Kraków – the cultural capital of Poland

In 2000, Kraków, as well as a few other cities in Europe, was awarded the prestigious title of the Cultural Capital of Europe. However, in 1992, the European Month of Culture had already taken place in the city. The cultural event set up by the resolution of the Council of the European Union drew international attention to Kraków and generated enormous public interest of not only journalists and people interested in culture, but also regular inhabitants of Western Europe. The prestigious French art and culture magazine “Museart” (nr 23/92) published charming photographs of the Kraków Main Market Square, Wawel Hill and Wit Stwosz’s Altar in St. Mary’s Basilica.

The authors of the texts wrote that, in order to understand Poles and Poland, one needs to visit the Gdańsk Shipyard – the symbol of the “Solidarność” social freedom movement, Warszawa – the capital completely destroyed during WWII by the Nazis and rebuilt in a slightly theatrical way, but most of all one must go to Kraków, the city considered the pearl of the southern Poland. The city - the seat of Polish monarchs and the birthplace of heroes, outstanding artists and saints - was miraculously spared during the Second World War, and its history is the key to understanding the Polish romantic nature.

Neither the striking beauty of the Kraków Main Market Square, one of the most magnificent squares in Europe, nor the prominent presence of Wawel Hill hovering over the Vistula River banks can be ignored. Wawel Hill proudly hosts the royal residence in the style of the Italian Renaissance and the gothic cathedral, as well as the chapel with its shiny cupola designed for Zygmunt I of the Jagiellonian dynasty by Bartolommeo Berrecci. The authors of the texts also stated that the more Kraków rejects being a “museum” city, the more it reveals itself as a magical shadow play.

Such remarkable personalities as Mikołaj Kopernik, Stanisław Wyspiański, Jan Paweł II, Tadeusz Kantor, Stanisław Lem, Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polański and Krzysztof  Penderecki, to name just a few, walked the cobbled streets of Kraków. We pay homage to them and the history they created. This uniquely vibrant city plays host a fascinating variety of cultural events, for example,  the Witkiewicz Week, Krzysztof Penderecki Festivals, and successive editions of the Jewish Culture Festival. The wide spectrum of cultural events taking place in the city’s unique scenery clearly demonstrates the important place of Kraków among other European Capitals of Culture.

Author: Krystyna Zaufal