02 November 2010


Kazimierz is a neighborhood in the south of Krakow, originally separated from the main city by the Vistula river. The Vistula has been diverted, the riverbed filled in, and the district connected with Krakow proper. It was historically the Jewish quarter of the city, and some 60,000 Jews lived there in 1931. Today, there are only about 200 Jews in all of Krakow. It's a fascinating place, and we spent an interesting day poking around.
We came for the market, which we had thought was more of an antiques/flea market, but turned out to be a "cloth market." The "cloth" that they're hawking is really used clothing, mostly polyester, sold alongside a few booths with knockoff perfumes and costume jewelry. It was fun, crowded and ugly. People were very competitive about their rummaging. Rebecca, surprising me, didn't buy a single thing.
We had coffee at this little cafe, which we assume was made to look old - the look was too studied to be real. It was a great place, nonetheless, and was popular with nannies. At least, we think they were nannies. The women we saw might have been mothers, but their youth suggested otherwise. The neighborhood has a lot of places like this - it's a recently gentrified quarter, with a bohemian vibe that's on the verge of becoming gauche.
This cat was on a leash.
Down an alleyway, near a restaurant, we noticed this couple. They're either calmly pondering what's about to happen to them, or they're having wedding pictures taken. Rebecca learned, later, that this alleyway was featured in the film Schindler's List, as well as other movies. It seemed like a strange place to take photos, but they looked great.
We stopped in at a Jewish cemetery before we left, which was sobering. The yard is walled off on all sides, the only entrance is through a small synagogue. There was a man at a table, charging admission and making sure that everyone was wearing a yamulka before they entered the holy site. Fortunately, he had one that I could borrow, and we were able to go in. The synagogue itself was crowded - a tour group - but the cemetery was nearly empty, and we wandered amongst the tombstones for quite a while.
The graves predate the holocaust, and some appeared to be very old. It was difficult to tell exactly how old they were because the inscriptions were all in Hebrew, but it was clear from the condition of the stone that they had stood for at least a century. This is about the only thing that's left of the Jewish community in Kazimierz, as it was emptied during the war. The buildings were claimed by non-Jewish Poles, and most of the old community was destroyed. It's amazing to think about this place in those terms - the 60,000 Jewish residents here made up a quarter of the pre-war population of greater Krakow, and they're almost entirely gone. We wondered, actually, what or who had preserved the cemetery? It seems incredible that the tombs weren't desecrated and that the synagogue is still there.
Rebecca went back down today and bought a used, leather purse that she likes a lot. I'm glad because it would have been a shame to waste such a great cloth market.

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