Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic hubs. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596; the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000 whereas about 8 million people live within a 100 km radius of its main square. After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, Kraków was turned into the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was moved into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and the concentration camp at Płaszów. In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II – the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Cracow's Historic Centre.
The Renaissance Sukiennice Cloth Hall in Kraków, Poland is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the Main Market Square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978). It was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, Sukiennice was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The Hall has hosted countless distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries. Britain's Prince Charles and Emperor Akihito of Japan were welcomed here in 2002. In times gone by, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had liberated the city from the Austrian Empire in 1809. Aside from its grand history and great cultural value, the hall still flourishes as a bustling center of commerce, albeit offering items for sale that are radically different from those of previous centuries — mainly souvenirs for tourists. Other, similar cloth halls have existed in other Polish as well as other European cities such as in Ypres, Belgium; Braunschweig, and in Leeds, England; but the one in Kraków is the best-known and best-preserved.
photo by lucky
edited by mobydick74
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