Saturday, June 3, 2017 - Sunday, June 25, 2017
June in Kraków is a true essence of culture: a time for events in which traditions intertwine with modernity and which bring us together in an atmosphere of good fun. Kraków Days are upon us!
It was during the interwar period when Jerzy Dobrzycki, in charge of Kraków’s promotional activities at the time, first noted the accumulation of various artistic, cultural, religious and folk events in June. He went on to initiate the first Kraków Days in 1936 – the festival was a huge success, and it was said to have been the finest event of the Second Polish Republic.
The June celebrations of the city soon made themselves at home by Wawel Hill, although the festival enjoyed mixed luck over the years. The frequency varied (the first events were held every two years), there were longer periods of stagnation, some years were more “official” than others, and the name changed several times. Still Dobrzycki’s idea endured, and this year the festival returns under the original name – with plenty of momentum! We’ll be celebrating throughout June, and the list of events is breathtaking: from music-filled Wianki to book fairs, from the City Flag Festival to the Lajkonik Parade, from Nowa Huta Days to Theatre Night, from St John’s Fair to the bicycle picnic…
Kraków Days open with a presentation of a brand new ruler with the enthronement of the Fowler King on 3 June. The title has a long lineage: the Fowler Brotherhood (likely founded in the 13th century to train Cracovians in warfare) has been selecting its king through a shooting competition for around six centuries!
Another local tradition recalling events of the days gone by is the Lajkonik Parade, rooted in a legend of a 13th-century Tatar invasion being crushed by plucky raftsmen from Zwierzyniec. As always, the Lajkonik and his entourage set off from the Norbertine Sisters convent in Zwierzyniec district to the Main Market Square a week after Corpus Christi – this year the date is 22 June. Make sure you don’t miss his frolics, and don’t shy away from strikes of his mace – they will bring you luck in the coming year! And don’t forget that the Lajkonik’s outfit was designed by Stanisław Wyspiański – the Cracovian artist celebrated during his own festival.
The events wouldn’t be the same without the legendary beast of Wawel Hill: he appears in many guises during the Great Dragon Parade (3-4 June). A creative nod to ancient rituals comes from the Wianki – Fête de la Musique (24 June) – the music-themed formula dominates the Vistula Boulevards and the entire city! Three-day-long festivities with a historical background, filled with delicious food, spectacles, demonstrations and pageants, come to the foot of Wawel Hill with the St John’s Fair (16-18 June). The event is set against the majestic backdrop of the Vistula River. And while we’re on the subject of the queen of Poland’s rivers, she appears in the starring role during the Watery Critical Mass (24 June) and the cycle Come to the Vistula.
But don’t be fooled by the name – Kraków Days are just as busy at night! During Theatre Night (17 June), large and small venues from across the city open their doors to visitors.
Raise the flag!
Did you know that our city is one of very few in Poland to have its own historical colours? They are first mentioned in documents dating back to the 16th century. We are reminded that the white of Kraków’s flag symbolises purity and the blue represents Vistula’s waves during the brand new City Flag Festival, celebrated on 5 June – coinciding with the anniversary of Kraków being granted city rights. The fact that running the city isn’t just festivals and symbols but involves actual serious work is shown during the Magistrate Open Day: on 4 June, we can visit the stately Wielopolski Palace with the offices of the Mayor of the City of Kraków and the Chairman of the City Council. Attractions include workshops, games and concerts from jazz in the afternoon to the finale performance by Renata Przemyk. The following day, after a Holy Mass dedicated to the city held at St Mary’s Basilica, the City Council meets during a special session.
The city’s squares, streets, parks and meadows will also be bustling. The delicious smells of baking fill the Wolnica Square during the Bread Festival (9-11 June). Stolarska Street reveals its international side during annual celebrations on 24 June. The Kraków Book Fair (10-11 June) makes itself at home at the Św. Marii Magdaleny Square, providing a true paradise for all bookworms and bibliophiles. Or how about something energetic? On Sundays (and one Saturday) in June, dance music resounds in Wolnica Square, in Planty, Bednarski and Ratuszowy parks, and in Błonia meadow. In the latter three, the dance events are combined with Civic Picnics.
Kraków’s cultural centres also have plenty of attractions in store. Nowa Huta Days and Parade, the Cycling Festival, outdoor concerts, Strawberry Children’s Day (fun and games for kids, and heaps of strawberries!), Picnic with Master Jan Matejko, exhibitions, themed walks and local events…
Let’s celebrate Kraków Days together! (Barbara Skowrońska)