Kraków – a city that many artists, poets and historians have fallen in love with. A forgotten, magical, angelic, occupied, criminal Kraków… A lot of works – articles, songs, films and books – have been devoted to it. The lattermost allow us today to move to Planty shrouded in November fog, drink coffee on Bracka Street and listen to unknown legends about Queen Jadwiga’s apples… Long winter evenings are the best time to rediscover Krakow through books!
Coffee and cake at any time
Do cafés in Kraków deserve a separate book? Certainly. The fact that they have become a kind of “phenomenon” is evidenced by, for example, the eloquent, albeit not without temperament, words of Leon Chwistek from years ago: “There are not as many intelligent people in all of Warsaw as there are people who visit one café in Kraków“. Each page of Krzysztof Jakubowski’s book entitled “Kawa i ciastko o każdej porze. Historia krakowskich kawiarni i cukierni” (Coffee and cake at any time. The history of Kraków cafés and confectioneries) confirms this Kraków phenomenon, and rightly suggests that the history of Kraków does not exist without the history of cafés – anecdotes of famous and bright people told over a cup of black coffee; poems written in the dusk of cafés; cabarets and recitals in famous cellars at which people entertained themselves until the morning. All important, colourful, historical, political and social events took place with cafés in the background. The book guides the reader through unusual places on the culinary map of Kraków – places that witnessed epochal changes in the period from the 1770s to the end of the 20th century. A historical story that is easy to read and delights with old photos, as well as a unique atmosphere that draws you into the extraordinary Kraków world full of coffee aromas. There is no shortage of the latter here, and a real treat awaits fans of the little black coffee – a recipe for good coffee brewed by Kraków years ago.
Books written by true enthusiasts are hard to ignore. One of them is certainly Andrzej Nazar – an art historian, journalist, and above all, an expert and admirer of Kraków, the author of several extremely interesting books about the city of Krak. His books are not just guides, but rather stories that allow you to explore the deeper tissue of the city, get to know its unknown, sometimes strange and mysterious characters and places. His books are full of colourful, never-heard legends and stories, such as the one about the Tyniec well or the Tatar Icarus. Magic worlds and daydreaming intertwine there, thanks to which the reality of Kraków becomes even more magical and addictive. The great heights the author has reached can be proved by the book that is entirely devoted to Krakow’s … angels. Yes! Nazar in the book entitled “Anielski Kraków” (Angelic Krakow) guides readers in the footsteps of angels, starting from the Wawel Royal Castle, through Grodzka Street, St. Mary’s Basilica, and tells extraordinary stories about porter, sorrow, or gourmand angels. One thing is certain – Kraków in Nazar’s books has a soul; it is magical, sometimes even esoteric; it does not allow you to forget about itself. For a long time.
Kraków tangled up in murder
Dark Kraków, full of confusing secrets hidden in the alleys of the Old Town. The main character of Marcin Świetlicki’s trilogy – “Jedenaście” (Eleven), “Dwanaście” (Twelve), “Trzynaście” (Thirteen), starts more and more running away to the suburbs, 11 km away, where he is trying to solve the mystery of the death of his friend – the Doctor, while hanging out and drinking alcohol in a restaurant called Stylowa. Świetlicki’s best-selling series draws the reader into a whirlwind of a bizarre, criminal story, where the Wawel Royal Castle, the Cloth Hall and Mrs. Kwaśniewska’s diner on Sienna Street become the last determinant of the “meaning of the world”. Written succinctly and mockingly, it seduces the reader with its style and plot – thoroughly dark and so “Kraków-like”.
Kraków of Mrs Zofia Turbotynska
“Tajemnica domu Helclów” (English title ‘Mrs Mohr goes missing’) is the first volume of Maryla Szymiczkowa’s crime series, which takes readers to the 19th-century Kraków, full of intrigues, gossip and bourgeois “sinners”. The main character, Professor’s wife Zofia Szczupaczyńska (Turbotynska), tries to unravel the mystery of a murder committed in a retirement home. A superbly written retro detective story, not stripped of irony, with an extensive socio-cultural background and the brilliant figure of Zofia Turbotynska, who wins the reader with her intelligence and cunning. Kraków plays a certain role in the entire crime series by Szymiczkowa – it hides the murder on the Vistula River and the secrets of old tenement houses, celebrates the wedding of the poet Rydel with a peasant woman in St. Mary’s Basilica and a wedding reception in Bronowice. A perfect, dark and atmospheric feast for lovers of Polish crime fiction!
Kraków in someone else’s words
Kraków as the background of a novel beautifully dressed in words. “Cudze słowa” (Someone else’s words) by Wit Szostak is a book that allows you to lose yourself “in words” and forget. It is them, as the title suggests, that play the leading role in the book. The author, in his unique, sublime style, like a magician, “conjures” ordinary reality, giving it the features of uniqueness through words. He changers ordinary moments into unforgettable memories. The background for these memories is Kraków – with all its charm, benches in Planty, the smell of baked bread, mysterious notebooks. The main character, Benedykt Ryś, was born, studied philosophy, and years later created one of the most famous and unique restaurants in the city. Remarkable plot and narration, excellent style, Mediterranean inspirations, and above all, extraordinary artistry of the written word – the perfect companion for long winter evenings! The book is one of the newest – it had its premiere in October this year.
Krakow’s Kazimierz. A district loved and crowded by students and tourists, full of charming pubs, with the famous “Zapiekanki u Endziora” on Plac Nowy. While in Kraków, it is hard to miss it and equally hard not to talk about it with the pages of history. Recovering the Jewish identity of Kraków is the goal of the author of the book “Żydowski Kraków. Legendy i ludzie” (Jewish Kraków. Legends and people). Henryk Halkowski wants to give the floor to the Jews who once created this place and have left an overwhelming void there today – most of them died during the Second World War or emigrated from Poland. It is hard to even find their descendants. The signs, synagogues, cemetery and intellectual output of the most eminent Jewish scholars have only remained. Halkowski recounts the history of this Kraków district, shows its old context, restores the “old” life, real stories of people of flesh and blood who lived, ran their shops, prayed in synagogues, celebrated, got married and died here. This book takes you to a completely different world!
In winter, fall in love with Krakow’s bookstores
Bookstores and antique shops in Kraków – you can get lost in them for hours. It is difficult to express in words the atmosphere of these places created with soul – squeaky floors, the rustle of pages being turned over, the smell of printing ink, rows of old volumes in gilded bindings, stylish armchairs and the twilight conducive to a meeting with a book. What to do on a cold winter day? Hide in one of them or organize a little reading trip. Take the trail of intimate bookstores and antiquities.