Krakow's Grassland - Blonia

Blonia is probably the most bizzare park in Krakow. Yes, it is a park, although at first it doesn't seem appropriate to call it so, as in Blonia there are no trees, which are essential element of parks. Yet, it is a park, a park which is a meadow, as the Polish name suggests.

However, it's not only the name which can astonish. This grassland of a really big area (48 ha) has never been violated by any buildings, although over the centuries there have been many ideas concerning the development of such a large area (as, for example, German plans from the Second Worl War, according to which Blonia was to be built up with exclusive housing estates for German officials and soldiers). Yet, it's not everything - Blonia constitute, first of all, a unique green link between the residential district and the strict centre of Krakow.

Due to its large area this unusual park is often used as a place of mass events. Most often these are occasional events for the whole families, organized within Days of Sport, Children's Day, various picnics and fests, as well as many others. However, Blonia played a special part during Pope's pastoral visits - they used to become at that time a one, big, green, open-air temple gathering thousands of people at the masses led by the Pope John Paul II. This picture of Krakow's Blonia is best known in the world, and due to those famous masses Blonia became an obligatory spot on the routes of tourists sightseeing Krakow. The tradition of Blonia masses took its root, and it was continued also by the successor of John Paul II, Benedict XVI during his visit in Krakow. Undoubtedly, Blonia will gather believers more than once in the future.

But, how come that such a big greenland has survived intact almost in the city centre for so many years? The history of this park goes back the distant tmes of Middle Ages. Large areas of land located between Krakow and the village of Zwierzyniec and used by the inhabitants of the neighbouring hamlets as pastures were already mentioned in the city foundation document from 1257. In 1358 the area of Blonia already belonged to Krakow's pastures. It was more or less the beginning of the argument about these pastures between the Premonstratensian monastery and the city commune, which has continued until the 17 th century. The name "Blonie"appeared in 1402, and for many years it was used to describe pastures, as this was the intended use of these areas.

The change as to how the area of Blonia was used came only in the 17 th century. First of all, the army started to get interested in it: it was here that there were attilery trainings, parades (in 1802 - Austrian army, 1809 - Poniatowski and Dabrowski army), temporary army camps. In the 19 th century Blonia completey lost its economic importance, but its military function got strengthened (In1849 - inspection by tzar Nicolaus I of the Russian army marching to fight Hungarian insurgents).

The turn of the 19 th and the 20 th century brought about a more representative role of Krakow's Blonia: it was a place where celebrations, such as Anniversary of the Battle at Grunwald (500 th anniversary in 1910) and the Succor of Vienna (250 th anniversary in1933 and 300 th in 1983) were organised. After the Second World War in Blonia there were frequent parachute shows, baloon competitions and airshows.

The area of Blonia has always been problematic, due to its boggy character, as regards its use for architectural development. Yet, in spite of that, in the 20 th century its area was more and more limited, precisely by erecting new buildings. During the Second World War there was even a real danger of changing this area into a German office district, and then, into a German emergency airport.

Fortunately, Blonia has never been completely developed, and until now it has been used as a recreational ground, a place of fests, artistic open-air shows, sport competitions and fairs. Blonia is also a destination of family walks and a space where our four-footed friends can run about. Last but not least asset of Blonia is its visual aspect, as the view which streches out from Blonia includes the Old City on the one side, and the elevations of Krakow's mounds of Kosciuszko and Pilsudski on the other side. No wonder that Blonia has been registered in the provincial register of monuments.
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