Tapestry of Cultures: Kraków Festival Medley.
Can you preserve your identity while embracing the cultural traditions and spirit of other cities and cultures? Kraków answers with a resounding yes. For many years, the city has immersed itself in the Jewish world through the annual Jewish Culture Festival, held every summer since 1990. It has also transformed into a distant part of New Orleans for the Summer Jazz Festival Kraków, only to return to its multinational cosmopolitan ambiance for the ULICA Festival of Street Theatres.
The Jewish Culture Festival is renowned for its closing concert, held on the first Saturday of July. Crowds gather to dance in Szeroka Street, continuing well into the night, despite it being one of the shortest nights of the year. The festival also offers numerous other concerts, workshops, and activities, ranging from Hebrew calligraphy, via various songs and dances, to Jewish custom. As religion imbues traditional Jewish life, its elements are also present throughout the festival, starting with the opening concert at the Tempel Synagogue in Miodowa Street by the Chazzans of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.
Since its inception in 1996, the Summer Jazz Festival Kraków kicks off with the New Orleans procession, marching to the Main Market Square on 2 July, accompanied by lively brass music. This special event showcases both Polish and international jazz musicians, spanning from legends and veterans to the younger jazz generation. With 130 concerts throughout the summer, the festival takes audiences to renowned venues such as Piwnica pod Baranami, the obvious jazz clubs, and quite unexpected ones including ICE Kraków, the Kraków Philharmonic Hall, and the Opera. The festival’s website and social media platforms announce performances by Marcus Miller on his European Tour, Michel Camilo, Jan Garbarek with Trilok Gurtu, and many other stars.
The Street Theatre Festival, for some years held as simply as the STREET (ULICA) Festival, now in its 36th edition, is a three-day extravaganza dominating the Main and Small Market Squares, as well as other locations in the city. It showcases open-air shows, captivating plays for both adults and children, accompanied by concerts, workshops, and discussion panels. Most of the shows are language-neutral and employ a variety of unconventional techniques that are unavailable to indoor theatres. These include fireworks and large walking or marching installations that instantly capture our attention. Just like traditional theatre, that performed in the street plays can evoke both introspection or laughter.
These three festivals are just a glimpse of the vibrant festival scene in Kraków, which attracts countless visitors during the summer. Perhaps you too would like to join the bandwagon?
The Jewish Culture Festival is held in the district of Kazimierz that for centuries was home to the Jewish diaspora. There was room in Kazimierz both for the orthodox Hassidic groups (mostly in the walled part of the city) as well as for the progressive and reformed ones. A proof of the grandeur of the Jewish community destroyed in the Second World War are the seven synagogues and graves of famous rabbis, many of which remain destinations of pilgrimages.
Piwnica pod Baranami, literally “Vaults under [the sign of] the Rams” is a cult cabaret established in the darkest days of communism by Piotr Skrzynecki, at the time a student, and thriving despite the Communist censorship and backlash. Having survived its founder, it has remained a prime artistic site on Kraków’s map.