Kazimierz, Kraków

Old fashioned tram in Kraków

To celebrate my 18th birthday back in October, me and my parents decided to take a trip to Kraków, Poland (pronounced kra-kaw-v). Kraków is a beautiful city with a tragic (recent) history, and staying in Kazimierz (the former Jewish Quarter of the city) made the experience even more moving.

Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Jewish graffiti in Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Memorial to Polish Jews who lost their lives during WWII in Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Me and my parents arrived in the city late on a Sunday night, so there wasn't a lot for us to do except go for a walk around the unfamiliar streets or go to bed. Not wanting to miss out on anything, we decided to take a hesitant stroll to the main square in Kazimierz, and ended up in Once Upon A Time In Krakow (pictured below). This was the most homely bar we could have stepped into on our first night in a country which we had never visited. It was warm, cosy and almost all of the little light that existed in there was from candles. As we huddled in a corner, soaking up kitsch interior, a group of locals were finishing their night, and I watched them all rub the Star of David on the urn on their way out - something which oddly stuck with me even months after the trip.

By this point, we were all feeling kind of out of place, like we had invaded the locals' favourite haunt (maybe that's just a symptom of being English) but also excited with the prospect of exploring the enticing Kazimierz further. Before heading off to bed, I ordered my first taste of kosher vodka (a desperate attempt to assimilate) and drank it warily. It burned.

Once Upon A Time in Kazimierz interior

Considering the sad history of the Jews in Poland, it was incredible to see how vibrant Kazimierz was, and how well Jewish culture has reinstated itself firmly in the DNA of the city. Whilst the synagogue obviously paid tribute to the Jews who had tragically lost their lives in the ghettos and death camps of the Nazi regime, being able to visit this Jewish place of worship, which is still active today, was an act of defiance and a reminder that this is so much an important part of Polish culture on a larger scale. Being able to drink Jewish drinks, eat Jewish food, visit their sacred temples and hear their music throughout the district was such a moving and authentic experience for someone like me, who has had no exposure to their way of life at all.

Restaurant courtyard in Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Restaurant courtyard in Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

Goulash (goulasz) with Jewish potato pancakes (latkes)

Polish style stuffed pancakes

Traditional Polish bakery shop window in Kazimierz, Jewish Quarter in Kraków

I found out that Kazimierz was probably the best part of the city I could have hoped to be staying in because it's so close to the city centre (about a 15 minute walk) but has so much character of its own! Just in the small square alone, there are bars, a synagogue and loads of restaurants (ranging from Michelin to Israeli food). You shouldn't take a trip to Kraków without eating at Szara or trying the homemade lemonade in the coolest bar in Kazimierz, Ulica Krokodyli!

I'm a huge foodie, and in Kazimierz there is no shortage of tasty places to eat. I had the best goulash I have ever tasted in my entire life in the Jewish Quarter, just around the corner from the main square, alongside a spicy chilli hot chocolate. We were only there for about 4 days, so I had to try and fit in as much food as possible in that short, short time. I even bought some Polish marmalade doughnuts (pictured above) to take back to England with me because I couldn't quite fit them into our schedule while we were there. It was a good idea.

More posts about the rest of my trip to Kraków are coming soon. Have you visited Kraków or Kazimierz?

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