Southern Poland through the art and history -- from Krakow to Auschwitz

Poland has gone through many difficult periods over more than thousand years of its existence. Events of the World War II has irreversibly changed the course of its history. The capital (Warsaw) was destroyed and the numerous ghettos and concentration camp, like in Auschwitz, had come into being. No wonder it has a remarkably rich history and numerous monuments across the country, featuring different customs, history, architecture and art.

Artistic Atmosphere of Krakow

Although the World War II had ravaged many important cities in Poland, Krakow was the one to survive. Fortunately, most of the city hasn't been destroyed so it bounced back in a short time. It's often called the cultural metropolis of Poland. This former capital of Poland is the real pearl of the country and it welcomes millions of tourists every year. However, it's also the place that attracts numerous artists from around the world. Every day, you can go to some exhibition, play or concert. The pervasive art is also visible on the streets in shape of different murals.

Walking down the Kazimierz district you can see how many people create and sell their unique handicraft. As Krakow is located in the Sound of Poland it hosts also many folk artists from the southern region.

Music is another thing that Krakow can be proud of as it welcomes many living legends every year of popular, as well as jazz and classical music. Annual festivals (Summer in Krakow Festivals, International Jazz Festival, Unsound Festival) that take place in Krakow attracts even more art lovers.

Due to the famous Jagiellonian University (the oldest in Poland, the second oldest in Central Europe) it's also the center of education in country. Many noted scientists come here to do significant researches and cooperate with Polish students.

Best Museum and Galleries to See in Krakow

There are 24 Museums and numerous art galleries in the city. Here's the most important and most interesting ones you can visit:

National Museum -- the main museum with plenty temporary exhibitions of prestigious artists
Czartoryski Museum -- famous for it Lady with an ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
Rynek Underground - reconstruction of the city of Krakow from seven hundred years ago through the holograms and numerous projectors.
Manggha -- Museum of Japanese Art and Technology.
Archeological Museum -- famous for the Zbruch idol sculpture from the IX century.
Polish Poster Art Gallery -- unimaginably big collection of works from the 50's till contemporary times.
Historyland -- the history of Poland presented in the shape of models made of Lego.
Dragon's Den -- the cave with the legendary statue of dragon at the footprints of the famous Wawel Castle.

Unique Jewish Culture in Krakow

Kazimierz district of Krakow constitutes one of the most significant touristic attractions in Poland. It used to be the separate city and since it became the part of Krakow, it has been the Jewish center of the city. It abounds with Jewish culture and numerous precious monuments. There are many magnificent synagogues that are still active. Walking down the picturesque streets of Kazimierz you'll hear the live Jewish music coming from the Jewish restaurants.

However, there is also the dark side of the Jewish story in Krakow. In the Museum Galicja you will familiarize with the rough history of Jews through the unique exhibitions and works of art. It is also the commemoration of the Holocaust that took place during the World War II in Auschwitz.

During the occupation period, there was also Jewish ghetto in the district called Podgorze. People were arrested daily and put within the small, walled-off area. From there they were transported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

A Day in the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz

Visiting Krakow, you should definitely go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. It's located around 70 km from the city and is one of the most important historic heritages of the country. This symbol of horror reminds us about the destructive and inhuman ideology of Nazis. It is estimated that over 1,1 million human beings died in the camp due to the mass exterminations and brutal tortures.

Despite the Holocaust denial and the Nazi's attempts to destroy all the evidences of the genocide after the war, there is still rich historic collection in the museum. You can see the original, as well as the reconstructed barracks, where the prisoners lived. There are also the remains of buildings of mass extermination like the gas chambers and crematories sprawls on the wide field

The Auschwitz Museum it's an absolute must see for everybody as it spreads the valuable knowledge and remembrance of the events in the history that we cannot forget.

In addition, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin Germany presents the bare and horrifying story of The Holocaust.

Unbreakable Art Created in Auschwitz

Is it possible that the art was present in the place like Auschwitz? Yes, it surprisingly is. Although the inhuman conditions were for the prisoners on the agenda, the concentration camp didn't stop their need for art. Oddly enough it was the Germans who established the place called Lagermuseum in the camp. They kept there the precious belongings, robbed from people who were imprisoned in Auschwitz. The collection included the works of art, but also coins, antiques or Jewish prayer books.

Germans also commissioned some of the talented prisoners to paint for them. Although making art, that was not instructed by SS officers, were strictly forbidden, many of the prisoners did it secretly. All their works that survived the war are today collected in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. It constitutes the significant proof of the prisoner's sensitivity, that somehow, they had never lost. There are also many works, created by the former prisoners many years after this dark period. For some of them it was the only way they could express their feelings and emotions about the living hell that they experienced in Auschwitz.

How to get to Auschwitz

You can get to Auschwitz by taking the private guided tour from Krakow to Auschwitz. It includes the professional guide, door-to-door pick up and comfortable car. The journey takes 1h 10 min each way and the whole tour lasts for around 6 hours, including the drop off in your hotel in Krakow.

There are also public buses and trains (Oswiecim direction) departing from the main station in the city center. What's more, there are different types of visiting the museum.

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August 8, 2019

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