Poland Day 4. Today I explored a suburb of Kraków called Podgórze. Not far from the Old Town on the other side of the river, it is a grittier area with an array of fascinating if at times dark features which made for a very full-on day out.
Despite what the post title may suggest, not all of the subject matter is ‘awesome’. For anyone particularly sensitive to what the Nazi regime did, some of yesterday’s theme carries forward to today. What I found is very interesting to me and rewarding given the slog involved in tracking everything down.
Commentary is by way of photo captions.
Getting into the less polished parts of the city obviously increases my chances of seeing street art!
Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory premises is now home to a superb museum covering the Nazi occupation of Kraków. Some of the other places I visited today also had links to Schindler’s List and the true story behind the film
The museum was incredibly well laid out / interactive / interesting with details in every direction
Due to the shot being obstructed I didn’t get a photo of the factory gates when I went in, and when I came out this is what I found! Should be a segway tow-away zone…
During the Nazi occupation, about 15,000 Jews were confined to several blocks of Podgórze around which a wall was constructed. This small section of wall remains
The centre of the ghetto was this square which today is a memorial space consisting of 70 empty chairs called Plac Bohaterów Getta
How cool is this! At the top of a hill via a short bush walk is St Benedict’s Fort, built in the mid-1800s as part of Kraków’s city defences. It’s the only fort of this style in Poland. It was used as a barracks during the Austrian rule and as a prison during WW2. Fascinatingly, it was converted to apartments in the 1950s. That can’t have come to fruition as it is entirely abandoned but there are renovation plans pending with the city
Next to the fort in this funny out of the way place is St Benedict’s, Kraków’s smallest and one of its oldest churches. It’s apparently only open once a year, after Easter
I couldn’t believe it when I saw this guy! I was convinced that given my observations in the Planty (the park near my hotel) that Kraków was home only to feral pigeons, pooping dogs and the odd stray cat – but here’s proof that at least one squirrel lives here too
A few minutes walk over the motorway and up another hil is the Krakus Mound. Regarded as the oldest structure in Kraków, it was probably used for pagan rituals back in the day
Kraków skyline from the mound – looking back to the Old Town
…and over to the nuclear power station
Next to the mound is the Liban Quarry, originally set up for limestone but taken over by the Nazis as a penal camp. It was used to create the film set for scenes involving Płaszów concentration camp in Schindler’s List. With rusting quarry remains I was keen to get down and investigate further
It was very quiet and overgrown so I wasn’t sure anyone was around. I then saw a young guy approach which put me a little on edge. He said something to which I said “sorry” and he repeated it in English: “do you have a lighter?”. Hah, phew, that would be NO
The quarry had several structures, some bearing the classic hallmarks of rebelling youth
There was plenty more of the quarry to explore but it was an eerie place to be doing it solo and there was a lot more ground to cover back up top
Next to the Krakus Mound and quarry is the New Podgórski Cemetery. Huge and densely ‘populated’, it was probably the most colourful cemetery I’ve seen with every grave possessing floral memorials and candles
I have never seen a cemetery where so many people were not only visiting but also tending to their loved ones’ graves. Maybe that it was a Saturday had some bearing on it. Outside the entry gates several stallholders were set up selling flowers and candles
Today a nature reserve, this was the site of the Płaszów concentration camp. It was established as a forced labour camp but went the horrific way that so many of them did. Prominent in Schindler’s List, it was recreated in the quarry rather than disturb the site
The camp was built on top of two Jewish cemeteries, the Nazis using tombstones to pave roads in the camp. Foundations of the desecrated graves remain, as well as this solitary tombstone
Sitting on its own along one edge of the now-reserve, this was one of the private homes that the Nazis commandeered. Whereas many were used as residences for officers, this one was used as a prison and torture chamber. Houses were returned to owners at the end of the war and incredibly, some remain. This one had signs of being lived in
The camp commandant lived in this house
The concrete rubble is what’s left of the Jewish cemetery’s pre-burial hall. The Nazis used it as stables (and, worse, a pig pen) but it was partly blown up for kicks and then reduced to its current state at the end of the war. In contrast to the sad history at their doorstep, the apartments behind have been painted in a cheery colour scheme
The towering Memorial of Torn-Out Hearts is erected above one of the camp’s two mass execution and burial pits
The front of this dramatic memorial
I contemplated getting a tram back but figured for some perverse reason I may as well do the hard yards and walk a bit further. I was exhausted by then so dinner was just at the hotel restaurant and while I’m not someone who mentions food in blog posts, I didn’t realise when I booked that they have a South Pacific dinner menu theme. So that was quite neat: eating flavours of home while listening to Maori and Pacific Island music. I should really have rounded it off with their one of their NZ wines – bad me.
Distance walked: 19.11km