Blog entry 7 - The hidden corners of Krakow
Even if you do not want to necessarily think it, as it means that the Erasmus semester is coming to an end: The exams are approaching. Or in my case actually more drop-off deadlines for written assignments and presentations, because I have only one written and one oral exam. For most courses I have this semester writing assignments. This is unusual, but the subjects could not be more exciting for me. For example, I have a presentation about the work of a contemporary Polish artist with focus on media art work and watch seven Iranian films for another course, analyze and put into a cultural context.
To focus more on the university and also to save some money for a trip through the Baltic States following the Erasmus semester, I decided for now, not to go away, but to stay in Krakow. This does not mean that it'd be boring here, after all the months you have been here, Krakow still offers new exciting places that are worth it, to visit.
So, I started the week with a walk in the area of Podgórze and there is located Kopiec Krakusa, one of the four artificial hill of Krakow. From the top, you have a view of where the Nazis established the labor and concentration camps Płaszów and a good view of the city and an eye of my next target of walk, a huge quarry. Today only a small part of the plant is still preserved and the whole area has a spooky atmosphere. Visitors can see here, when passing between proliferating bushes, the burned-out campfire sites of Kraków young and old grave markers with Hebrew inscriptions. The contrast with the crowded tourist Auschwitz could not be greater.
I visited on a walking tour in Krakow another historic site about communism. That is approximately ten kilometers outlying district of Nowa Huta, was built after the Second World War as a socialist planned city and was the site of several steelworks. Our tour guide illuminated not only the historical background about Nowa Huta, but also told a lot about the present relationship between the population of Krakow city and the population of Nowa Huta, who consider their neighborhood remains as an independent, separate municipality. From authentic daily life of the Polish population is seen here in the old city, than in the crowded by tourists and in any case very expensive for most Poles.
A bit outside but still within the city limits, the Benedictine abbey Tyniec, which I visited last weekend with my course "Film and Religion". After a brief tour of the contemplative monastery - but after all, there were around 40 monks counts - we spent much of the time eating and relaxing. We had also the opportunity to chat at length with our lecturers, who knows not only films perfectly but also a theater connoisseurs and was able to tell some stories from the current Polish theater scene. So all in all a very pleasant university trip.
The Church of Tyniec seems to be very popular among Polish pairs, three weddings in one day could be observed. And although our teacher told us, that the month of May was unpopular month for getting married in Poland, as this would bring superstition misfortune for the couple.
What I envy, from the students of Universiät here is definitely their ultra-modern campus, which is located right next to one of the most beautiful squares in Krakow. The park Skały Towardowskiego with a huge lake in summer is the perfect place for barbecues, relaxing, picnicking and so far as one dares to go swiming. With the danger of the steep cliffs in a former quarry that surrounds the lake in a former quarry. Officially, the access to the site is therefore not allowed, but there are many well-trodden footpaths and the fence, which is more of holes than of fence that actually nobody cares. The brilliant blue lake is just too good and also here you can drink, as this is away from the gaze of the omnipresent police, who also annoy for a couple of beers in the open air.
Another highlight in the last week was the concert of ESN-band, in which I also sung and got a bit involved in two of the songs. The organizers of the ESN team and the university have really upped their game in order to organize a great event and all took place not somewhere in a musty cellar but in the biggest club in the city with a huge stage and genuine professional equipment.
Although, usually I am not necessarily a fan of the whole Erasmus parties and events, the concert was a lot of fun and the atmosphere was really fantastic. After more than three months here, I of course know many of the other international students and those events are a big energy boost "Hello and how are you". Because it makes a pretty sad to know that in a month everything has already happened and you do not know if and when you all will see your new friends and acquaintances again.