Lesser-known architecture in Krakow.
'Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time' Steven Wright
This article is devoted to Krakow lovers, city wanderers and frequent visitors. To those who have already been here several times, fallen in love with Krakow at first sight and know the city well enough to start looking for its hidden gems. Let the Krakow adventure begin with a quote by Steven Wright: …”Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time”…
Kossakowka Manor is the historic home of the Kossak family; four generations of notable painters, writers and poets descended from their patriarch, Juliusz Kossak, the Polish historical painter. The Kossak family moved into the house in 1869 and immediately it became a popular meeting place for Krakow’s Bohemians. Among the many famous guests it’s worth mentioning: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish novelist and Nobel Laureate, and Ignacy Paderewski, the pianist and composer. Kossakowka has been on the Polish National Heritage List since 1960. Unfortunately, because of an ambiguous legal situation, the residence is slowly falling to rack and ruin, and its present condition is heartbreaking. One can only try to imagine the former feeling and glory of this charming spot. Kossakowka Manor House is located at 4, Plac Kossaka.
Teodor Talowski earned the unofficial title of the Polish Gaudi. The famous XIX century architect designed numerous houses and residences in Krakow. To appreciate his exceptional talent it’s worth taking a walk along Retoryka Street. The houses numbered 1,3,7,9 and 15 are an excellent example of Talowski’s Polish Art Nouveau architecture. Most ornate is house number 1, called Under the Singing Frog, with its facade decorated with the figure of a frog playing a banjo.
The Hipolit Family House (Kamienica Hipolitow located at 3, Plac Mariacki) is a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. The exhibition presents the lifestyle and customs of Krakow’s citizens in the XVII - XIX centuries. This is also the only museum in Krakow that is promoted on Facebook by… a cat named Hipolit – the museum’s honorary resident.
The Weiss Family Villa located at 31, Krupnicza Street used to be the residence of famous Krakow artist Wojciech Weiss. The house represents the best days of Polish Modernism. The main entrance gate is decorated with a colourful mosaic depicting symbols of the Polish Masonic Lodge.
At 24, Szpitalna Street is a building that is nowadays an Orthodox church famous for its polychromes by the extremely well-known Polish artist Jerzy Nowosielski. The site was originally a Synagogue called Ahawat Raim, and Szpitalna Street before WWII drew the attention of many of Krakow’s book lovers and academics thanks to excellent Jewish bookstores owned by the Himmelblau, Seiden and Taffet families.
Mostowa Street, which leads from Plac Wolnica to the Vistula River banks, is a fantastic example of the city’s revival after communism. A long row of neglected houses still awaiting renovation presently host a growing number of charming coffee places, clubs, art galleries and restaurants. The street ends at the Bernatka Footbridge, named after a Bonifrater Monk, Laetus Bernatek. The bridge, which connects Kazimierz with Podgorze recently became a favourite place for lovers, who have decorated it with numerous engraved padlocks symbolising their eternal love and mutual devotion.
There are two magical places on the map of Podgórze. The Starmach Gallery, located in the renovated, XIX century neo-gothic David Zucker Synagogue (called Bet ha-Midrasz Chasidim) on 5, Wegierska Street, is an amazing cultural enclave promoting the best in modern and contemporary art. The other is the colourful stairway passage on 5-7, Tatrzanska Street, with a great selection of quotes by famous writers, novelists, philosophers and politicians painted on the steps. This project was a local initiative by young residents of Podgorze, and the best way to describe the artistic spirit of this enterprise is one of the painted quotes by Winston Churchill: “…Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”.
And now it is worthwhile taking a few minutes to lift off in the huge, white balloon located on the bank of the Vistula River and admire the beauty of a bird’s eye panorama of Krakow!
Note: Author of the article is a lincesed tour guide in Krakow and member of Viator Tour Guides.