Central and Eastern Europe, Tourism

Kazimierz Dolny a picturesque must visit in Poland

By Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska

Kazimierz Dolny is a small historic town (area 30.44 km2, population 3572, data from 2006) on the right (eastern) bank of the Vistula river in Puławy County, Lublin Voivodeship. It is in fact an art center in Poland. Many painters come here to paint, a film festival Two Riversides Film and Art Festival (“Festiwal Filmu i Sztuki Dwa Brzegi”) is also here organized and it has been the location of several films. Kazimierz Dolny is one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments as designated September 16, 1994 and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

One of the many picturesque streets. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

History

The history of Kazimierz Dolny dates back to the 11th century. On one of the local hills there was a Benedictine settlement called Wietrzna Gora. In 1181, Prince Casimir II the Just offered the settlement to Norbertine nuns from Krakow. They changed its name to Kazimierz to honour the prince.  For the first time, the name Kazimierz appears in chronicles in 1249. This settlement was a royal possession in the 14th century. King Władysław I the Elbow-High created there a parish church in 1325

It is said that his son Casimir III the Great founded the town. It was him who gave the town rights to this settlement in the first half of the 14th century. Further on the town was modernized by the kind  Władysław II Jagiełło. It is when streets and a market square were created.

Kazimierz Dolny experienced its greatest trade development in grains along and across the river Vistula in the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period, the city was expanded/renovated in Renaissance style and the following characteristic buildings were built: beautiful churches, merchant houses (Przybyłów and Celejów) and granaries.

Main square. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

Jewish community

From the time of Casimir III the Great in the 14th century, there was a small Jewish community there. The king granted the Jews a writ of rights making the city a focal point for Jewish immigration. When John III Sobieski became king in 1674, he granted the Jews a tax deferment and respected all the rights they had been granted by previous rulers. The housing restrictions during Sobieski’s rule were abolished and it led to the growth of the Jewish community there. Between World War I and World War II, the Jewish population amounted 1,400, which was equal to half of the city’s total population. In September 1939, the Germans invaded Kazimierz Dolny and in 1940, they established a ghetto, where all the Jews from the surrounding Puławy County were forced to stay. In 1942, Jews who survived ghetto, diseases, starvation, and slave labor were taken to Belzec where they were gassed upon arrival. At the end of 1942, the city was officially declared “Jew-free”.

A memory plaque to commemorate the Jewish community murdered by the Nazi Germans Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

Interesting to visit

There are quite a few spectacular places worth visiting. Just start your visit in Kazimierz Dolny at the square and its well and have a walk around the narrow streets surrounding the square.

Main square with a well and the hill with three crosses above. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

Do not miss:

  • Tenement houses (early 17th century),
  • Several historic granaries (16th and 17th centuries).
  • Synagogue
  • Parish church of St. Bartholomew and John the Baptist (1586-1589), with 1620 organs, and 1615 pulpit,
  • St. Anne church (1671) and Holy Spirit hospital (1635),
  • Church of St. Mary (1589) and monastery (1638–68),
  • Ruins of the castle (14th – 16th century),
  • Defensive tower (13th or 14th century),
  • Several houses by the architect Karol Siciński, including one built by Kazimierz Ołdakowski

Just outside the old town you can have a nice walk at the Vistula bank and the pedestrian boulevard. You can also book a boat trip there.

Vistula bank. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

Do not forget to visit The Hill of Three Crosses – a hill in Kazimierz Dolny from which there is probably the most spectacular view of this town. Three crosses referring to Golgotha were erected in 1708 to commemorate the numerous victims of the plague (cholera) that took place in these areas. The crosses that you see there now come from 1852, and most of the inscriptions from 1930. The slopes and the peak of the Three Crosses Mountain are overgrown with protected, rare vegetation,

The Kazimierski Landscape Park stretches across the city. Root ravine near the town of Kazimierz Dolny in Poland with its twisted tree roots is truly amazing. They create a surreal, fairy-tale landscape, which is an inspiration to many painters. The walls begin to climb up to 8 meters high here! The edge of the ravine, 4 meters wide here, is overgrown by old oak-lime-hornbeam trees.

Impressive root ravine. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl
Impressive root ravine. Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

When you are in Kazimierz Dolny you can also visit another spectacular town situated nearby: Nałęczów a well-know in Poland spa town with its special healing waters.

Photos: ©communications-unlimited.nl

©communications-unlimited.nl

Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, board member and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen, the Netherlands since 2005.

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