When I consulted the BBC online weather forecast in advance of our trip to Kraków, I learnt that the night-time temperatures there the previous week had been zero and, during the day, had barely climbed to ten degrees Celsius. On arrival early in the evening on the Friday before last, I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that, although there was a nip in the air, it was nowhere near as cold as I’d expected. The atmosphere was extremely festive: well wrapped up in colourful winter clothes, people were parading the streets, arms linked, talking and laughing, much as they promenade in Spanish towns and cities before dinner; and, unlike in some other eastern European cities I have visited, dinner was served at the restaurants until a reasonably late hour.
The festive mood continued on the following day.
Kraków is a beautiful place. The Stare Miasto, or ‘Old Town’, is entirely circumscribed by a park (or rather a series of them, divided by the radial roads) called Planty, which runs around the line of the old city walls. Sometimes, this is just a narrow strip of land dividing the pavement from the road, but often it broadens into large tree-scattered areas of grass containing children’s playgrounds, statues and benches. Always there is a wide path to walk along, so there is no hazard to pedestrians from motor vehicles (though the cyclists are pretty manic and don’t seem to have discovered either bells or horns!). There are some distinguished museums and other significant tourist attractions in Kraków, but many residents and visitors to the city seemed to me to spend a great deal of time just walking around Planty.
On the Saturday of our visit the park was particularly lovely. Because of the cold spell the week before, the trees had all changed colour and were presenting a glorious display of gold, russet and tawny brown. Most striking, however, was the rapidity with which the leaves were falling: a gentle burnished leafstorm was constantly swirling to the ground and people were catching the colours as they walked along.
Although we never discovered its exact nature, there exists some special relationship between the citizens of Kraków and the falling of the leaves. This may have something to do with the rapidity of the ‘fall’, which we were very fortunate to experience. At our hotel, the staff had placed richly-coloured fallen leaves on the tables and in alcoves on the stairs. In the streets, whole families were collecting the leaves in sheaves and walking along holding them as if they were bouquets of flowers. At the open market in the main square several stalls were selling autumn posies made up of leaves, berries and nuts and, although these were priced between 12 and 20 zlotys (quite a lot in that part of the world for a perishable decoration), they were selling well and being carried around like Elizabethan nosegays.
The fantasia of falling leaves continued for the next three days. On Tuesday we awoke to heavy rain. There had been a storm in the night, and the trees had now been laid almost bare, the rich carpet of leaves on the ground sodden and trampled underfoot. In Kraków, it is autumn’s lease that hath all too short a date. The golden leaves have almost all gone now. It will be a whole year before they make their brief appearance once more.
11 thoughts on “Kraków Planty in golden October…”
Love the snaps. Nice.
Snow here this week – or so they say. We’ll see. We have a number of leaves to come down yet so a wet snow doesn’t trim the trees. We’ll see.
I’ve the wrong tires on the car still. Thursday to snows go on. Almost in time. I won’t however put in the snow stakes before Halloween! Tradition is tradition.
Well, Jack, you’re way ahead of us – southerly winds and a string of Atlantic depressions make it wet and warm. Winter tyres in late November (not many people bother at all, though last winter’s heavy and prolonged snow may have changed a few minds!), together with the boiler service. Leaves here turning gradually, but plenty of green about.
Thank you for the compliment and for commenting. 🙂 Much enjoy your visits.
This is beautiful, Christina – somewhere else on my list of places I really need to go?
I’ve been there twice and would certainly go again and again, if that’s any indication. Lovely city; welcoming people; lively atmosphere. 🙂
Another place to add to the list. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photographs. Aren’t the autumnal colours sublime?
I wonder if they struck me so much because the change was so abrupt, deeper into the European landmass; tempered here by the Gulf Stream and the slower-cooling sea, we are used to only occasional October frosts that tip the leaves into colour over a much longer period, by which time some have fallen and there is never quite the same mass of colour as we saw in Krakow and as you photographed so beautifully in Vienna.
It’s really kind of you to say so. I hadn’t thought about the climatic differences, forgetting the more subtle British seasonal changes. There are occasions when I miss the more temperate climate of home, when the winter is harsh and the summer blistering, but I do appreciate the seasons, either here or there, and would struggle to live in the tropics. October has always been my favourite time of the year and my birthday happily fell into the month many moons ago. I spent a wonderful week in Chicago while on a conference, during their Fall, and enjoyed the rich reds of the maple leaves. Krakow strikes me as an intriguing place in terms of its people and culture. I very much enjoyed your post, Christina.
I haven’t managed Krakow yet, Christina although Wroclaw and Katowice were both lovely. I was in the latter in late October for The Day of the Dead, and it was beautiful. As you have so beautifully depicted, the golden trees bathe everything in soft light. I would love to see Krakow though, I keep hearing how lovely it is. Unfortunately, Koos finds it less interesting, but I think you can probably understand that after seeing his photography.
Yes, I have noticed a tendency to a much more raw vision than most. He does harsh urban and industrial particularly well and you have to have a real eye for that. Krakow has plenty of bijou sights in the centre, but wander beyond Planty and there are lots of less conventionally appealing objects for the eye and the camera lens.
Wonderful, detailed and evocative description of Planty and the atmosphere of the season.
Thanks, Christina. You know quite a bit more about Kraków than I do after my two visits; but mine were only a few hours each time.
May I suggest that you put the Nowa Huta neighbourhood on your programme next time around? It’s a journey back in time.
Time for an anecdote.
At Kraków’s bus station I asked the information lady where to find the bus to the airport. “It’s at the next bus station” she replied.
I told her I didn’t know where that was and how far the walk.
All she did was repeat her reply and I repeated mine.
Impatiently she left her booth to take me there – a set of bus stops next to the main bus station.
Aha! “The bus station next door” might have made it easier for me to understand. Language…
Hello, Koos. Thank you for visiting and commenting, especially when you provide both compliments and anecdotes! 😉
You attribute to me a great deal more knowledge about Kraków than I have; conference commitments limited my opportunities for discovery. The last time I was here, we visited the Czartoryski museum, which is my kind of place (limited enough to prevent that mind-numbing artefact overkill!); it’s currently, I understand, closed for renovation. This time, we walked a lot and covered areas outside the old town, if that constitutes knowledge! I shall go again and follow your recommendation to visit Nowa Huta, which I’ve read something about recently – I think it ironically turned out to be a hotbed of resistance to the old regime, rivalling Gdansk, not what it was intended to be. I imagine you have explored and photographed it fully.
I hope to find you here again! Best wishes.