Kraków Days 2019
Saturday, June 1, 2019 - Sunday, June 30, 2019
Festivals and great outdoor events, Theatre Night and Dance Night, City Festival and the anniversary of Nowa Huta – all this and plenty more besides comprise Kraków Days!
June abounds with culture in Kraków, and for the last two years the most important events have been held under a joint banner: Kraków Days recalls the interwar tradition of a grand city festival of just that name, and serves as testament to the incredible diversity of the programme. And although academia is winding down to well-earned summer holidays, the arts in all their forms – from music, via poetry and theatre, to dance – are flourishing!
Posters and press articles promoting pre-war Kraków Days depicted the Lajkonik pageant (his stylised silhouette served as a trademark of the festival), the Fowler Brotherhood proudly entering the Main Market Square and firework displays held on St John’s Eve. All this was shown in the stunning setting of Cracovian architecture, including the St Florian’s Gate, the Basilica of St Mary and Wawel Castle. Sound familiar? Hardly a surprise – Kraków has always been proud of its history! This year’s historical and traditional themes are particularly significant, since Kraków hosts the World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) in early June. The gala inauguration of the event on 2 June at the Main Market Square will be a dazzling, multinational celebration welcoming Cracovians and visitors alike. The March of Traditions arrives first, including legendary and historical figures such as the Lajkonik and his retinue, representatives of the Fowler Brotherhood and courtiers and city guards wearing costumes recreated thanks to the famous Stockholm Roll; the 15-metre long painting dating back to the 17th century (gouache on paper) depicts the triumphant arrival of King Sigismund III and his newlywed wife Constance of Austria in the city. Steeped in a joyful atmosphere, the procession is joined by artists, locals, volunteers and ambassadors of OWHC members to parade through the Main Market Square. The ceremony opening the congress is followed by the concert Towards Sources; the programme prepared by Jan Słowiński features the Sinfonietta Cracovia orchestra joined by artists from Poland and Central-Eastern Europe specialising in ethno and world music, including Poland’s The Malisz Band, Babushka from Ukraine and the Hungarian ensemble Muzsikas with Hanga Kacsó on vocals. The concert seamlessly turns into a folk dance event, led by The Warsaw Village Band, Muzykanci and Dikanda.
The congress itself, dedicated to debating the timely issues of the relationship between historical cities and the tourist industry, runs until 5 June. The proceedings are held at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre and are accompanied by public presentations of OWHC members at a specially prepared exhibition.
From the dragon to the Lajkonik
It would be difficult to find a better cultural framework for the OWHC Congress than Kraków Days: the most important points of the programme recall the city’s legends, traditions and history. On 2 June, the March of Traditions is preceded by the dazzling pageant of the Dragon Parade and the enthronement of the Fowler King. The latter custom stems from rituals held across mediaeval Europe, celebrating trade and craft guilds, always ready to defend city walls and towers and training in weapon handling during peacetime. In selecting their king through a shooting competition, Kraków’s Fowler Brotherhood cultivates traditions dating back to the 13th century. Although Wianki (22 June) recalls even older customs, going back to pre-Christian times, in recent years the traditional content of the event has been updated to a more modern Fête de la Musique setting encompassing the entire city. Finally, Lajkonik himself appears on 27 June, riding through Kraków’s streets and delivering strikes with his mace (meant to bring luck!) to commemorate another centuries-old event: the victory of raftsmen from Zwierzyniec near Kraków over a Tatar invasion and their triumphant arrival in the city. Since the cheeky raftsmen dressed up as the defeated enemy before entering the city, initially arousing terror among the residents, the Lajkonik wears a stylised Turkish outfit until today – the current version has been designed by Kraków’s most iconic artist Stanisław Wyspiański.
Traditions are also at the core of the Cracovian Costume Festival (6 June) and St John’s Fair, focusing on student lives in the early days of the Kraków Academy (14-16 June). More recent history of our city is explored by the June instalment of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Nowa Huta, forming a part of Kraków Days and related to Nowa Huta Days. For example, did you know that the socialist realist architecture of Kraków’s youngest district is largely based on Renaissance?
Vive la différence!
Kraków Days also celebrate diversity – in June we explore major events from all fields of the arts. They include the extensive programmes of the Miłosz Festival, the Children’s Literature Festival, Dance Night, Theatre Night, and the most important festivals promoted by cultural foundations including the Wodecki Twist Festival, the Jewish Culture Festival, Krakow Photomonth and the International Jarek Śmietana Jazz Guitar Competition. And if it all gets a bit too much, take a break at one of myriad Kraków Picnics!
As usual, the Municipality Open Day (9 June) symbolises Kraków’s openness and welcoming to culture and visitors, but the truth is that all city institutions are celebrating Kraków Days by hosting special events. Let’s explore, discover and absorb – it is the only month of its kind! (Grzegorz Słącz)
Kraków emerges primarily as the silhouette of Wawel Hill with the Royal Castle and Cathedral adorned by the golden dome of the Sigismund Chapel, and the Historic Centre, surrounded today by Planty – the garden ring developed in the place of the former defence walls. Within its perimeter you will find the Royal Route leading from St Florian’s Gate and the Barbican to the castle, age-old churches, little townhouses and mansions in a variety of styles that have accumulated in the city over the centuries, its University founded in the Middle Ages, the Main Market Square with the characteristic silhouettes of the Cloth Hall, St Mary’s, the Town Hall Tower, the monument to the Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, pigeons, flower stalls, and the bugle call played every hour from the taller tower of St Mary’s. In addition there is the Kazimierz district, chartered in the 14th century as a separate city to the south of Kraków proper, attracting us with its history, heritage, and the magic of the former Jewish oppidum. Radiating from the Main Market Square, the largest of such squares surviving from the Middle Ages in Europe, are streets that were staked out among previous developments in the middle of the 13th century. Together with the perpendicular cross-streets they form a characteristic grid system (Hippodamian plan), though a trained eye will also see disturbances in Kraków’s perfect urban design where the pre-Charter life was most vibrant.
Perfectly well preserved mediaeval developments, one of the grandest and most impressive in our part of Europe, and a unique complex of built heritage from various periods became the foundation for entering Kraków’s Historic Centre together with Wawel and Kazimierz on the first UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978.
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