Krakow Nowa Huta - Krakow
Explore with local tour operator. A chance for a Trabant ride accompanied by super interestinag stories of Nowa Huta.
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Nowa Huta, or New Steelworks, is Krakow's newest borough and Stalin's gift to the people of Krakow. Although the area had been populated since Neolithic times, and there are some beautiful monasteries and churches remaining in the outlying villages, it is the Socialist Realist new town that now grabs the lion's share of tourist attention. Started in 1949, the plan was to create a massive steel mill and alongside a town to accommodate the workers, whose design would adhere to the Socialist Realist architectural principles very much in vogue in the Soviet Bloc. In addition, details appropriated from Renaissance architecture were to be included, as it was felt this better reflected Poland's own architectural tradition. In fact the final result would be a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque and Classic styles, with later buildings coming more to embrace Modernism. For many, Nowa Huta can be seen as a place that encapsulates Poland's time under communist rule, and to this extent it is a living museum to that era.
Nowa Huta is a short tram ride from Krakow city centre, and a natural alighting point is Plac Centralny, renamed Plac Ronald Reagan to somewhat mixed feelings in 2004. From this large grassy square, five main thoroughfares spread out in a fan shape. To the east lie the vast steelworks, now owned by Mittal Steel and employing but a fraction (albeit more efficiently) of the huge workforce that made Nowa Huta Poland's biggest steel mill.
A large part of the population was imported wholesale from former Polish territories in what is now modern Ukraine and, post-communism, there was high unemployment with its contingent problems. Nevertheless recent years have seen something of a revival, whether it be the town's increasing attraction to artistic and cultural types, the popularity of the various 'communism' tours or the various theatrical and musical events - in particular the annual 'Sacrum Profanum' festival, which draws ever greater numbers with each passing year, thanks to its bold programming of both early and baroque music as well as cutting edge contemporary and electronic music.