POLAND : KRAKOW
Kraków was once the national capital and is
considered by many to still be the heart of Poland Due to its history of
more than a thousand years. Kraków is also a major centre of local and
international tourism, with more than two million visitors annually.
Kraków situated in the southeast of the country, between the Jura
uplands and the Tatra Mountains, on the banks of the Wisla (Vistula)
River. Dozens of churches cover almost every architectural period and
are surrounded by monasteries and abbeys – walking through the Old Town
streets is like drifting back through the picture book of the history of
architecture. It has a rich architecture, mostly Renaissance with some
examples of Baroque and Gothic. Kraków's palaces, churches and mansions
display a richness of color, architectural details, stained glass,
paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.
The city has about 50 old churches, many of which contain works of art.
Standing on a hill, the Wawel, are the royal castle (rebuilt 16th cent.
in Italian Renaissance style) and the Gothic cathedral (rebuilt in the
14th cent.), which contains the tombs of great Poles. The Rynek [market]
square is noted for the Church of Our Lady (13th cent.), which has
carvings by Veit Stoss; the 14th-century cloth hall; and the remaining
tower of the 14th-century town hall.
The district of Kazimierz, once home to one of the most important Jewish
communities in the world, is enjoying a renaissance; even the suburb of
Nowa Huta, the sooty legacy of the communist system, is now emerging as
an off-beat tourist site.
Kraków hosts many annual artistic events, including some of
international significance, such as the festival of Short Feature Films,
Biennial of Graphics, and the Jewish Culture Festival. The city is also
a major centre of education. Today there are 18 university-level
institutions with about 10,000 faculty and 110,000 students.