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Europe’s forgotten city back in premier league

KRAKOW TOURS – Tomorrow, southern Poland’s most glorious city joins the premier league of destinations served from Heathrow Terminal 5 by British Airways. BA uses its precious slots only on routes that it believes will be attractive to business travellers so the new link, which offers connections from around the globe, testifies to the rising business profile of Krakow, (too) often described as the “new Prague”.

Krakow - Main Square

Neil Taylor, who pioneered tourism to Poland and other Eastern Bloc nations, says: “This could be part of a BA resurgence to prove that some towns can justify a higher level of service than that offered on budget airlines. Citybreak operators will certainly be pleased that another serious destination for them has become available and conference organisers will be equally pleased as neither work happily with budget airlines.”

Krakow has a long, distinguished history as one of the great cities of Europe. Stand in its magnificent medieval Market Square, where coronations took place when it was Poland’s capital, and on every side you can see architectural master- pieces from centuries past. Most dominant is the Gothic basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary or Kosciol Mariacki, with its celebrated tower from where the hejnal or bugle call is performed on the hour, every hour – breaking off sharply in mid note in memory of the fatal Tatar arrow that pierced the throat of the bugler, who was raising the alarm with his call in 1241 as Mongols besieged the city.

One reason the centre of Krakow has been so beautifully preserved is the four lost decades following the Second World War. Until 1989, Poland was effectively under the stifling control of Moscow: the Warsaw Pact, embracing nations from East Germany to Bulgaria, was a union of unwilling participants who were prevented from access to the free market of the West. That, at least, was the idea – though Poles proved more adept than most at gaining access to the West, and the trading skills of some was the stuff of legends.

Today, the notion that ambitious young Polish people tend to seek their fortunes elsewhere in Europe has been overturned. The city is styling itself as Poland’s Silicon Valley, and is attracting highly skilled IT and R&D professionals – with other businesses locking into the city’s growth strategy.

UBS set up an office in Krakow in 2007. “We have attracted many talented individuals who have contributed to the success of our firm,” says Michal Stepien, the general manager. “Our operation is constantly expanding.”

Just as tourists find prices in Krakow gratifyingly low, the city is an inexpensive place to do business. Thanks partly to the wealth of hotels, Krakow is becoming a noted trade fair and convention city. The EXPO Krakow complex, a short distance east of the city centre, this year hosts Infrasnow, dealing with equipment for winter-sports resorts, in September; Krakow’s International Book Fair in the following month; and Horeca, for hotel, retail and catering establishments, in November.

The city’s harmonious jumble of architectural styles – CORBIS Off-duty, the attractions are endless. Lining the Market Square are palaces, cafes and restaurants built in a harmonious jumble of Mannerist, Rococo, Baroque, Renaissance and even Neo-classical styles. Since Krakow served as European capital of culture in the Millennium year, 2000, it has lured avant-garde artists seeking freedom and inspiration.

A leading gallery, ICC (mck.krakow. pl), is currently exhibiting until June an artistic dialogue between Brazilian photographer Cristiano Mascaro and Polish artist Slawomir Rumiak, and culture abounds on all sides. And even beneath you lies just one of a plethora of museums which opened in 2010. Spread over 4,000 square metres underneath the Market Square, this multi media museum (mhk.pl) displays treasures which relate the turbulent history of Krakow.

Back at the airport – which is named after the city’s most celebrated son, Pope John-Paul II – the trajectory of Krakow is clear from the latest figures. It is the biggest regional airport in Poland, and last year saw its best ever year. This was helped by a 7 per cent increase in traffic to and from its biggest market: London, with a record-breaking 402,000 passengers on the route. The new British Airways link means 2015 stands to be even more successful.

via Europe’s forgotten city back in premier league – Business – News – The Independent.

May 1, 2015 Posted by | Events, Krakow Travel Advice, News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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April 2, 2015 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving Auschwitz

KRAKOW TOURS: Seventy years ago today a Nazi train was stopped by resisters as it travelled from Flanders to Auschwitz.

Althea Williams tells the story of a survivor.

Kazerne Dossin, a former infantry barracks, during its use as a detention centre in 1942.

Kazerne Dossin, a former infantry barracks, during its use as a detention centre in 1942.On the night of April 19th, 1943 a train pulled out of Mechelen, a small town in Belgium. It carried 1,631 men, women and children and was the 20th convoy to leave the infamous Kazerne Dossin assembly camp for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Up to that point, of the 18,000 people who had already made the journey only a handful had escaped.

This time three young men, Youra Livschitz, Robert Maistriau and Jean Frankelmon, students at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, lay in wait for the train. Ten miles down the line, they flagged down the convoy using a lamp covered with red silk to resemble a warning light. Armed with just two pairs of pliers and a single pistol, they cut through the barbed wire that secured the heavy bolts on the outside of each cattle car.  Two hundred and thirty-seven Jewish deportees took their chance, pushing themselves through tiny windows, or wrenching the doors aside, falling or leaping into the dark. The Germans fired upon the fleeing shadows and at the easier targets of those who waited for their loved ones to follow.

In one of the carriages were Channa Gronowski and her 11-year-old son, Simon. As the train accelerated again, escape seemed impossible. But the mood in the carriage had changed and men broke open the lock on the door. Channa lowered Simon by his shoulders onto the footrail. He remembers his mother hesitating, saying: ‘No, the train’s going too fast!’ But Simon had jumped, rolling down the embankment. He leapt to his feet unhurt and waited for his mother to follow. The train halted and shots rang out. Three people fell. After 20 minutes of shooting and searching, the train departed and with it Simon’s mother.

Simon ran all night, through woods and over fields. He intended to reach Brussels and find his father, Leon, absent when the Germans had raided their home. He knew he risked capture but he needed help so he knocked on a door. His clothes torn and covered in mud, he said he had been playing with friends and had got lost. He was taken to the local police officer; Simon was sure he would be arrested. Jan Aerts had indeed guessed Simon came from the train but he had no intention of betraying him. He took him home and his wife fed him and washed and mended his clothes. The policeman helped Simon catch a train back to Brussels and he was finally reunited with his father, although they spent the remaining years of the war hidden in separate locations. Channa Gronowski was sent to the gas chambers on arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Simon’s sister Ita, 18, was sent on a later convoy and was also killed at Auschwitz.

At the Liberation, Leon Gronowski wrote: ‘People flood the streets, wild with joy; crying, laughing, singing, embracing each other. But I am miserable … My loved ones are still in the camps … I wander through the streets aimlessly; my heart is bleeding’. Ignorant of his wife and daughter’s fate he died of pulmonary disease in June 1945.

A total of 25,833 Jews and over 352 Roma were deported from Kazerne Dossin. Of the 233 people who attempted escape from the 20th convoy, 26 were shot that night. One hundred and eighteen got away of whom 89 were recaptured, 79 of these were deported on later convoys and 153 survived Auschwitz-Birkenau.

As for the three who stopped the train, Youra Livschitz was captured and executed in February 1944 and Jean Frankelmon was arrested soon after and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was liberated in May 1945. He died in 1977. Robert Maistriau was arrested in March 1944. He was liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945 and lived until 2008.

Today Simon Gronowski lives in Brussels and practises as a lawyer. He has two children and four grand-children. For over 50 years he hardly talked about his past but, following a chance meeting between his daughter and Robert Maistriau’s son, he was persuaded to overcome his reluctance to speak publicly about his experience. He has now written a book and speaks regularly in schools.

In the context of the Belgian occupation, when the number of active resisters is thought to have amounted to only about six per cent of the population and helping escapees was punishable, Jan Aerts and his wife were unusual people. Simon Gronowski was fortunate to have encountered them.

Gronowski’s story and those of many others are related in the new Kazerne Dossin Museum and Documentation Centre of the Holocaust and Human Rights, one of the most ambitious in Europe. The Kazerne Dossin replaces a smaller museum about deportation and the Resistance; the Flemish government agreed to finance the 25 million euros necessary to renovate the previous museum on the condition that its scope and aims were completely revised. It cited the dwindling number of survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust and its wish to show that Flanders not only recognises its part in the Nazi period but intends to contribute to the study of the mechanisms of exclusion, intolerance and racism in today’s society. The new museum owes its growing reputation to its efforts to render the Holocaust relevant to a younger public, drawing attention to the underlying conditions that can lead to human rights’ violations.

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The first time Hollywood exposed the Holocaust

Exactly 70 years ago, Hollywood’s top stars got together to expose the Holocaust.

It was early 1943, and Hitler’s armies were finally in retreat from North Africa and the Soviet Union. D-Day was more than a year away, and the Nazis had murdered almost three million Jews.

Since the start of the war, eyewitness accounts of mass shootings and death camps had made their way to governments around the world. “Rescue through victory” remained the official Allied strategy, and the killings receiving little attention.

As the genocide reached its apex, Hollywood decided to take action.

A seasoned journalist and screenwriter, Ben Hecht was the first celebrity to publicize the Holocaust. Hecht’s February 1943 essay, “The Extermination of the Jews,” rang warning bells even as the US State Department buried reports of genocide.

“Of these 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, almost a third have already been massacred by Germans, Romanians, and Hungarians,” Hecht wrote in Reader’s Digest. “The most conservative of scorekeepers estimate that before the war ends at least another third will have been done to death.”

Not content with writing op-eds, Hecht decided to do what he did best — put on a sweeping drama. An Oscar-winning screenwriter who contributed to “Gone With the Wind” and scripted “Scarface,” Hecht knew how to stir emotions and frame an epic story.

via The first time Hollywood exposed the Holocaust | The Times of Israel.

March 10, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , | Leave a comment

   

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