Monday, September 25, 2006


Poland, like all of Europe, is part of what used to be referred to as "the old country." It's quite literal. It is an old country, and Krakow is a very, very old city. There are buildings here that were standing when Columbus was still begging for a ship.That doesn't mean that everything is old. New building is going on constantly, and some of it is very, very modern. Several blocks of run-down buildings behind the main train station in central Krakow were torn down to make way for this extremely large mall, scheduled to open at the end of September. I have to catch the bus right in front of it when I'm on my way home from the city center, so I had leisure to sit and contemplate this gargantuan modern building and its much humbler neighbors across the street.
These buildings are not as historical as the oldest part of Krakow, but most of them were built in the 1800s. They are called kamienice because of their stone/brick construction.
As bad as these look, such buildings can be gutted and remodeled, and can be made to look quite nice. This part of town hasn't had much of a face lift so far, but I couldn't help but think that these decrepit buildings couldn't continue in this state right across the street from the fancy shopping center, which is going to include a hotel and high-end office space.

In the first picture, you can see that the windows are open, and it was obvious that folks were living there. It was a warm day, and I saw laundry, an ironing board, shoes on the window sill, and a cat. In the last week or so, I saw that all those people had had to move. All those windows are now boarded up.

I still don't know the fate of the buildings. They will either be torn down or renovated. They just don't "belong" in the neighborhood, now that the upscale mall has moved in. In this case, I think change is a good thing. This wasn't a very nice part of town before, and now it will be. I wonder where the people who were living here went? These flats must have been very cheap, and housing in Krakow is extremely expensive.

I don't think those buildings will exist long in their present condition, if they continue to exist at all. They are being squeezed out or upgraded to match their glossy neighbor. Someday soon, while I'm waiting for the bus, I won't be seeing derelict buildings across the street from a modern icon of materialism. The stark contrast will be erased, one way or another, so I thought I'd preserve the moment a little longer here.


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