Kazimierz Dolny

We liked this small and charming town on the banks of the Vistula River so much, that we extended the scheduled stay here (a part of the longer route *) by one day more.

Route: Warschau – Kazimierz Dolny, ongeveer 146 km

Stay: van 9 tot 12 juli 2012

Accommodation: Hotel Vincent, whose advertising motto is “The art of relaxation”.

One of the prettiest hotels we have hosted so far. It is located on the Krakowska Street, near the market. The hotel has in his offer several beautiful, stylishly themed rooms.

 Ours were called “Toulouse Lautrec” and “Chocolate Paris”. We especially liked the “Lautrec” one, located on the ground floor, with access to a small but pleasant garden (ideal solution for smokers!).

Toulouse Lautrec

and…

Chocolate Paris

What’s more, when we sat by the table under the cloth canopy, the waitress offered us to provide lunch right here. Nothing could make us happier at this moment us heat did not stopped and was extremely hot! The only thing that scared us was the size of the shank (Polish: golonka), which was very delicious, but extremely huge and hard to be eaten in its entirety.  Even with the help of excellent local beer Kazimierskie! Breakfast didn’t disappoint either – one could make a choice from three food palettes, offering cheese, cured mat and mixed. Cheese – the poetry of taste! – were works of art by local producers.

Worth recommending were – besides the food, of course – different local tinctures (sweet alcohol drink made on fruits), which we tasted in a welcoming reception at the end of the day. Restaurant offers also a a spacious choice of high quality wines supplied by actor Marek Kondrat, the great wine expert and owner of the restaurant “Prohibition” in Warsaw. Nice, cultural atmosphere, hospitability, plenty comfortable seats outside and all other qualities (like parking place quaranteed) of this beautiful hotel meant that we decided to stay here for one day longer.

 About Kazimierz Dolny

He was called Dolny (Lower) to distinguish it from Kazimierz disctrict in Cracow (read: Magical Cracow). The small settlement town was transformed into a city in the 13th and 14th centuries. The name comes from King Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy (the Just), but perhaps is more associated with the amorous King Kazimierz Wielki (the Great), who not only granted him the city rights, but in a nearby castle used to date with his legendary Jewish lover Esterka. The city, situated on an important trade route, flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, but after the Swedish “deluge” (1655) strongly declined and never returned to its former glory.

 Renaissance houses of the brothers Przybył

At the end of the 17th century Jewish, Greek and Armenian merchants began to settle here. The special nature of the city was created by Jews, whose presence is remained by numerous commemorative monuments – a synagogue, a butcher, a cemetery. To their annual commemoration every summer the Jewish Culture Festival takes place there (one of the organizers is our Vincent hotel).

Synagogue 

Despite the loss of the economic importance the town on the Vistula River is not deprived of its validity. It has now become a favorite destination of artists and people with cultural interest. (Many Warsaw inhabitants like to spend weekends here.) A cultural nature of Kazimierz Dolny is shown almost at every place. Not only in the form of events (add to them the Summer Movie Festival), but also in the form of countless art galleries, offering paintings, ceramics and other work of arts.

During the first and second day we leisurely strolled through the city. While walking we admired the wonderful, ornate Renaissance houses, among which the most beautiful are the brothers Przybył houses at the Market Square. Their characteristic features are lace attics and reliefs. Even more beautiful attic (the biggest in Poland) decorates the house Celejowski on Senatorska Street, made of white limestone. (It is hard to believe that in this exquisite home once operated a tannery!) In Kazimierz beautiful are even Renaissance granaries, situated slightly on the outskirts of the city.

 Celejowski house and Renaissance granary

Many of these houses were built only at the beginning of the 20th century, but Kazimierz is a rare example of a city in Poland, where new architecture matches the old. Practically, it is difficult to distinguish these newer buildings.

The Kifner house 

A good example is the former baths building, erected in 1921; another one is the Kifner house with a high wooden roof with shingles, also built in the early 20th century. Close to this house is situated a monument commemorating the famous dog Hultaj. Or maybe few other dogs? In any case, it is obligatory to rub the bronze animal! A characteristic object of the main market is the well from 1915. As we have noticed, a favorite place for shooting the newlyweds. Nearby the large Market Square is the Little one. Before World War II it was a center of the Jewish quarter, and during WW II – the local ghetto. Today the only remains after the Jews (3,000 of them were killed by Germans) are wooden former butcher’s stalls of the mid-19th century and the stone synagogue of the second half of the 18th century. In the butcher’s stalls (in Polish – Jatki) few small boutique shops and a restaurant are situated today.

 Jatki

The synagogue – without its internal decoration, which is lost – is a place of a photo exhibition documenting the life of the Jews, and a hostel.

There are, of course, few catholic churches in Kazimierz Dolny, but we decided to visit only the shrines of the sacred monastery of Reformed fathers, situated on the former Windy Hill. In pagan times it was a place of worship, which sacrificed a black cock. In the 16th and 17th centuries small church was erected there and monastery buildings for the Order of the Reformers (to the monastery leads a staircase with 65 oak steps).

The history of this place involves a number of dramatic events. For supporting Polish insurgents in 1831 and 1863 years the Reformed fathers were expelled by the Russians, who turned monastery into a military hospital. During World War II it housed the Gestapo and prison. Being there, in this quiet and delightfully green shrine, it is hard to imagine such a grim past.

Coming back to a cock … It is the unofficial symbol of Kazimierz Dolny, though no one can say why. In any case, visiting this town it is obligatory to taste the rooster from the Sarzynski bakery (this is also a nice restaurant). It is difficult to miss this place as a huge symbol of the famous bakery is located at the entrance. The cock is also sold in the Market Square shop.

 And these are all objects we saw wandering around the city, although there are much more on the list of the tourist attractions. Who wants to, for example, can climb the hill to see the ruins of the castle from the 14th century, but to be honest – they are not much interesting. Only that they are surrounded by a legendary romance of King Kazimierz Wielki and Jewish Ester.

The castle

You can also climb the mysterious Cross Mountain with Three Crosses of the unknown origin. In the past it was a place of the old pagan burial. Definitely place worth visit for the beautiful view that you can enjoy from here.  It is also worth to see antique wooden residences from the early 20th century.

 A rest at arcades

On the Vistula River

The last day we spent on walks along the Vistula. Lazily rolling its waters here, the river creates a beautiful, if somewhat sleepy landscape. Despite the heat in the morning we strolled along the boulevard, built in the 70s of the 20th century in the dike (the Queen of Polish rivers can be very dangerous!). Several ships moored at the shore at this moment, some of the historic character.

and Kazimierz by Vistula side…

And in the afternoon, despite the gathering clouds, we took a boat trip to Janowiec, where are also the ruins of the castle, once glorious. Heavily destroyed during Swedish invasion in 1655 (so called Swedish deluge), the castle had been reconstructed in late 17th century by Dutch architect Tylman Gameren – read a separate story Architect from Utrecht. We saw the castle from a distance only however.

Another Dutch trace:

It is possible to get to Janowiec by ferryboat… Gelderland. The name of the ferry derives from the Dutch Province which cooperates with Kazimierz Dolny. As “Gelderlanders” helped financially to built the ferry (he “was born” in 1995 in Plock River Shipyard), the name is an expression of gratitude of the Polish town. Photo: ferryboat Gelderland / VSV83

While returning to Kazimierz the sky – gloomy and full of swirling clouds – looks beautiful in the lazy river currents.

At the “tearoom”

Although Kazimierz Dolny is full of cafés and restaurants, we used to finish each day with a visit to the charming tea house “U Dziwisza” (At Dziwisz), which is located near our hotel. You can find there – among dozens of types of tea served there – your favorite one, or at least – a favorite flavor. The charming interior, filled with old-fashioned trinkets and with discrete classical music, encourages contemplation and reading one of the many books or albums, to use on site (mostly in Polish).

You can also sit in the lovely garden. A magic summer night, the aroma of tea and homemade cake make the perfect culmination of the day.

 Around Kazimierz

The city itself and its immediate surroundings do not exhaust the list of tourist attractions. Who likes walking in nature, will find the ideal place for walks in nearby ravines, very characteristic of the local landscape.

You can drive there by car or take advantage of tourist coaches, which take you to many other interesting or just beautiful spots of the Kazimierz Landscape Park.

The last look at the city…

…and we leave Kazimierz Dolny on July 12, in the morning. We have to drive 264 km road to the south, to SPA Szczawnica in Pieniny Mountains. We’re going to meet there quite new experiences and the real Polish highlanders!

 a song „Kazimierz Dolny”, performed by Marek Grechuta

Renata Głuszek

See also: Relax on the Vistula

 Photo: Renata Głuszek, Wikimedia Commons, VSV83

Published August 13, 2012

*Whole route (2-26 July): Rzepin (2-3) – Warsaw (4-9) – Kazimierz Dolny (9-12) – Szczawnica (12-18) – Kraków (18-19) – Tarnowskie Góry (19-22) – Paczków (22-23) – Jelenia Góra (23-26)

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