27th Jewish Cultural Festival

There aren’t many Jews left in Krakow since the war.  Around 200 reside in Krakow today as opposed to the 68 000 that was here before at the turn of the 20th century.  So why have a Jewish festival in a city with so few jews? The idea is to re-introduce jewish culture to a place where it once richly thrived.

Starting today and all week long Jewish workshops, seminars,  art shows, theater, tours, and most of all music will be held all around the city.  This year a new site for the opening party was settled upon; the Hala Targowa.  Tonight the music begins at 6:00 pm, in an old Jewish market house the Mahane Yehuda.

The main event of the festival, as always, is held next Saturday; Shalom on Szeroka street, or as some call it ‘Jewish woodstock.’  For one night a year Szeroka is cleared of all its restaurant terraces and parked cars and a stage is set-up in front of the Old Synagogue.  Starting at 6:00 pm and going to the last man standing or swaying.

If you’re in Krakow you will not want to miss this.

For more info check out http://www.jewishfestival.pl/en/

Wianki: The Reef fesitival

As the longest day has just come, it’s time to stay out all night and party! This celebration goes back to pagan times when bonfires and dances were had to ensure health and good harvest.  It’s called the reef festival because on this night girls make reefs and placed them on their heads like crowns.  At night these reefs are placed in the river lit with candles and set afloat.  If a bachelor finds your reef on the river he will be your future husband.  If your reef sinks to the bottom you will remain a spinster forever.  To this day a contest for the most beautifully decorated reef is held.

During the day our medieval fair for Saint John’s day is held alongside the river.  You can feel as though you are walking through a medieval village with blacksmiths, bakers, and wenches. You can listen to music of yore and party like its 1200.

The reef festival is also a festival of music and dance.  And if you have not noticed by now stages have been set up all around town; on the main square, Szczepanski square, Podgorze square, and even in Nowa Huta.

The celebration culminates with a fireworks display on the river at the foot of the castle at 10:45 pm.

All these events in Krakow take place free of charge and beverages will be plentiful. Remember if you rented a bike from us overnight drinking and riding can lead to a five hundred zloty fine.  Enjoy responsibly.

Lajkonik

There are two symbols of Krakow, one is the dragon and the other the Lajkonik; a polish timber rafter dressed as a Mongol or tartar invader.  In June of 1287 theTartarr invaders set up base in a convent just outside of Krakow in the town of Zwierzyniec.  Their plan was to spend the night and invade Krakow in the early hours of the next morning.  Zwierzyniec lies along the Vistula river and the polish timber rafters noticed the Mongol intruder, thus in the middle of the night surprised them with an attack that left no one spared.  The leader of the timber rafters came up with an idea to play a trick on the people of Krakow.  The band of timber rafters would dress up like their Mongol foes and pretend to invade the city of Krakow.  Before the city could ring the alarm they revealed their true identities as polish lumber rafters.  To this day to honor those brave poles the week after Corpus Christi a fellow Cracovian appointed by the mayor plays the role of the Lajkonik, and dresses in mongol dress.  At 12:00 PM he begins a parade from the Norbetan convent in Zwierzyniec and heads towards Krakow’s main square arriving at 7:00PM.  The reason for his tardiness is that he stops at all the bars, restaurants, and cafes along the route to have a drink with the owner as a sign of a prosperous year.  Not to mention that he is surrounded by children during the parade who want to get hit on the head by his club to give them luck.  This year’s arrival was marked with cheer and rosy cheeks on the one dressed as the Lajkonik.

Corpus Christi

Today, 60 days after Easter, we celebrate the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ.  This tradition dates back to Orvieto in Rome in the XIII century, where during mass the priest knocked the Eucharist chalice over and the few drops of wine that spilled turned into blood.  Christians believe that this is proof that the Ostia and wine taken during communion are, in fact, the body and blood of Christ.  In Krakow after mass, a procession will be held through Grodzka street to the main square where  4 stops will be made under temporary altars symbolizing the four evangelists.  Those that take part in the procession ofter are dressed in folk dress and attire.

An interesting place to witness these events is the Corpus Christi church in Kazimierz.  Legend has it, the name comes from the story of two thieves that broke into All Saints Church, which no longer stands today, and stole the monstration thinking it was of gold.  After realizing it was only gold plated they threw it into the bogged area of Kazimierz.  years later blue beams of light emerged from the mud in Kazimierz.  The bishop was called over to see the miracle and he ordered the area to be excavated after which the stolen monstration was found.  And so a church of an unusual name was built in that very spot.

The Great Dragon Parade

In the VI century Krak, the founder of Krakow poisoned the dragon that once lived at the foot of the Wawel castle, with a sheep stuffed with sulfur.  All this weekend Dragons will once again infest the streets of Krakow.   The puppet theater Groteska hosts the 17th annual dragon parade.  This year’s theme will me influenced by Mediterranean history and culture. During the day you can see Dragon floats along the river and at night a fireworks and laser light spectacle on the riverside by the Wawel Castle.  Then on sunday, you can catch giant dragon shaped balloons floating above the main market square at noon.  This time rather than terrorizing the people the dragons will be a source of delight and fun.