Some cookbooks from the 17th century describe how during that era, the pierogi were considered a staple of the Polish diet, and each holiday had its own special kind of pierogi created. Different shapes and fillings were made for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Important events like weddings had their own special type of pierogi kurniki – filled with chicken. Also, pierogi were made especially for mourning or wakes, and some for caroling season in January.
Pierogi are an important part of Polish culture and cuisine today. They are served in a variety of forms and tastes and play an important role as a cultural dish. In Krakow every year they celebrate the Pierogi Day.
Polish pierogi are often filled with fresh quark, mashed potatoes and fried onions. This type is called in Polish “pierogi ruskie”, which literally means "Ruthenian pierogi" (sometimes being mistranslated as “Russian pierogi”). The most popular in Poland are pierogi filled with sauerkraut, minced meat, mushrooms, cheese and cabbage, or for dessert with an assortment of berries (with strawberries or blueberries the most common). Sweet pierogi are usually served with sour cream mixed with sugar, and savory pierogi with sour cream (smetana), bacon fat, bacon bits or fried onions.
There is no polish restaurant which does not serve pierogi. But most of them cater for tourists and food is not fulfilling, to say the least. Nevertheless, there is one shop that makes really delicious and super fresh pierogi. It is called “Pierogarnia Krakowiacy” and is located just two blocks west of Main Market Square (23, Szewska St).It is a small shop, nicely decorated, that serves mainly pierogi and a couple of other traditional polish dishes.The shop gets crowded and you may have to wait till a table is available.Do not wait to find a table of your own…you can share the table with other pierogi fans.The restaurant is self-serviced: you order, pay at the cash desk, take a number and when your order is ready they call your number.Weather permitted, you can be sited outside at one of the 3-4 tables they have on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. There is another “Pierogarnia Krakowiacy”, much bigger than the first one, located just outside the western perimeter of the Old Town (15 Westerplatte St).
“Pierogarnia Krakowiacy”. Savory pierogi (top left). The store at Westerplatte St (top right). A kiosk at a street fair (middle left). Inside the shop in Szewska St (middle right/bottom right). Outside the Szewska store (bottom left).
A walk in Kazimierz
Besides the Old Town and Wawel Hill, the only other district of an interest to tourists is Kazimierz. Kazimierz is the district south of the Old Town between Vistula River and Dietla Str.Since its inception in the 14th century to the early 19th century, Kazimierz has been an independent city, a royal city of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom. The boundaries of Kazimierz are defined by an old island in the Vistula. The northern branch of the river (Stara Wisła–Old Vistula) was filled-in at the end of the 19th century and became Dietla Str, while Stradomska Str extended to become Krakowska Str connecting Kazimierz district with Old Town.
Kazimierz has, since then, rebounded and is today Krakow’s most exciting district – a bustling, bohemian neighborhood packed with historical sites, atmospheric cafes and art galleries. Well-known for its associations with Schindler, traces of Kazimierz’s Jewish history have not only survived, but literally abound in the form of the district’s numerous synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.
The fact that it’s one of the year’s biggest parties proves that there’s more to Kazimierz than sepia photographs and old synagogues. Here you’ll find the heart of Kraków’s artistic, bohemian character behind the wooden shutters of dozens of antique shops and art galleries. Peeling façades and obscure courtyards hide dozens of bars and cafes, many affecting an air of pre-war timelessness. Centered on Plac Nowy (New Square), Kazimierz has emerged as the city’s best destination for cafe culture and nightlife. Alternative, edgy and packed with oddities, Kazimierz is an essential point of interest to any visitor.
Kazimierz was the center of Jewish life in Krakow for over 500 years, before it was systematically destroyed during World War II.
In the communist era it became one of Krakow’s dodgiest districts while gradually falling into disrepair.
Rediscovered in the 1990s, thanks to the worldwide exposure through the lens of Steven Spielberg and his movie "Schindler's List", which used many filming locations in the area.
In fact, no other place in Europe conveys a sense of pre-war Jewish culture on the continent better than Kazimierz. As a result, the district has become a major tourist draw and pilgrimage site for Jews, which has led to the return of contemporary Jewish culture in the area. Each summer since 1988 the massively popular Jewish Culture Festival has filled Kazimierz’s streets and cafes with music, while educating Krakow’s residents and guests about the city’s pre-war Jewish history and celebrating modern Jewish culture.
What a great adventure.
The first time I read such an interesting review on Krakow.