Several thousand years ago, there were already settlements on Wawlhügel on the Vistula. According to legend, a dragon would visit the city every day, leaving fiery carnage in his wake. One day an orphan managed to tame the beast, and as thanks, received the hand of the princess. Now, Krakow could blossom and become an important centre of trade and science. The past wealth of the city is still visible in the magnificent old town. The central point of Krakow is the Rynek Glowny market. Here, tradesmen of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Era would meet, where the latest news was circulated. It was not only the centre of Krakow but the centre of the entire country. The city breathes life into its history. Palaces and houses from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classic eras stand side by side; the Rynek Glowny is the largest medieval market in Europe. It’s no surprise that the entire old town belongs to the World Heritage Association. The gothic Marienkirche, Wawel Castle as well as the dragon’s lair are some of the main attractions in Krakow. Never the less, the city is in no way old-fashioned or boring. It is in fact quite the opposite: as a university city it’s extremely lively and young. Loads of bars, clubs and cafes stay open late into the night. The basement pubs in the old town come highly recommended.
Schindler’s List and the Second World War
Despite its splendour, Krakow still shows the scars of its history. Whilst under occupation by Germany in the Second World War, there was much suffering. Already by 1941, the Nazis had established the Jewish Ghettos south of the Vistula, from which inhabitants would be transported, en masse, to the surrounding concentration and extermination camps. Whilst today, much of the Ghetto is no longer standing, Oskar Schindler’s factory, which saved the lives of many Jewish people, was transformed into a museum and place of memorial. The film ‘Schindler’s List’ was filmed, almost entirely in Krakow on original locations. The Galizien Jewish Museum shows that Jewish history and life was entwined with Krakow from a very early time. The Auschwitz concentration camp can be found only a few kilometres away from western Krakow. Today, here you can find a memorial site.