Nowa Huta in Krakow
Nowa Huta is an exceptional place, which hosts on a small area a number of different but yet complementary cultural routes. Nowa Huta the name refers to both the city and the conglomerate, or steel mill was the flagship project of the early Polish People`s Republic. The political decision to build a steel mill on the fertile soil of the villages of Pleszow and Mogila near Krakow was made in 1949. This ideal city, which was to be Poland`s showpiece to the world, was built according to a clear urban plan and its architecture adhered to the “social realism” style. It was based on Renaissance architecture as well as the American urban concept of the “neighbourhood unit”.To understand the history of these villages near Krakow there were over 30 of them that formed the site where a whole new district of the city was to be built, it is important to have a grasp of the region`s cultural heritage. Because of the creation of a no-building zone around the mill, many examples of village buildings, country estates and palaces as well as places of worship were preserved. The most interesting route may be the one which includes the Neo- Baroque residence of the Kirchmayer family and the Baroque Church of St. Vincent in Pleszow; the 17th-century Branicki mansion and its Renaissance granary designed by Santi Gucci; the 19th-century mansion of the Badeni family in Branice; Neo-Renaissance mansions of the Popiel family; the Knight`s Church of Saint Gregory in Ruszcza; and the estate of the Badeni family in Wadow. However, special attention is merited by the Arian chapel at Luczanowice`s 17th-century evangelical cemetery – the only one remaining in Krakow; the castle of the Wodzicki family in Koscielniki, and the 17th-century wooden church in Gorka Koscielnicka. Returning to the centre of Nowa Huta, the prehistoric mound of Wanda dating from 7th or 8th century, with its magnificent view of the mill, is worth a stop. Not far away, at 11 Klasztorna Street, stands Nowa Huta`s most precious historical building – the 13th-century Cistercian Abbey relocated to Mogila in 1226 from Kacice, near Slomniki, and the nearby wooden church of Saint Bartholomew, dating from 1466, a unique work of carpentry and woodcarving. Between Plac Centralny and the mill`s Administrative Centre the most interesting and perhaps the ultimate expression of social-realist architecture in Nowa Huta, an historic, wooden mansion can be found in the former village of Krzeslawice, which belonged to the eminent Polish painter Jan Matejko, as well as the nearby 17th-century wooden John the Baptist Church. The necessity to preserve Nowa Huta`s original urban plan was supported in January 2005, when the area was entered into the national historic registry.
To get to know the main architectural landmarks of Nowa Huta, we begin from the Dlubnia river recreational area with water equipment rental and a swimming pool and osiedle Willowe the first building was erected in 1949, and continue to osiedle Na Skarpie. The 17 pavilions of Stefan Zeromski Specialist Hospital evoke a baroque-palace style. Returning Plac Centralny, which represents a peculiar “architectural history” of the last 50 years, we pass one of the two buildings of now-defunct cinema Swiatowid. Continuing down Aleja Roz, we come to the site of the statue of Vladimir IIyich Lenin, which stood from 1973 to 1989. Further on we reach the Town Hall Park (Park Ratuszowy), which was the site of the planned Nowa Huta Town Hall. Turning into Osiedle Zgody, a typical example of an Anglo-Saxon urban concept of a “neighbourhood unit” you`ll arrive to osiedle Teatralne and osiedle Krzyza Nowohuckiego, the site of the dramatic events of April 1060, during which the residents of Nowa Huta battled communist police forces. Behind the Church of the Sacred Heard of Jesus, which was built on the site of these events, stands the building of Teatr Ludowy, a theatre that was open for over 50 years, with its first premiere in 1955. From the theatre entrance the edifice of the Nowa Huta church known as “The Lord`s Arc” is visible in osiedle Bienczyce. This Bienczyce Church of The Holy Mother the Queen of Poland at number 1 Obroncow Krzyza Street, along with Saint Maksymilian Maria Kolbe Church in Mitrzejowice at osiedle Tysiaclecia 86 and other places of worship in Nowa Huta are not only outstanding examples of architecture and places to admire the works of art of the most renowned Polish artists, but are also places very close to the heart of every Pole, due to their connection to the Pope John Paul II who having become a Kwakow`s auxiliary bishop, often visited Nowa Huta, playing a role in its spiritual life. Nowa Huta`s places of worship are inexorably linked to the events of the 1980s including the establishment “Solidarity” trade union movement, declaration of martial law, demonstrations against the communist regime and aid for victims of repressions. Aside from historical and national heritage Nowa Huta is also a treasure trove of preserved natural beauty, like Nowa Huta`s Meadows, or the 18th-century oxbow lake off of the Vistula located near Plac Centralny and Mogilski Forest, which is the remnants of an ancient swampy forest. A stroll there allows us to observe rare specimens of flora and fauna, in numbers not often found in urban areas. Equally, aficionados of military engineering can visit the Austrian defensive fortifications in Nowa Huta, built at the end of the 19th century as a part of the modernization of the “Krakow Fortress”. Despite their varying condition, forts “Krzeslawice” a host to Cultural Centre, “Mistrzejowice” and “Grebalow” are worth seeing. On the way back to Krakow, the Museum of Polish Aviation, located at the old airport, is worth a visit. It contains one of the oldest and most valuable collections of historic planes and engines.
The Nowa Huta route is one of contrasts and paradoxes, mirroring the city`s history. Touring Nowa Huta acquaints us with the history of the eastern part of Krakow; beginning in ancient times the Wanda Mound and the vast cultural heritage to the “unwanted” heritage after 1949, with its interesting examples of Polish architecture, created by the most prominent polish architects and urbanists.
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