It’s Saturday night and dusk as I make my way around the perimeter of the closed Wawel Castle in search of the Krakow dragon. If you believe the legends, Kraków was founded on the defeat of a dragon and build on his cave, or something like that. Seeing I missed access to his cave via the closed Castle, I thought I might catch the sculpture breathing fire out of one of its seven heads, but once again I was a little late.
With Castle and dragons behind me I set out to find something I could control, a bar and a beer. My destination was Kazimierz, better known as the Jewish quarter of Krakow about a 20 minute walk from my hotel. Taking the long way around, I checked out several places, opening doors, looking in windows as I made my way. After a few missed attempts, I finally found the streets that make up this quarter. I was pulled in to a place called Aichemia on the corner of NoMy and Estery. This place perfectly pull together the heartbeat of the street, a coffee house feel with an Eastern European bar atmosphere smattered with antiques/junk covered in candlewax and Jazz. The place was a mix of 30 something hipsters and tourists. I was initial drawn in by the crowd and a poster offering live music, but stayed because I found a seat at the end of the bar and a cold glass of Tyskie beer. After a little people watching another beer or two I realized I was the most mature, well maybe just the oldest person, in the place. With that realization and the need to find food and a toilet but not in that order, I gave up my bar seat and started to wander the surrounding alleys in search of a new spot. The streets were in full swing with people everywhere spilling out of the bars and restaurants, sitting at tables outside on the sidewalks like it was a hot summer night (think a French café, but with music throbbing) and remember it is 41 degrees and a wet cold 41 at that. I was still cold with several layers and a hat. Maybe I need another beer?
Kazimierz was once described as a thriving Jewish community resembling an open-air Jewish heritage museum, almost frozen in time. At 9:00 on a Saturday night it was something different. You can see the building Steven Spielberg used in his epic 1993 film Schindler’s List, but the atmosphere was very different with the noise of tourists, locals, cool bars, music and the smells of great restaurants and street vendors everywhere. It will not be long until McDonalds and Starbucks move in and change this place again!
I worked my way back to the old town eventually, but without my hat (don’t ask, because I don’t know)? I wanted to see what this section of town would be like on a Saturday night. I was not disappointed, the tourist had mostly retreated back to their hotels and the party goers had taken over the streets. Every club had a line and the late-night food places were overflowing! Krakow is one alive city on a Saturday night!