Central Europe: Poland - Krakow's Jewish Quarter: Kazimierz

By Cubie - January 13, 2015

Kazimierz is Krakow's Jewish Quarter, it is 20 minutes by foot southeast of Old Town. Walking out of the Old Town, we started seeing those blocky grey colour buildings. It is very local feeling, nothing like the polished looking ones in Prague. As we walked towards the Jewish Quarter, we bumped into the Jewish Walking Tour and walked side by side with them for a bit till we reached the Old Cemetery (Stary Cmentarz). Entrance fee cost 5zł including acccess to Remu'h Synagogue.  It was used to bury members of the Jewish community from 1552 to 1800. As one walked in the cemetery, there were some yarmulkes / kippah on loan for men to cover their heads.

When there's old, there's also a New Cemetery (Nowy Cmentarz). In actual fact, it isn't that new, more so of comparison as this one has graves of those who died after 1800. This one is free to enter but between the two I thought of entering the old one. Since we had time to spare, we visited both.

As with all Jewish cemeteries, some of the graves had small stones stacked on them. The stones originally placed over desert graves to cover the body and prevent animals from disturbing it.

There are six different synagogues in Kazimierz that are open to public for visit. From the six - Old Synagogue, HIgh Synagogue, Kupga Synagogue, Isaac Synagogue, Tempel Synagogue and Remu'h Synagogue we entered the last three.

Entry fee for Remu'h Synagogue was included together with Old Cemetery. This Synagogue is smallish and has been active since 1553. It was named after Moses Isserle (a.k.a Remu'h) is an important 16th-century rabbi.

Next up, Temple Synagogue (Synagoga Templu). This synagogue has a grand interior and much bigger compared to Remu'h Synagogue. It was built in 1860 and was reconstructed several times in the past yet the original structure still persists. The building used to house a horse stable during the Nazi occupation period but returned to religious function after the city was liberated.

The last synagogue that we entered was Isaac Synagogue (Synagoga Izaaka). It was described as one of Krakow's biggest synagogue. It was funded by a rich local banker Isaac reb Yekele. It was first built in the 17th century. Prayers were drawn on the wall for worshippers who could not afford to buy books. The prayers has English translation on the bottom. There's a small stall selling souvenirs and books just outside of the synagogue.

Even though Kazimierz is more known as the Jewish Quarter, there is a Christian part just next to it. I was not sure if we have passed the opening hour but the church seem to have closed for the day. The only church we went to have a look was St. Catherine's Church. Overall this part of the area seem to be quieter than the Jewish part.

Side note: First work trip for the year...

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