The coolest things in Krakow, the best food in Krakow, the hippest Krakow are all thought to take place here – Kazimierz. It is today a must see and must go destination on the tourist catalogue of the city.
The streets of Kazimierz are full of restaurants and bars, many of them selling kosher cuisine.
Everywhere you walk there are young sales people trying to convince you to go to their eatery or event.
Set up in 1335 by the King Casimir (and named after himself), Kazimierz was historically a city separate from Krakow, and was eventually absorbed into the growing metropolis and became part of the city. Kazimierz’s greater claim to fame was that it was home to the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. The presence of Jewish people in Krakow and Poland had to do with King Casimir who saw the business savvy of the Jewish people and the skills of their craftsman as net positives for his new city.
Jews co-existed and interacted with Poles in Krakow, developing a melting pot culture within the city walls, but were later expelled from Krakow. This happened in the middle ages, when a nationalist and religionist movement, agitated by Christian clergy on charges of blood libel, grew within the city walls led to the many Jewish people to settle in Kazimierz instead. This took place in the 1400s, and the government allowed for a small city to be built within the confines of Kazimierz. Soon, synagogues and Jewish restaurants could be found all over Kazimierz a Jewish city was born (know as the Oppidum Judaeorum).
Just like Krakow old town proper, the new Jewish settlers and the city of Kazimierz prospered as top scholars, artists and craftsmen of Jewish origin found their way to live in Kazimierz.
The presence of a ready made Jewish Quarter, was also the reason for some of the greatest tragedies during World War II. As this made it easier to round up and force a large portion to move to ghettos and concentration camps.
The Nazi’s had completely wiped Krakow’s Jews out of the city. And so after the war, Kazimierz had no one to tend to, and this part of town, was left to decay under communist rule. A revival has recently begun to take place with an annual Jewish Cultural Festival as well as the establishment of more and more Jewish themed eateries.
Israeli and American Jews, with a Polish connection have increasingly moved back to Kazimierz.
What will a revitalized Kazimierz and Jewish Quarter look like?
More than bars, restaurants and cafes, that’s for sure.
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