Krakow booms and marks a 750th anniversary

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Poland's former royal capital of Krakow is marking its 750th anniversary this month. The historic city is enjoying something of a new golden era as it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

It was in 1257 that the old pre-medieval city on Krakow was rebuilt and received city rights under the so-called Magdeburg law. To mark the occasion, the city authorities have prepared a series of events including a modern oratorio on the city's history by Polish composer Piotr Rubik.

Today Krakow is experiencing a tourist boom. This is to a large extent a result of the price fight involving major low-cost airlines. What attracts visitors to Krakow in the first place are the city's historic sights. The Wawel Hill with its Cathedral and Royal Castle, the magnificent Market Square with its Cloth Halls and the over 600-year-old Jagiellonian University are a must for all visitors. During my recent visit to Krakow, a band of tram drivers' union was an extra attraction for the tourists who come to the city lured not only by its historic riches.

"It's important that you preserve these monuments for future generations.' 'We've come here because we heard it's got good reputation for bars and restaurants.' The buildings here are very traditional. You have a wealth of history and architectural history. This part of the city, with the Jewish monuments should be preserved not as a museum but as a living tradition'. 'I'm here with my family. We eat the famous Polish 'pierogi'.

In the centre of Krakow alone there are several hundred bars, pubs and restraurants offering not only the 'pierogi' and other traditional Polish dishes, but also the specialities of many other nations. Last year along Krakow atracted almost seven million people. What's the secret of the city's fast-growing popularity. Michael Newmark is a lecturer at the Jagiellonian University.

"The secret is the hospitality. Poland in general and Krakow in particular allow foreigners to feel welcome and there's also a mutual understanding that foreigners coming to Krakow should try and share in its culture. The people who want to come to Krakow in the first place they want to share in the culture of Krakow and see what it's like to live here, if only for a short period of time. The spontaneity of Krakow as well, the fact that this is the centre of Polish history and culture."

The bugle call is an inseparable part of the unique atmosphere of Krakow. It is played every hour on the hour from the tower of St Mary's Church in the Market Square where the city's Italian flair and architectural beauty can best be experienced. As free-lance journalist Thymn Chase says there is much more to Krakow than its splendid architectural sights.

"I travelled quite a bit to other cities in Europe. It was in the first hour that I just felt something very different in this city. Krakow has this mystique, this history, this beauty but something more than that, something in the air, something lingering. In the first five hours I met three artists and two writers, people that I get along very well. I never experienced a city that would be so open".

This year Krakow offers a wide range of special events not only during the current festivities marking the 750th anniversary of the city's location. The local authorities hope Krakow will prove the most attractive European tourist spot in 2007