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HAPPY NEW YEAR from KRAKOW TOURS

HAPPY NEW YEAR from KRAKOW TOURS

December 31, 2012 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Auschwitz guard to maybe stand trial – 68 years on

Auschwitz Guard, Johann 'Hans' Breyer

Johann ‘Hans’ Breyer is an 87 year old American citizen, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is accused of, and freely admits to once being a guard at Auschwitz.

What makes this case very complicated, however, is the fact that Breyer denies ever being a guard at the Auschwitz 2, Birkenau camp, where the majority of the estimated 1.5 million victims were murdered.

The legal saga surrounding Breyer was thought to have ended in 2003 when it was ruled that he could remain in the USA, but documents obtained recently have shed further light on his past and appear to prove that he has lied about his time serving at Auschwitz.

It now seems that Breyer was serving in the 8th Company of the SS Totenkopf or ‘Death’s Head’ during the time that they were assigned to guard Birkenau, it also seems that he made false claims that he discharged early from the SS to help run his family farm.

These newly discovered documents have led German authorities, investigating Nazi-era crimes, to review whether there is enough evidence to charge Breyer with accessory to the murder of at least 344,000 Jews, and have in extradited from the U.S.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Henri Lloyd’ co-founder Henri Strzelecki dies aged 87

www.krakowtours.co.uk

Polish-British textile tycoon Henri Strzelecki, the founder of the ‘Henri Lloyd’ line of yachting and golf clothes, has died aged 87.

Born in Brodnica Strzelecki in northern Poland, Henri Strzelecki – known as ‘Mr Henry’ or ‘Waterproof Henry’ – founded the Henri Lloyd company with Angus Lioyd in Manchester, England in 1963 after emigrating to the UK after fighting in the Polish army in World War 2.

The brand specialized in using advances in textile technology for the emerging sports market, utilising new fabrics such as Bri-Nylon, Velcro and Gore-Tex.

The clothing line was used by notable explorers such as Sir Francis Chichester – the first man to circumnavigate the world single-handed – and adventurer Ranulph Fiennes, and Henri Strzelecki was awarded the MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 for services to British exports after his sportswear became a fashion item.

Henri Lloyd signed a commercial partnership contract in 2009 with Brawn GP Formula One Team as Official Supplier of Clothing and Footwear Technology.

December 28, 2012 Posted by | News | | Leave a comment

Krakow’s Camaldolese Monastery

ImageDespite the density of visitors to Kraków since the budget airline boom, it’s still incredibly easy to derail yourself from the tourist trail. Overlooking the Wisła river from atop a nearby hill is the monolithic Camaldolese Monastery (Klasztor Kamedułów), or the Silver Mountain Hermitage.

One of Kraków’s best diversions is Las Wolski (Wolski Forest), a massive woodland of scenic hiking trails in Bielany, just six kilometers from the centre. A popular summer picnic destination, these woods shelter several attractions, of which the Kraków Zoo and Piłsudski Mound are certainly the most popular, however there is still plenty of untrampled enchantment to be found within. On the hilly southern side of the forest lies Srebrna Góra – or Silver Mountain – the ancient home of one of Kraków’s most mysterious, mist-shrouded, secluded and discreet destinations.

Overlooking the Wisła river from atop this perch is the monolithic Camaldolese Monastery (Klasztor Kamedułów), or the Silver Mountain Hermitage. A walled monastic complex of white limestone, the Camaldolites have lived here in peace and obscurity for centuries, their walled sanctuary viewed by many as something indistinctly beautiful in the distant landscape, while a mere twenty minutes away on foot through dense forest, children squeal at bare-ass baboons in the zoo. Most locals have never ventured to the monastery, despite the popularity of the surrounding area.

The monks, for their part, would prefer if you didn’t find them. Looking over the surrounding valleys with an equally indifferent eye, they certainly haven’t ventured out. This hermit haven is hardly a secret society; in fact, though secretive, yes, it’s rather society-less. The monks live in isolation from each other devoting their every thought to a Higher Power with little regard for anything else, let alone something so banal or bestial as human company. It’s this mysterious backdrop that makes a journey to the majestic monastery so intriguing.

First, a bit of history: The Hermitage on Silver Mountain came into creation in 1604 after the Camaldolese – part of the Benedictine family of monastic orders – arrived from Italy with the idea of starting the first Polish order in Kraków. Eyeing the undeveloped landscape of Bielany as an ideal hideaway for their hermitage, Father Mikołaj Wolski went about trying to obtain the land from its owner Sebastian Lubomirski. Lubomirski apparently didn’t feel particularly charitable toward the monks, but legend says that Wolski (whose name the surrounding forest bears today) shrewdly hosted a large feast for the local nobility, inviting Kraków’s bishop and other friends of the order with the hope of changing Lubomirski’s humour, who was in attendance. With his company well-fed and fuelled with fellowship-fostering spirits, Wolski took the opportunity to put forth the order’s desire to found a monastery in the area, describing their difficulty in finding an adequate place where they could live and worship in peace. Lubomirski, as expected, heard the impassioned request and offered up Bielańska Mountain. Having received the anticipated blessing Wolski immediately put the prearranged papers before Lubomirski and had him sign off on the spot. Out of gratitude, Wolski gifted the landowner the silver flatware used during the meal, and the area has been known as Silver Mountain since. Not long after there were a dozen Camaldolese orders established in Poland, though only one other has survived to this day in Masuria. By 1642, the Krakowian order had erected a great church and 20 hermitages within its walled complex. Wolski died twelve years before the church’s consecration, asking in his will that he be buried in his white monk’s habit beneath the uncompleted cathedral’s floor so that those who eventually entered could tread over his sinful corpse. The monks, known for their slight morbidity, graciously obliged. Damaged by fire and redressed in 1814, this vast architectural complex is one of the finest representations of late-Baroque style in Europe.

The simple, strict, secluded lives of the Camaldolese arouse a great amount of curiosity and speculation from those beyond the wall. Following the severe self-imposed principles ‘Ora et labora’ (‘Pray and work’) and ‘Memento Mori’ (‘Remember you must die’) the monks abstain from speaking unless absolutely necessary and only encounter each other during certain prayer times. Short exchanges are allowed three times a week, while contact with the world beyond the monastery is allowed only five separate days a year, however many monks choose to have no contact with the outside world at all. Radio (heaven forbid), television, blogging and even family visits are strictly verboten. Simple vegetarian meals are eaten in solitude in the lonesome hermitages which bear a striking resemblance to detention cells.

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The common myth that the monks sleep in coffins is entirely unfounded, however, slightly more unnerving is the truth that one of the only bits of decor in each monk’s hermitage is the skull of his predecessor. In contrast, while the strict rules of the Camaldolese have not slackened for centuries, their Benedictine brothers across the river at Tyniec can frequently be found having a friendly homebrew with visitors in the on-site shop where they peddle their array of monastic goods; the Tyniec order now even has a store on ulica Krakowska. ‘Memento Mori’ seems to have found a different interpretation across the Wisła, but to each his own.

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A typical day in the life of a Camaldolite begins at 3:45 when the church bell chimes, indicating it is time to get up despite the sun’s disagreement. At 4:00 it tolls again, calling the monks to prayer in the church’s choir. After collective prayer, the monks head to their hermitages to continue praying in solitude. 5:45 and the church bell chimes again for mass, during which some humming has been reported to occur, while outright singing or something as excitable as playing an organ would surely send the monks into spasms. Between 7:00 and 8:00 the monks eat breakfast and have some free time for additional prayer if they choose. Work begins promptly at 8:00 when the day’s labour is divided between them, and they set about the individual tasks with the same deep concentration they apply to prayer. At 11:45 the prayer bell rings, summoning the men for the reciting of Angelus, after which a meal and free time for recreational solitude lasts until the next prayer bell at 14:00. At 16:30 it’s the rosary until 17:00 supper, after which the monks go to their cells for spiritual reading before reporting back to church at 18:30. After which they go home to their hermitage, rounding up their daily number of hours spent in prayer to 9 before hitting the sack. If that sounds like your kind of vacation, you can evade the holy vows and spend spring break in a closed retreat at the monastery so long as you obey the strict monastic orders and don’t ask any questions (like when you can leave). Or become a full-fledged monk yourself by meeting the follow criteria: all prospective monks must be between the ages of 21 and 45 and deemed sound physically and mentally. You must be pure in your intention to become a religious hermit by vocation for the right reasons, not because you dig the uniform, are on the run from your ex-wife, or trading one white habit for another. Before you can begin your marriage to God, taking the oath to a life of perpetual poverty, chastity and unquestioning obedience, you’ll have to undergo a trial period which takes about six years. Should you succeed, you’ll become one of only 58 Camaldolese monks in the world, joining the nine here in Kraków. The Camaldolites aren’t allowed to preach their faith, a hang-up which probably goes along with the no speaking or venturing outside the monastery, and has resulted in a steady decline in their numbers. (Celibacy doesn’t boost the likelihood of anyone being born into the faith either, though they do believe in immaculate conception.) Consequently, this article may be the closest thing the Camaldolites have had to a recruitment campaign in centuries.


While the compound is founded on isolationism, it is possible to gain entrance to the monastery. Men are allowed daily between 8:00 and 11:00 and between 15:00 and 16:30; women, not so frequently. The Camaldolites admit ladies only 12 days a year. Although access to the grounds are limited, the main church and immediate surroundings are open at these times and well worth a look; men are allowed to creep around the underground crypt as well. The approach to the main gate of the complex is down a long, narrow walled corridor which, when entered, creates an immediate feeling of alienation, strangely compelling you towards its conclusion at the arched entryway. Upon arriving at the faded frescoes of the threshold, the prospect of ringing the bell to the monastery evokes excitement and slight unease. Right of the wooden double doors is a large iron ring on a chain, which when pulled with authority rings a bell on the other side of the door…. Don’t expect a speedy response. The nervous anticipation of the moment slowly dissipates over what can sometimes be a more than twenty minute wait, during which you are actually getting your first glimpse into life as a hermit. Those that pass the test of patience can next expect a mutually wary encounter with a large, bushy beard with eyes and a nose that ushers you through the gate and disappears like a cloud of vapour. Immediately before you stands the immense 50m high white limestone facade of the monastery church with its two towers. The white single-nave interior is lined by ornate Baroque chapels (eight of them) beneath a round vaulted ceiling. The impressive main altar features the ‘Assumption of Saint Mary’ by Michał Stachowicz, the artist behind the church’s finest paintings. Beneath the chancel is the monastic crypt where the dead are placed without coffins into small rounded recesses in the wall and sealed inside. Latin inscriptions state simply the monk’s name and tenure in the monastery. After 80 years, these vaults are opened and the remains removed to a proper burial place; all save the skull, which each dead monk’s successor keeps in his shelter as a constant, grim reminder of mortality. The monastic complex has 11 other prayer chapels, though none are accessible to the public. Nor is the garden behind the church where the 14 surviving 17th century hermitages stand, at least five of which are currently untenanted. Indeed, the entire complex would seem unoccupied if it were not so well-maintained, with the rare glimmer of a ghostly white robe from a corner of the eye being the only giveaway.

Women are only allowed to visit the monastery on twelve days of the year:

  1. Easter Sunday
  2. Easter Monday
  3. May 3 – Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland
  4. Pentecost Sunday
  5. Pentecost Monday
  6. Sunday after June 19
  7. 2nd Sunday of July
  8. 4th Sunday of July
  9. 1st Sunday of August
  10. August 15 – Assumption of Mary
  11. September 8 – Nativity of Mary
  12. December 25 – Christmas Day

Garrett Van Reed

December 27, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Lewandowski to Man Utd, ‘Done Deal’ ?

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Borussia Dortmund’s sporting director has confirmed that striker Robert Lewandowski will be playing for Manchester United next season.

“The departure of Robert Lewandowski at the end of the season is a done deal,” said Michael Zorc on the transfer to Old Trafford, which could cost the Premier League club up to 15 million euros, if reports earlier this month are to be believed.

December 21, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wieliczka Salt Mine

A Fantastic Christmas Card from The Wieliczka Salt Mine

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice | , , , | Leave a comment

No End of the World in Poland tomorrow

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The head of the Polish National Security Bureau (BBN) has said that “there will be no end of the world in Poland,” as Doomsday approaches on 21 December.

“Maybe for some it will be the end of the world, I do not know. But in Poland it won’t be,” BBN chief General Stanisław Koziej told the RMF FM radio station after being questioned whether the predicted end of the world, as the ancient calendar of the Mayan people terminates on Friday, is a threat to Poland’s national security.

Koziej said that though he had heard “a bit about the story somewhere”, from the point of view of Polish national security, the prediction is irrelevant as it is “highly unlikely”.

Poles have generally taken the news that the world will be coming to an end on 21 December in their stride, although Mayan apocalypse mania has taken root with many in Russia.

For a month now, some Russians have been buying up shop-loads of candles and matches, salt and torches in a desperate effort to protect themselves from doom.

The panic prompted Vladimir Puchkov, Russia’s emergency situations minister, to invite Russians to call a special end-of-the-world hotline if they had fears that time was running out on Planet Earth.

December 20, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Euro for Poland ???

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President Bronislaw Komorowski has repeated his support for Poland entering the eurozone, but politicians have to convince the public it is in their best interests.

“I think I was almost the only one who said that the prospect of Polish membership of the eurozone is essential to maintain the role of our country in the European Union,” President Komorowski told the TVP public broadcaster on Monday night.

“Today, the trick is not only to preach these views but to convince the public,” Komorowski said.

Setting a date for adopting the single currency is difficult in present circumstances, however, as opinion polls show a majority against adopting the single currency.

“We have to examine what it means for the Polish economy. There is also the question of whether we can maintain our position in the EU, while not being in the mainstream of integration,” he said.

Komorowski’s comments come after the EU’s statistical service, Eurostat, announced that the eurozone posted a trade surplus of 10.2 billion euros in October, up from a deficit of 0.7 billion euros the previous year with the value of exports from the euro area to the rest of the world jumping by 14 percent, while imports rose by 7 percent.

Conditions for Poland joining the eurozone do not currently exist, however, according to the Finance Ministry, which says that the inflation rate and government debt are still too high.

Roman Kuzniar, an adviser to the president for international affairs, said on Monday that a realistic date for adopting the single currency would be in 2016.

“That would require entering the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism [where the Polish currency the zloty would be tied to the euro and only allowed to fluctuate within set limits] as early as next year – which is unlikely,” says Piotr Kalisz, chief economist at the Citi Handlowy bank.

On Monday, EU president Herman van Rompuy tweeted the main points of the eurozone banking supervisory (SSM) deal, agreed last week at the summit in Brussels, which Poland, though not yet a member of the euro area, signed up to.

“Establishment of SSM is a breakthrough. If we had had this supervision 10 years earlier, financial crisis wouldn’t be so severe,” tweeted Van Rompuy, adding that the worst of the crisis in the eurozone is over.

“It is clear that even if the worst of the crisis in terms of threat to € very existence is behind us, much still needs to be done.”

December 20, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Tours QR Code

Krakow Tours QR Code

December 19, 2012 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Tomasz Adamek looks to take IBF heavyweight belt

ImagePolish boxer Tomasz Adamek will be taking a step towards a shot at the IBF heavyweight title in Pennsylvania on Saturday against US challenger Steve Cunningham.

“What’s important for me is not that I have to win,” Adamek told the TVN24 news channel.

“On the contrary, I want to win,” he said.

The fight is in fact a belated rematch that was stalled after Adamek moved up to heavyweight.

The two boxers last faced each other some four years ago in a fight for the IBF cruiserweight title.

Adamek, who is nicknamed ‘Goral’ (Highlander) owing to his roots in the Polish highland town of Zywiec, scraped a victory by split decision.

“This time we’re meeting in heavyweight, where you fight differently,” Adamek affirmed.

The 36-year-old has won all three of his fights this year, taking in clashes with Americans Travis Walker and Eddie Chambers, as well as Dominican star Nagy Aguilera.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Sport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish nuns selling carp to pay for building restoration

ImageNuns at the 13th century abbey in Staniatki, near Krakow, have been rearing carp in two ponds within the grounds of the convent over the last year.

“The buildings require a thorough renovation, otherwise they could collapse,” Mother Superior Stefania Polikowska revealed in an interview with Polish Radio.

Carp is a staple dish on the Polish Christmas table, and Stefania Polikowska says that mercifully, the telephone is now ringing constantly with orders for the fish.

Besides carp farming, the sisters are also selling vegetables, flowers and cakes.

Just eighteen nuns currently live at the convent, which was founded in 1228.

The church of St Mary and St Adalbert, which was completed in 1238, is the oldest hall church (a church with nave and side aisles of equal height) in Poland.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Ryanair announce new base in Krakow

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Lost-cost airline Ryanair is to open a new base at Krakow’s John Paul II Airport in Balice.

“Ryanair is delighted to announce Krakow as our 53rd base, and our second in Poland,” enthused Michael Cawley, Deputy Chief Executive of the airline, at a press conference held in the city on Wednesday.

He also unveiled four new connections with Krakow, taking the overall tally of links with the city in southern Poland to 51.

The new connections will be with Manchester, Dortmund, Gothenburg and Kos, with flights beginning in April 2013.

All in all, Ryanair will be running some 224 flights per week between Krakow and other cities, including Paris, London and Milan, increasing its level by 16 percent.

The airline is offering 100,000 special deals for January to mark the new developments, with ticket prices from 12 pounds across Europe.

However, customers keen to take part in the deal must strike immediately, as the offer closes at midnight on Thursday (13 December).

Ryanair Calendar Girls

Click the photo to buy the 2013 Ryanair Charity Calendar.

December 13, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Polands most Googled terms 2012

Statistics were released as part of Google’s annual Zeitgeist Report, which keeps tabs on what’s capturing the world’s imagination.

In Poland, the country’s co-hosting of the Euro 2012 tournament with Ukraine generated a vast amount of internet traffic over the last twelve months, ranking highly in several categories.

Koko Euro Spoko by folk group Jarzebina was the most googled song in Poland this year.

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Polish striker Robert Lewandowski topped the rankings in the sportsmen category, while the term Euro 2012 itself was the third most frequently used overall in Poland this year.

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The most googled person in Poland over the last twelve months was buxom model Natalia Siwiec, followed by the late singer Whitney Houston, while Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner.

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‘How to delete Facebook’ was amongst the most popular search terms used in Poland this year on the Google search engine.

December 12, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Record numbers visit Krakow in 2012

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In spite of the credit crunch, Krakow has marked a record number of visitors in 2012, with almost 9 million people coming to the city.

According to research carried out by the Malopolska Tourist Organisation, 77 percent of the 8 950 000 visitors to Krakow in 2012 were tourists (Polish and foreign), and once again, it was the British that topped the list of foreign travellers.

All in all, 340,000 more people visited Krakow in 2012 than in 2011. The combined figure spent by visitors this year was 3.5 billion zloty (848.9 million euro).“What’s exceptionally important is the fact that in spite of the difficult situation of the tourist industry throughout Europe, including its greatest cities, we have managed to maintain a trend of positive growth, with more and more tourists visiting us each year,” reflected Deputy Mayor Magdalena Sroka, at the 20th Tourism Forum held in the city.

Of the 2.35 million foreign visitors, 26.17 percent were from Great Britain (as opposed to 20 percent last year, 13 percent were from Germany (12.6 percent in 2011), 9.4 percent were Italians (9.5 percent in 2011), 9 percent were from France (7.5 percent in 2011) and 5.9 percent were Russians (4.9 percent in 2011).

The average foreigner spent 596 zloty (144.5 euro) per person, whereas the average Pole spent 317 zloty (76.8 euro).

December 11, 2012 Posted by | News | | Leave a comment

Attack on Poland’s Black Madonna

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A 58-year-old man has been arrested after allegedly attempting to desecrate Poland’s most revered religious icon, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

According to police spokesperson Joanna Lazar, the man struck at about 8 am on Sunday while visiting the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, southern Poland.

The suspect allegedly lunged forward from among a group of worshippers, throwing a pail of what is thought to be black paint over the icon.

Owing to a pane of protective glass, the icon itself survived the incident unscathed.

“The faithful are calling us with tears in their eyes, asking what has happened,” revealed Father Robert Jasiulewicz, spokesman for the Pauline monastery, in an interview with the Polish Press Agency.

“We are calming them that the painting is in one piece, and that it has not been damaged in any way,” he added.

Joanna Lazar has said that the man will probably be charged with “desecrating a religious space,” for which he could face up to two years in prison.

However, she declined to reveal any more details about the case, or the suspect himself.

The Black Madonna is understood to have been brought to Czesctochowa in 1384, but its origins are still hotly debated.

It is believed by many of the faithful that the portrait of the Mother of God was painted by St Luke the Evangelist, and was supposedly owned for a time by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine.

When the fortified monastery endured a 1655 siege by Swedish invaders, the icon became increasingly venerated across Poland.

December 11, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

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