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Monday, 19 March 2018

What do you know about Podgorze, Krakow?

Dearest hearts,

Most people that come to visit Krakow would rarely move outside the Old Town or Kazimierz (Jewish District). Few know much of the Podgorze area, except maybe the fact that it was a quiet suburb; most of you might know it due to the fact that it is the place where Nazis built the Jewish Ghetto during the Second World War and it is also the place where one can find Schindlers Factory / Schindlers Museum (on Lipowa 4). The renewal of historical interest and the large number of visitors created the start of the revival of this area. Spielberg's movie did the trick by starting a stream of people coming to see where the movie was filmed + the grounds of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Word of mouth spread like wildfire and more and more people come now to witness Krakow's beauty but also it's sad historical background. The World Youth Day in Krakow (2016) increased greatly the number of people flocking in to see with their own eyes the "remains of pain". Thus the Podgorze area started to bloom, to come to life, adding museums to the National Museum of Krakow list & making sure restaurants and cafes were in place for the tired travellers. 
St. Joseph's Church in Podgorze
But Podgorze was not "born yesterday"; it has been around for hundreds of years and it even was an independent city in the 19th Century (just as Kazimierz district used to be a separate city). During the Second World War, the Nazi party appropriated a huge part of the area to build a ghetto (walled in) and an area for forced labour camp. The Jews of Krakow had to leave their homes in the Kazimierz Jewish District and move there, over the Vistula river. Their homes were taken over by the German citizen. After the war, Podgorze area fell to a different kind of depression, being transformed into an industrial zone. In the Podgorze area, I believe the most important building is the former enamel works factory owned by Oskar Schindler during the Second World War. It is the same that Spielberg brought to the wide screen through "Schindlers List" and Thomas Keneally through his touching book "Schindlers Ark". He saved the lives of more than 1000 Jewish workers whom would have otherwise most likely died during the Holocaust. The museum can be found at Lipowa 4 and had his gates first opened in 2011. It is rather not a typical museum, something you would think would relate completely to Schindler. No! It is a museum dedicated to Krakow's occupation during World War II.
Inside Schindlers Museum / Factory - Krakow, Lipowa 4
Right next to the Schindlers Museum you can find MOCAK - Museum Of Contemporary Art. You can buy a ticket for the both of them at a smaller price and both of them are really worth visiting. I would recommend at least half a day for the both of them. First time I went to the Schindlers Museum it took me around 4 hours to get out... there is so much to see and read and listen and take in! When you think only of the gruesome fact that during the war the Nazis deported 16000 Jews to the over-crowded ghetto and that each person had maybe less than 2 square meters for their own usage... these things may sound hard to believe but they are true! The location that is marked out right now, and was once the centre of the ghetto, is known locally as Plac Bohaterow Getta (The Heroes of the Ghetto Square). It was a point where people were brought in and selected to go to the extermination camps. At this moment the square is filled with 70 oversized chairs - the memorial was designed by the architects Piotr Lewicki & Kazimierz Latak.  They wanted to represent in this way the remnants discarded by the people deported, that were not allowed to take with them any personal items. 
Just on the corner of Plac Bohaterow Gotta, on the South side, you will find the Pharmacy Under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orlem). During the Second World War it was run by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. He was Polish, not Jewish, and he refused to go away when they started errectibg the Podgorze Ghetto. He wanted to stay and try to help the souls trapped in. He was allowed to exit the Ghetto and this way he was able to carry messages outside from the people within. Tadeusz also helped provide medicine and other items that were hard to get inside the Ghetto. The museum now holds a small exhibition on the history of the ghetto. It is also part of the National Museum of Krakow. Few places that show the Ghetto actually remain, but there is still a small fragment of the wall at ulica Lwowska 25-29, just South of the Plac Bohaterow Getta, with a plaque marking the location. Also worth visiting is the Plaszow Labour Camp, a forced labour and extermination camp built by the Nazis to help facilitate the liquidation of the Podgorze Ghetto. In 1943-44, at maximum capacity, the camp held 25000 people. There is not much one can see now, except plaques and memorial statues, but there is a plan to build a National Museum branch there. 
Kopiec Krakus can be visited also with the help of Free Walking Tour Krakow team 
If you do manage to get this far in Podgroze then the Krakus Mound is just a stone throw away. Polish people name it Kopiec Krakusa, Krak Mound,  and it is supposed to be the final resting place of Krakow's mythical founder: king Krakus. Together with Wanda Mound it is one of Krakow's 2 prehistoric mounds, and the oldest man made structure in Krakow. There have been always religious purposes associated to the Mound, dating from pagan times. There is a hypothesis that says the mound is of Celtic origin and dates form 2nd - 1st century BCE. Another hypothesis states that it was built having astronomy in mind: if you would stand on top of the mound and look towards Wanda Mound at sunrise on the morning of Beltane (2nd largest Celtic feast day), one would see the sun rise directly over Wanda Mound. Until the mid 1830s there was an annual food festival held on the first Tuesday after Easter. It was revived in the 2000s and it's being held again: Rekawka Festival. It has roots in pagan rites or spring. Don't miss it as it's extremely entertaining. This year it's gonna be on the 3rd of April - celebration between 12:00 and 17:30; pagan rite of "Marzanna Drowning" at around 13:00; funeral of King Krak at 17:15. Don't miss out on it or you'll have to wait till next year! 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Podgorze