those who have declared their national identity (irrespective of language and religion) in Kraków Voivodeship, 1,572 were Slovaks, followed by Ukrainians (472), Jews (50) and Armenians (22). Romani people, officially numbered at 1,678, are estimated at over 5,000. Statistics collected by the Ministry of Education reveal that, even though only 1% of adults (as per above) officially claim minority status, as many as 3% of students participate in programmes designed for ethnic minorities.

    #366320

    Anonymous

    First-rate thread Wilkołak. Kraków is really awesome. Thanks :)

    #366321

    Anonymous

    Culture

    Kraków, the unofficial cultural capital of Poland, was named the official European Capital of Culture for the year 2000 by the European Union. It is a major attraction for both local and international tourists, attracting seven million visitors a year. Major landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Mary's Basilica and the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, the Wawel Castle, the National Art Museum, the Zygmunt Bell at the Wawel Cathedral, and the medieval St Florian's Gate with the Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route. Kraków has 28 museums and public art galleries. Among them are the main branch of Poland's National Museum and the Czartoryski Museum, the latter featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.

    Performing arts

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    Courtyard of Wawel

    The city has several famous theatres, including the Narodowy Stary Teatr (the National Old Theatre), the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, the Bagatela Theatre, the Ludowy Theatre, and the Groteska Theatre of Puppetry, as well as the Opera Krakowska and Kraków Operetta. The city's principal concert hall and the home of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra is the Kraków Philharmonic (Filharmonia Krakowska) built in 1931.

    Kraków hosts many annual and biannual artistic events, some of international significance such as the Misteria Paschalia (Baroque music), Sacrum-Profanum (contemporary music), the Cracow Screen Festival (popular music), the Festival of Polish Music (classical music), Dedications (theatre), the Kraków Film Festival (one of Europe's oldest short films events) and the  Biennial of Graphic Arts. Kraków was the residence of two Polish Nobel laureates in literature, Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz; a third Nobel laureate, the Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric, lived and studied in Kraków. Other former longtime residents include internationally-renowned Polish film directors Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski.

    Architecture

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    Renaissance Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) in Main Market Square

    Kraków's historic center, which includes the Old Town, Kazimierz and the Wawel Castle, was included as the first of its kind on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. The Old Town (Polish: Stare Miasto) is the most prominent example of an old town in the country. For many centuries Kraków was the royal capital of Poland, until Sigismund III Vasa relocated the court to Warsaw in 1596. The whole district is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland. The Route begins at St. Florian's Church outside the northern flank of the old city walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz; passes the Barbican of Kraków (Barbakan) built in 1499, and enters Stare Miasto through the Florian Gate. It leads down Floriańska Street through the Main Square, and up Grodzka to Wawel, the former seat of Polish royalty overlooking the Vistula river. Old Town attracts visitors from all over the World. Kraków historic center is one of the 13 places in Poland that are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The architectural design of the Old Town had survived all cataclysms of the past and retained its original form coming from the medieval times. The Old Town district of Kraków is home to about six thousand historic sites and more than two million works of art. Its rich variety of historic architecture includes Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic buildings. Kraków's palaces, churches, theatres and mansions display great variety of color, architectural details, stained glass, paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.

    Points of interest outside the city include the Wieliczka salt mine, the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, the historic city of Częstochowa, the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, and Ojcowski National Park, which includes Pieskowa Skała Castle.

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    Wawel Castle

    Parks and gardens

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    Ojców National Park & castle

    There are dozens of gardens, parks and forests in Kraków, several, like the Planty Park, Botanical Garden, Park Krakowski, Jordan Park, Błonia Park and Strzelecki Park, are located in the center of the city and the surrounding districts.

    The Planty Park is the best-known park in Kraków. It was established between 1822 and 1830 in place of the old city walls, forming a green belt around the Old Town. It consists of a chain of smaller gardens designed in various styles and adorned with monuments. The park has an area of 21 hectares (52 acres) and a length of 4 kilometers (2.5 mi), forming a scenic walkway popular with Cracovians.

    The Jordan Park, the first public park equipped with exercise fixtures, was founded in 1889 by Dr Henryk Jordan on the banks of the Rudawa river. The park equipped with running and exercise tracks, playgrounds, swimming pool, amphitheatre, pavilions, and a pond for boat rowing and water bicycles, is located on the grounds of Kraków’s Błonia Park. The less prominent Park Krakowski was founded in 1885 by Stanisław Rehman but has since been greatly reduced in size because of rapid real estate development. It was a popular destination point with many Cracovians at the end of the 19th century.

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    Fountain, Planty Park

    Education

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    Collegium Maius, Jagiellonian University's oldest building in Kraków

    Kraków is a major centre of education. More than ten university or academy-level institutions offer courses in the city, with 170,000 students. Jagiellonian University, the oldest and best known university in Poland and ranked by the Times Higher Education Supplement as the best university in the country, was founded in 1364 as the Cracow University and renamed in 1817 to commemorate the Jagiellonian dynasty of Polish-Lithuanian kings. Its principal academic asset is the Jagiellonian Library, with more than 4 million volumes, including a large collection of medieval manuscripts like Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and the Balthasar Behem Codex. With 42,325 students (2005) and 3,605 academic staff, the Jagiellonian University is also one of the leading research centres in Poland. Famous historical figures connected with the University include Saint John Cantius, Jan Długosz, Nicolaus Copernicus, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, Jan Kochanowski, King John III Sobieski, Pope John Paul II and Nobel laureates Ivo Andrić and Wisława Szymborska.

    AGH University of Science and Technology, established in 1919, is the second-largest technical university in Poland, with more than 15 faculties and student enrollment exceeding 30,000. It was ranked by the Polish edition of Newsweek as the best technical university in the country for the year 2004. During its 80-year history, more than 73,000 students graduated from AGH with master's or bachelor's degrees. Some 3,600 persons were granted the degree of Doctor of Science, and about 900 obtained the qualification of Habilitated Doctor.

    Other institutions of higher learning include Academy of Music in Kraków first conceived as conservatory in 1888, one of the oldest and most prestigious conservatories in Central Europe and a major concert venue; Cracow University of Economics, established in 1925; Pedagogical University, in operation since 1946; Agricultural University of Cracow, offering courses since 1890 (initially as a part of Jagiellonian University); Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest Fine Arts Academy in Poland, founded by the Polish painter Jan Matejko; Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts; The Pontifical Academy of Theology; and Cracow University of Technology, which has more than 37,000 graduates.

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    Kraków University of Economics

    Religious sites

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    St. Mary in Kraków

    The metropolitan city of Kraków is known as the city of churches. The abundance of landmark, historic temples along with the plenitude of monasteries and convents earned the city a countrywide reputation as the "Northern Rome" in the past. The churches of Kraków comprise over 120 places of worship of which over sixty were built in the 20th century. Denominations include Roman Catholicism (48 Churches), Jehovah's Witnesses (10 Kingdom Hall), Protestantism (8 Churches), Buddhism (5), Polish Orthodox Church (1 Church), Polish Catholic Church (1 Church) and Mariavite Church.

    #366322

    Anonymous

    Fantastic thread about a great city!

    #366323

    Anonymous

    More pigeons than humans lol  ;D

    Košice in Slovakia has much more crows and ravens than pigeons  :)

    #366324

    Anonymous

    I was in Krakow on vacation,
    the thing I remember most was Polish people driving  😮

    #366325

    Anonymous

    Is that really what you remember most from Kraków, Kanadets? :(

    #366326

    Anonymous

    The speed limit was 50 KPH but most were speeding and even at home we're not allowed to go that fast on such small streets.

    #366327

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    Is that really what you remember most from Kraków, Kanadets? :(

    It was a beautiful city but nothing too distinct from say Lviv, Riga, Prague, et ctera.  I think most people who go to Krakow, unfortunately, go there to see Auschwitz and this is unfortunate as Krakow was the Medieval capital of Poland and yet 8/10 people who go there just to visit Aushwitz (and the other 1/10 think Auschwitz was a Polish concentration camp  :P)

    #366328

    Anonymous

    Definitely one of my favorite cities. Incredibly beautiful. Thanks Wilkolak great job!

    #366329

    Anonymous

    I am not city guy but i think Krakow is one of most beatiful cities in the world and i could easly live in Krakow.

    #366330

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    The speed limit was 50 KPH but most were speeding and even at home we're not allowed to go that fast on such small streets.

    that is just slow,

    real driving begins outside city!  :)

    #366331

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    It was a beautiful city but nothing too distinct from say Lviv, Riga, Prague, et ctera.  I think most people who go to Krakow, unfortunately, go there to see Auschwitz and this is unfortunate as Krakow was the Medieval capital of Poland and yet 8/10 people who go there just to visit Aushwitz (and the other 1/10 think Auschwitz was a Polish concentration camp  :P)

    Very true, Kanadets, unfortunately they do. It annoys me also that there is more attention directed to it than to one of most beautiful cities in Europe. Indeed I am not saying it is very distinct from other gems in Central/East Europe, but it has its own magic also.

    #366332

    Anonymous

    Very beautiful city, looks very peaceful, especially the old part of the city. Reminds me of our Zagreb a lot!

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