ul. Szeroka

  ul. Szeroka ,   Kazimierz         11 Mar 2024

Kraków’s very own 'Broad Street' (as the favourite opening line of local tour guides goes) might differ considerably from its NYC doppelnamer, but the moniker fits; the street is so wide that it actually functions more like an elongated town square (‘town rectangle’?). In fact, ulica Szeroka originally served as the centre a small 12th-century village known as Bawół, which was absorbed into Kazimierz in 1340, a few years after the latter was awarded its charter. In the late 15th century Jews banished from Kraków started settling in the area, giving it a permanent place in local Jewish history. Housing three of Kraków’s surviving synagogues and an even split of high-quality and tourist-trappy restaurants, ul.Szeroka is today the epicentre of Jewish heritage tourism in Kraków. Main points of interest include the 15th-century Old Synagogue, the 16th-century Remah Synagogue and Cemetery, the 17th-century Popper Synagogue, and a 16th-century Jewish bath (mikvah) located in the basement of the Klezmer Hois hotel and restaurant. The square also includes a monument to Jan Karski - 'Righteous Among the Nations' for his early efforts to alert the Western Allies of the Holocaust, and the birthplace of cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein at number 14.

An odd legend is tied to the small patch of green at the northern end of the street, which was walled off sometime during the ages for no reason apparent to early-20th century locals. According to a story perpetuated before WWII, an insubordinate wedding party took place there late one Friday, with revellers ignoring the rabbi’s requests to part as the Sabbath approached; feeling scorned, the rabbi cast a curse plunging the wedding venue underground and wiping out the newlyweds and all their guests. Ask a historian, however, and they’re more likely to tell you that the plot of land was probably a small cemetery used to bury those who perished from the plague. Today it has been fashioned into a memorial and “Place of meditation upon the martyrdom of 65,000 Polish citizens of Jewish nationality from Cracow” as a large stone monument explains.

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