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It is no wonder that in 2013 UNESCO appointed Kraków as its City of Literature. Kraków was home to poets and Nobel laureates Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, science fiction writer Stanisław Lem, and satirical playwright Sławomir Mrożek. Its living, internationally acclaimed poets include Adam Zagajewski and Ewa Lipska. It’s a city that lives and breathes literature. Theatres, museums, medieval churches, restored synagogues, and cafés reverberate with poetry and music. When, after many years in exile, Czesław Miłosz came to live in Kraków in the 1990s, his presence prompted a unique gathering of poets from east and west. After several well-received readings, the poets went to a café, where each occupied a separate table to sign books and chat with their readers. A long queue formed. When curious passersby asked what they were queuing for, they heard “for the poets.” They joined the queue.
Like creative artists everywhere, poets and playwrights, painters and filmmakers, composers and comedians in post-Communist Poland continue to struggle with their historical heritage and their role in interpreting it, even while attempting to escape from it and “move on.”
How have they responded? To find out we’ll travel to Kraków, a beautiful city that has remained largely intact from its earliest medieval days. Kraków has long been the historical, cultural, and intellectual heart of the nation and is the cradle of Polish modernism.
We will explore Polish modernism in all its forms—painting, philosophy, theatre, literary cabarets, opera, and the revival of a vibrant Jewish culture. At the Miłosz Festival, we’ll gather with literary heavyweights from around the world. We’ll also visit Nowa Huta (“New Steelworks”), one of only two planned Socialist realist cities ever built. The site is a Soviet attempt to create an in-your-face proletarian opponent to intellectual, artsy Kraków, and is arguably one of the finest examples of deliberate social engineering in the world.
Our trip concludes with several days in Zakopane, Poland’s leading mountain resort. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Poland’s intellectual elite decamped here. Writers, poets, painters, and architects have gathered in Zakopane for 100 years in a bid to reinterpret Polish culture.
To learn more, see our detailed itinerary.