You may know that the creation of Poland is officially dated back to year 966. Only 72 years later, in 1038 Kraków became the capital of the country. It remained in this role for five centuries. The kings lived in the castle called Wawel, which was defended by the city only from northern side. To increase the defence and improve the control of Vistula river, king Kazimierz the Great (the only "Great" in Polish history) ordered in 1335 that on an island surrounded by the branches of Vistula river, just south of the castle, a new city of his name is set-up and surrounded by walls. This new suburb was connected to the capital by the first permanent bridge across Vistula river, called Pons Regalis, which lasted till XIX century, when a flood destroyed it and the branch of Vistula river was filled in. Nowadays the Kazimierz district is a part of Kraków.
At the end of fifteenth century, many European countries (Spain, Austria, Hungary) expelled Jews. They found their new safe home in Poland. After the Kraków fire of 1494, in 1495 the king Jan Olbracht ordered Jews to move to the eastern part Kazimierz. The population of the so called Jewish City grew rapidly. Very fast, Kazimierz became the most influential Jewish place in Europe. On the Market Square of Kazimierz its inhabitants have built a renaissance synagogue called the Old Synagogue, which is the oldest synagogue still standing in Poland.
From Bartosz Street it looks also impressive.
Currently the synagogue is no longer a place for prayers but is a division of the Historical Museum of Kraków.
It is obviously devoted to the Jewish religion and culture. This menorah, used for Hanukkah, is called the chanukiah.
The balcony in the middle of a synagogue is called bima. This is from where the Torah is read.
Next to the side wall you will find the Ark were the Torah is stored.
When the ark is closed it is usually covered with a special parochet.
When a religious Jew is praying he usually puts on his head a shawl called Tallith.
You can see the Tallith here - during a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony.
And the original walls of the Old Synagogue. Standing in front of them in 1794 General Tadeusz Kościuszko spoke to the Jews for their support in Polish struggle for independence.
The Old Synagogue, as it is called, is the oldest in Kazimierz, but obviously it is not the only one. You can see there the High Synagogue ...
... and the Isaac's synagogue.
Next to the latter, you can see the remainings of a Jewish cemetary.
But in my opinion the most beautiful synagogue in Kazimierz is this one.
It is called Tempel Synagogue and was build in neo-moorish style.
The Old Synagogue stands just next to the most representative street of the Jewish Kazimierz - the Szeroka (Wide) street, with famous Ariel restaurant and many smaller ones.
In many of them evenings you can listen to the live Klezmer music. Thanks to music and food you can feel here real culture of Polish Jews, what I strongly encourage you to do.
Here you can give it a try.