Despite all the wars and foreign occupation, the city’s population boomed again, reaching 40,000 by 1850. By 1860 it had become the 6th largest city of the Austrian Empire. In 1866 the defeat of the Austrians in the Austro-Prussian War partly restores Krakow’s political autonomy, which would be now governed by its own local Governorate Commission the Komisja Gubernialna. The City Council could elect its own president. That made Krakow a symbol of the nation’s cause for self-determination. More and more Poles flocked in the Polish cradle, moving Krakow up one position in the Empire’s population ranking. The School of Fine Arts, the Academy of Learning, the National Museum of Krakow, Park Krakowski and Municipal Theatre are all established in the second half of the 19th century and the iconic Cloth Hall built during the Golden Age and later fallen into disrepair is fully restored.

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The city enters the 20th century under a current of modernization, with electricity, running water, trams & parks in the place of the fortified walls. The incorporation of the surrounding suburban communities into a single administrative unit & a wave of migration from the countryside doubles the city’s population by the First World War to more than 150,000 residents. The Polish army is tied to the Austro-Hungarian chariot which eventually loses the war and accepts the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that establish the first sovereign Polish state in over a century. Warsaw instead of Krakow would serve as the nation’s capital.

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Krakow remained the most important city in Poland after the country’s capital until 1939, when Hitler’s Third Reich created a protectorate, the puppet-state with the Polish general-governor’s residence in Wawel Castle. Although the city’s monuments weren’t destroyed during the Second World War, Krakow became a place of martyrdom for the Jewish people who were first confined within the Krakow ghetto in the district of Podgórze established in March 1941.  A series of deportations to Bełżec extermination camp ended with the ghetto’s liquidation in March 1943, after which the remaining Jews were transferred to the Płaszów and  Auschwitz concentration camps. Before the German invasion more than 55,000 Jews lived in Krakow. Few managed to escape death, among them 1,000 Jews hired in the factory of the German industrialist Oskar Schindler who managed to save their lives by employing them in his enamelware factory in Krakow.

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After the war, as part of the communist People’s Republic of Poland Krakow was put under total political control of the Soviet regime with the city’s universities deprived of printing rights & any autonomy whatsoever. The Stalinist regime focused its efforts in the growth of heavy industries and in that context the Lenin Steelworks (Sendzimir later) and its auxiliary city of Nowa Huta (New Steel Mill), were both built from scratch in the early 1950’s near Krakow. Industrialisation and incorporation of the surrounding areas into one civic body catapulted the population to more than 400,000 by 1955.

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In 1978 Krakow’s Old Town & the Kazimierz district were both placed on the UNSECO World heritage list as two prime examples of urban architectural  quality, in terms of both their cityscape and their outstanding monuments. “The historic centre of the old-town admirably illustrates the process of continuous urban growth from the Middle Ages to the present day”. In that same year (1978), Krakow’s Archbishop Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II), becomes the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years.

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After almost two decades of underdevelopment, of food rations, of surging inflation and lack of basic products like meat and sugar, of two years of martial law (1982-1983), in 1989 Lech Walesa becomes the first post-communist president of Poland, after 45 years of Soviet dominance.

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After a necessary period of readjustment that was in essence the decade of the 90’s, starting with the year 2000 and its role as a European Capital of Culture, Krakow, reinvented itself inside the European Union’s edifice in the 2000’s. (Poland was admitted in the EU in 2003 after 7 years of negotiations).  Today Krakow is Poland’s second largest city, with a core population of about 770,000 and a wider metropolitan population of 1.4 million. The city is considered to be the crown jewel of Poland’s historical & architectural heritage and is of course a major tourist magnet  with more than 9.6 million visitors in 2018 alone. It is a major center of education for Poland with no less than Twenty-four institutions of higher education offering courses to more than 200,000 students. It is also a vibrant entrepreneurship center, home to more than 50 multinational companies and hundreds of startups employing more than 5.000 people. The future seems bright for both Poland and the beautiful bride of the Vistula River. Krakow. The city of Kings.

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The Polish-Lithuanian union brought vast Lithuania-controlled areas into Poland’s sphere of influence & proved beneficial for both the Poles & the Lithuanians who cooperated in one of the largest political entities in Europe. As the capital of one of the two ruling kingdoms & a member of the Hanseatic League the city’s economy flourished attracting many craftsmen and traders who established their businesses & formed their various guilds in Krakow. Humanists, scientists & artists came from Italy, Germany & other European countries to work in the city commencing its Złoty Wiek (Golden Age). In 1477 the leading German wood-sculptor Veit Stoss came from Nurnberg to Krakow, to carve a large altar for St. Mary’s Basilica while the work that recommenced on the Wawel Castle after 1499 gave shape to a jewel of Renaissance architecture, with the Zygmuntowska Chapel being its most prominent feature.

As the capital of one of the two kingdoms & member of the Hanseatic League the city’s economy flourished attracting many craftsmen, which established their businesses & formed their guilds. Humanists, scientists & artists came from Italy, Germany & other European countries to work in the city commencing its “Złoty Wiek” or Golden Age. In 1477 the famous sculptor Veit Stoss came from Nurnberg to carve a large altar for St. Mary’s Church while the further rebuilding of the Wawel Castle after 1499 formed a jewel of Renaissance architecture, with the “Zygmuntowska” Chapel being its most prominent featurehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veit_Stoss_altarpiece_in_Krak%C3%B3w#/media/File:Krakow_oltarz_Stwosza.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigismund%27s_Chapel#/media/File:Poland-01779_-_Anna's_tomb_(31970703362).jpg

Krakow became the leading Renaissance city in Central Europe influenced by the movements in Italy, Germany & the Low countries. The first printing press along with the first paper mill are established in the thriving city in 1471 with the first work, the “Calendarium Cracoviense” (Krakowian Calendar) a single-sheet astronomical wall calendar for the year 1474 and Poland’s oldest known print, published in 1473. In the same time a colossal Renaissance figure named Nicolaus Copernicus attends the Jagellonian University of Krakow (1491 to 1495) making his first decisive steps in science, steps  that would form the foundations of his knowledge in mathematical astronomy that would eventually make him immortal and change the history of human knowledge forever.

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Democratic reforms implemented by the Polish Parliament & approved by the King Alexander I Jagiellon (r. 1492 – 1506) in 1505, ushered in a period known as Golden Liberty (Złota Wolność) while policies promoting religious tolerance, unique in Europe at the time, helped the country avoid the turmoil spread across Europe during the first years of the Protestant Reformation. Art & architecture experience glorious days under Sigismund I the Old who ascends on the throne in 1507 and soon after marries to Bona Sforza of the prominent Italian Renaissance dynasty, a relation that brought the fruits of the most important cultural movement in Europe in the midst of Krakow’s court.

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In 1520 the most famous church bell in Poland, weighing 13 tones, named after the King, the Sigismund bell is hang on the Wawel Cathedral, the Wawel Castle is renovated & the famous German painter Albert Dürer becomes the court painter.

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In 1560’s under the threat of an increasing Russian Power, Sigismund II Augustus, presses for a complete union of the Kingdom of Poland & the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, achieving the formation of a federal state known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.

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In 1572 King Sigismund II the last of the Jagiellon kings, dies childless & the throne passes to Henry III of Valois future King of France, after his promise to marry Sigmund II’s sister Anna Jagiellon. It would be the beginning of a period of foreign-based rulers that would  a diminish Krakow’s role as a Polish power center. The beginning of the end of the golden era.

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After Henry III of Valois became King of France in 1574 and since he hadn’t yet married with Anna Jagiellon, the Parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth removed him from the seat of monarch & Anna Jagiellon, sister of the former King assumes the position with her new husband Stephen Báthory, Prince of Transylvania, after their crowning in Krakow in 1576. With the death of her husband 10 years later & in order to maintain as much influence as possible, she proposes to the electors of the Parliament her nephew, Sigismund, the only son of her sister Catherine & John III of Sweden. Sigismund III of the Swedish house of Vasa, became King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1587 marking the end of Krakow’s Golden Age.

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The transfer of the administrative capital from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596, a major outbreak of the Bubonic plague  and a series of wars with Sweden, from 1598 to 1629 decimated the city’s population. The final blow came with the so called Swedish Deluge (1655-1660) the invasion & occupation of the Commonwealth that would lead to the loss of 1/3 of its overall population, the pillaging of its big cities & the destruction of its status as a great European power.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_(history)#/media/File:1697_Pufendorf_View_of_Krakow_(Cracow),_Poland_-_Geographicus_-_Krakow-pufendorf-1655.jpgThe end of the Swedish Deluge didn’t mean the end of warfare which was constant until 1720, mostly with Russia & the Ottoman Empire. That meant enormous population losses & massive damage to the economy & the social structure of both Krakow and Poland. Not everything was bleak however with the Polish Parliament adopting the first democratic constitution in Europe in 1791, just a few days after the first in the world in the United States of America.

The democratic disposition of the Poles wouldn’t stop the three expanding powers of the era (Habsburg Austria, Kingdom of Prussia, and Russian Empire) from invading & dissecting the kingdom of Poland. In 1795 Krakow is incorporated in the Austrian province of Galicia despite the victorious battle of the Polish-Lithuanian army against a larger Russian army in the Battle of Racławice in April of 1794. The battle was followed by a failed insurrection against Prussia and Russia started by a speech in Krakow’s town square by the Polish freedom fighter veteran Tadeusz Kościuszko.

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In 1809 Napoleon Bonaparte captures the Polish territories of the Habsburgs making Krakow part of the newly founded Duchy of Warsaw. Russian & Prussian troops took back the control after the unsuccessful French invasion of Russia in 1812. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna restores the prewar boundaries creating the partially independent Free city of Krakow. An uprising against Russia in 1830 leads to another full scale Polish-Russian war, without the desired outcome. Despite the total abolition of the Polish constitution & army, Krakow manages to keep a form of  independence as the Free City of Krakow or Republic of Krakow.

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A new uprising in February of 1846, centered around the city of Krakow, proved to be another futile effort in the struggle for independence, ending with the annexation of the free city by the Austrian Empire as a part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria in November of that same year.

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Krakow was given trade privileges & self-government and its citizens substantial tax benefits by king Boleslaw V the Chaste (r. 1243–1279), who boosted Krakow’s growth & modernization.  In 1287 a new attack by the Mongols was this time repelled with the help of the new fortifications. In 1320 after a number of earlier unsuccessful attempts by other regional rulers, Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high, Prince of Krakow since 1305, consolidated his power, took the throne & became the first King of a reunified Poland. He was the first king to be crowned in Wawel Cathedral, on 20 January 1320 by the Archbishop of Gniezno. The erection of a new Wawel cathedral that was meant to serve as the official royal burial site started that same year.

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The reign of Wladyslaw I’s son, Casimir the Great from 1333 to 1370, the last King of the Piast dynasty, proved especially beneficial for Krakow which flourished under his rule. The King founded two new suburbs in the form of a new fortified city, that would later be incorporated in Krakow, new Franciscan, Dominican & Gothic churches were built, the castle on Wawel Hill was expanded & the Cathedral was completed and consecrated. A huge patron of the arts & sciences, in 1364 Casimir the Great establishes the Krakow Academy, now known as the Jagiellonian University, the second oldest university in central Europe after Charles University in Prague.

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Casimir I more than doubled the size of his kingdom, he strengthened its institutions, he introduced a royal protection of people with Jewish origin, paving the way for the growth of Jewish communities that started to settle & grow in various cities of the Polish kingdom. He also established the so-called Congress of Krakow in 1364 with an aim to form a joint front with other European powers against the looming Turkish threat. For more than 20 days the Holy Roman Emperor, German & Austrian Dukes, the Kings of Denmark, Hungary and Cyprus convened in Krakow about all sorts of European matters in a sort of an early precursor of modern European institutions.

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Casimir I had no legitimate sons, so in order to provide a clear line of succession & avoid dynastic uncertainty he arranged for his nephew King Louis I of Hungary to be his successor in Poland. Louis I was proclaimed King after Casimir’s death & burial in Wawel Cathedral in 1370. Louis I of Hungary ruled Poland from 1370 until his death in 1382. When Louis died in 1382 the throne was inherited by his daughter Mary of Anjou with the Lords in Krakow and the rest of Poland raising their objection on the matter of the continuation of the personal union with Hungary mostly due to the unpopularity of Mary’s husband Sigismund of Luxembourg. While a civil broke out between the different factions in Greater Poland, the lords of Krakow found a solution in the face of  Mary’s younger sister Jadwiga (r.1384 – 1399) who in 1384 was crowned “King” of Poland in Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral in 1386. Her pagan husband  Wladyslaw Jogalia, Grand Duke of Lithuania, was baptised a Christian three days before his wife’s coronation in the same cathedral. He would take over the throne after Jadwiga’s death in 1399 due to birth complications, commencing the era of the joint Lithuanian-Polish Jagiellon Dynasty.

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The fragmentation of Poland into smaller duchies caused a century-long struggle between Boleslaw III’s descendants who in 1241 had to face the invading Mongols who devastated the country & ravaged the deserted by its citizens city of Krakow.

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By the year 1257 the city had been rebuilt & many of its destroyed buildings had been replaced by new ones built in Gothic style. New fortifications and defensive towers that would encircle the city became a matter of priority. Before the work was finished however the Mongols returned again (1259) finishing their destructive work. After the two attacks & the disaster that had been caused by them, a 3 km defensive wall as high as ten meters and 2.5-meter thick, enhanced with battle towers & fortified gates was finally completed by the first quarter of the 14th century.

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After 1039 Krakow becomes the official capital of the Polish Kingdom in the place of the Old Piast capitals of Poznań & Gniezno  and Wawel Castle the residence of the Piast King Casimir the Restorer (r. 1034–1058). A new Wawel Cathedral is erected in the place of the first one that had been burnt down by a fire sometime after 1020. Casimir took over after a turbulent decade that had almost shattered all the gains his line had accomplished for the kingdom in the recent past. In 1079 the Bishop of Krakow Stanislaus of Szczepanów would start a feud with the Piast King Boleslaw II (1058-1079) which had as a result his own execution on a hill outside Krakow’s city walls & the following abdication of the king because of the pressure from the Catholic Church. Stanislaus of Szczepanów would become the second martyr and patron saint of Poland, canonized in 1253. (St. Stanislaus).

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In 1138 Boleslaw III divides the kingdom before his death into five principalities, among four of his sons, with Krakow becoming the Seniorate Province, given to the senior among the princes, who as the Grand Duke of Krakow would serve as the overlord of the rest of dukes.

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In the same time, Mieszko I, ruler of the Polans after 960 (considered the founding father of the Polish kingdom), who is already ruling most pagan tribes in the greater region, is wed to the daughter of the Bohemian King Boleslaus I in 965. Soon after (966) he is baptized as a Christian. As was the case in those times he promptly adopts Catholicism as the new official religion of his kingdom.

At the end of 980’s Mieszko I’s unification of the Poles and the Czechs is disrupted after a war between the two, with the Polish ruler keeping the control of Lesser Poland & Krakow. In 992, after essentially creating & consequently transforming the Polish country into one of the strongest in central Europe, Mieszko I dies. His oldest son Boleslaw I becomes the sole ruler of his country.

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The firstborn son of the founder of the Piast-Dynasty, Boleslaw I (the brave), continued the remarkable policy of his father, consolidating the Polish lands & conquering even more territories through the years. In 1000 Boleslaw Ι, creates the Diocese of Krakοw among others. Several Romanesque churches, a cathedral & a basilica are constructed. A Royal Castle (Wawel) is also built during Boleslaw I’s reign to serve as one of the official residencies of the Polish ruler.

In 1003 the newbuilt Wawel Castle becomes the venue of Boleslaw I’s canning interference in Bohemian affairs. After the entrapment and the imprisonment of the pretender of the Bohemian throne Vladivoj at the castle, Boleslaw Ι invaded Bohemia & ascended on the ducal throne of Prague. In 1025, just before his death and after a series of conflicts with the Holy Roman Empire, Boleslaw I the Brave, finally succeeds in obtaining the papal permission to crown himself as the first king of Poland.

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Around 874 AD the Vistulans are subjugated by the Great Moravian King Svatopluk I who incorporates their territory to the First West Slavic Kingdom in the region. (Present day border of Czech Republic & Slovakia).

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The coming of the Magyars in 900 AD ended the existence of the short-lived kingdom, making way for the Bohemian Duke Boleslaus I in (955 AD) who was assigned with the control of the area by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, after their common victory over the invading nomads.

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Archaeological findings on Wawel Hill, suggest the existence of human activity related to stone processing that goes all the way back to the Old Stone Age or 50.000 BC. Further evidence show a new settlement during the 4th century until finally in the 8th century we encounter a new tribe of pagan Slavs in the area known as Vistulans.

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The Vistulans who were named after the Vistula River that crosses modern day Poland from North to South inhabited the wider area of modern day Lesser Poland. Their tribal state included the area of modern day Krakow, specifically the area of Wawel Hill.

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https://www.hotelunicuspalace.pl/en/https://www.hotelunicuspalace.pl/en/https://www.hotelunicuspalace.pl/en/

A luxurious five-star hotel is located at the intersection of Florianska Street and St. Marek Street in Krakow. A few-minute walk separates it from the Main Square and the Cloth Hall. The hotel offers 60 comfortable and well-equipped rooms. On its premises, there is also a relaxation area with a swimming pool, jacuzzi and massage room. More

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Right in the heart of the city, Hotel Indigo Krakow – Old Town blends historic Polish art with contemporary style. The elegant boutique rooms all have rainfall showers and complimentary WiFi, with subtle décor inspired by three of the country’s greatest painters. The past and the future meet in the streets around the hotel, where Wawel Castle and the Renaissance Cloth Hall on the old town’s medieval square rub shoulders with new museums, cutting-edge galleries and buzzing bars. The old town, Florianska’s shops and the vibrant nightlife of the Kazimierz district are all easily accessible on foot. The creative chefs of the hotel serve local specialties sourced from the neighboring Old Kleparz food market, and after a day of discovery you can savor a vodka in its intimate bar. More

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