Located on the edge of Krakow, at the last stop on the tramline is a nest of hyper malls and rampant development. In the middle of this sits the lone surviving building from the once massive Solvay Soda Ash Complex which employed at its peak 3,000 men and their families.
"Solvay" has a complex and fascinating history (Pope John Paul II worked there during World War II to avoid deportation) but stands today as a forgotten monument and symbol of the transformations that have occurred in Poland over the last 20 years. Solvay has quietly become the defacto community center of the area - and a dedicated space for creative and artistic production.
Conceived and curated by Halfslant, NOWA SODA: Solvay Transformed is a month long artist in residency which challenges four international artists to create a site-responsive installation while bearing witness to the past and present of the building. Four artists have each developed proposals that address not just the history of the building, but the living community that uses the space every day.
Last stop on tram number 8 heading towards Borek Fałęcki
In the main exhibition area is a photographic tribute to Poland's Jewish heritage during the last thousand years. It also holds Jewish musical and cultural events. We attended an excellent Klezmer musical evening, which was held regularly in the summer. They have an English bookshop and a cafe, provide a really clear map of 'Jewish Krakow' and speak good English. Everyone was very helpful.
When I was in Krakow this summer we took a great bike tour that went around the city, and also to lesser seen parts, like the old Jewish ghetto and Schindler's factory. The guy we went with was great, but I'm sure there are alternative companies who would offer a similar great experience.
In the summer (May – September) several companies operate regular cruises on the river Vistula. You can choose from ½ hour cruises within the city boundaries, or a longer trip to Bielany or Tyniec and catch sights such as Wawel Castle, Manggha – Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Skałka monastery and Kosciuszko Mound.
Żegluga Krakowska offers a round trip Wawel-Tyniec Abbey-Wawel on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. (Tickets 20 PLN; concessions 15 PLN) and one hour river trips every day through Krakow (Tickets 12 PLN; concessions 10 PLN).
Piotruś Pan and Sobieski Boats have cruises to Bielany (2 hours) and to Tyniec (3 hours), every day from 10 a.m. until dusk.
River Tram has trips along the river through Krakow and to Tyniec. (tickets: 8 PLN on weekdays and 10 PLN on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays; concessions 6 and 8 PLN respectively)
Board the boats at the Czerwieński Embankment (opposite Wawel castle, between Dębnicki and Grunwaldzki bridges).
tel: 422 08 55 or 663 165 910; www.zegluga.krakow.pl;
Piotruś Pan and Sobieski Boats
tel: 626 81 40 or 452 23 04; www.ster.net.pl
tel: 0 506 107 037; www.tramwajwodny.pl
The Krakowska Karta Turystyczna, valid for two (45 PLN) or three (PLN65) days, entitles the holder to free travel on city buses and trams (including the bus route no 192 from/to Krakow's Balice international airport) and to free entry to 32 Krakow museums. Cardholders also receive discounts in certain restaurants and shops as well as when buying tickets for local trips and excursions.
You can buy the card at the airport, tourist information centres, travel agencies and hotels.
1 Polish Zlotych = approximately 0.18 Great British Pounds (April 2006)
See www.krakowcard.com/ for more details.
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