Despite the rather brutal weather of snow and bitter cold wind, Plac Nowy (Nowy Square), the old marketplace in Kazimierz, Krakow’s former Jewish Quarter, was bustling with activity. Young people were huddled around open windows of the old brick rotunda, which was in the middle of the square, while waiting for their order of zapiekanki (a fast-food favorite also knows as “Polish pizza”).
The rotunda served as a ritual slaughterhouse for poultry until the Nazi occupation. Today butcher shops still occupy the interior. A small flea market was in full swing with merchants braving the cold to sell their wares. I bought a wool scarf from a lady using her calculator to negotiate price. Language did not seem to be a barrier for her to do business.
Good Israeli street food was to be had at Hamsa, a restaurant popular with locals and tourists alike, which was located in a weathered brick building at the top of the main square in Kazimierz. The words “Hummus and Happiness” which were written on this building next to the name of the restaurant enticed me to go in. What kept me there for a spell was the coziness, a steaming pot of tea, and hummus. A large Hamsa, with a Jewish symbol incorporated into it, hung over the serving counter. (A Hamsa is a palm-shaped amulet used as a sign of protection popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa). A steady stream of international clientele added to the eclectic environment.
I soon braved the weather again on foot and found the nearby snow-covered Plac Wolnica (Wolnica Square), once the central square of the city of Kazimierz (Kazimierz is now incorporated into the city of Krakow). Children squealed as their parents helped them navigate an ice rink. Music played in the background. Snow was falling. The former Renaissance Town Hall, dating from 1528, now a museum, graced one side of the square. The tower of the Gothic Corpus Christi Church, dating from 1340, loomed above. Elegant 19th century buildings surrounded the rest of the square. Plac Wolnica was a winter wonderland.
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