Over the last few years, beside the area enclosed by the Planty Garden Ring, all maps of the city centre also cover Kazimierz: formerly an independent city and, today, a neighbouring district, easily accessible from Wawel Hill.
Every corner of Kazimierz is the witness of a very Krakow tale: the history of Polish Jews. It is visible in the system of narrow streets itself, in the abundance of markets, in the small tenements, synagogues, and kirkuts - Jewish cemeteries. Following the tragedy of the Second World War and the extermination of Jews by Nazi invaders, Kazimierz was deserted and, for decades, continued to fall into a desolate ruin. The changes that took place at the turn of the 1980s triggered a change that continues to influence the fast-paced growth of this part of the city. Having regained their property, heirs of former inhabitants immediately took to renovation. Today, beautifully restored buildings stand in close vicinity of those totally devastated, whose number luckily continues to diminish.
Kazimierz found its way to the silver screen thanks to Steven Spielberg, who came here to shoot Schindler's List (also known as Schindler's Ark), a multiple-Oscar winner. The idea behind the world-famous Jewish Culture Festival organised here since early 1990s is concentration on the history and traditions of people who used to live here; workshops, lectures, and exhibitions are held in Kazimierz. Today, we can safely claim that Kazimierz is experiencing a revival and acquiring a new face.
The key to the understanding of the popularity that Kazimierz enjoys today is its unbelievable and lasting tolerance: two nations and two great religions existed here for centuries in harmony. It is in Kazimierz that the massive, Gothic churches of St Catherine's and Corpus Christi sprung up alongside synagogues. Kazimierz is Krakow's centre of artistic and intellectual ferment. It is enough to mention the famous Laznia Theatre, which took its innovative projects to Kazimierz. The cafés, clubs, and galleries recently opened here in great numbers attract all those who find the Main Market Square and its close vicinity "too touristy". Everyone discovers their own aspect of the charmingly unique Kazimierz. Neighbours of exclusive hotels and classy restaurants include craftsmen's workshops: leatherworkers, shoemakers, and engravers. Places of religious worship stand alongside places that have recently acquired "cult" status. To experience this, simply take a walk near Plac Nowy, along ul. Miodowa and ul. Podbrzezie, and visit ul. Szeroka, where the Closing of Jewish Culture Festival - an open-air concert lasting into the small hours of the night - is held every year.
Having crossed the Vistula River into the district of Podgórze, we enter places that, during the Second World War, witnessed the Holocaust that the Nazis brought upon the Jewish people of Krakow: Plac Bohaterów Getta, Pharmacy Under the Eagle, and the remnants of Płaszów concentration camp.
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