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DESTINATIONS

The Warsaw Ghetto

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Jewish Ghetto Warsaw

The Warsaw Ghetto officially, Jewish Residential District in Warsaw was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Europe during World War II.

It was established by the German authorities in the Muranów neighbourhood of Warsaw between October and November 16, 1940; within the new General Government territory of German-occupied Poland.

There were over 400,000 Jews imprisoned there, at an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 9.2 persons per room, barely subsisting on meagre food rations.

From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi camps and mass-killing centres.

In the summer of 1942, at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during Großaktion Warschau under the guise of “resettlement in the East” over the course of the summer.

The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of rampant hunger and hunger-related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto.

Before World War II, Warsaw was one of the most diverse cities in the Second Polish Republic.

The majority of Polish Jews lived in the merchant districts of Muranów, Powązki, and Stara Praga, while most ethnic Germans lived in Śródmieście.
Over 90% of Catholics lived further away from the bustling commercial and vital centre of the capital.

The Jewish community was the most prominent there, constituting over 88% of the inhabitants of Muranów; with the total of about 32.7% of the population of the left-bank and 14.9% of the right-bank Warsaw, or 332,938 people in total according to 1931 census.

Many Jews left the city during the depression, which was more severe and longer-lasting in Poland than elsewhere in Europe.

In 1938 the Jewish population in Warsaw was estimated at 270,000 people.

The Siege of Warsaw continued until September 29, 1939. On September 10 alone, the Luftwaffe conducted 17 bombing raids on the city three days later, 50 German planes attacked the city centre, targeting specifically Wola and Żoliborz.

In total, some 30,000 people were killed, and 10 per cent of the city was destroyed.

Along with the advancing Wehrmacht, the Einsatzgruppe EG IV and the Einsatzkommandos rolled into town. On November 7, 1939, the Reichsführer-SS reorganized them into local security service (SD).

Meanwhile, the German fifth column members of Selbstschutz (detained by the defenders of Warsaw) were released immediately.

The commander of EG IV, SS-Standartenführer Josef Meisinger (the “Butcher of Warsaw”), was appointed the chief of police for the newly formed Distrikt Warschau.

After the takeover of Warsaw, the German authorities began the registration of the ethnic Germans who were issued the Kennkarte separate from the rest of the locals.

By June 1940 there were 2,500 Reichsdeutsche and 5,500 Volksdeutsche registered in Warsaw.

In the next two years, their number more than doubled, on top of over 50,000 German military personnel.

Creation of the Warsaw Ghetto

By the end of the September campaign, the number of Jews in and around the capital increased dramatically with thousands of refugees escaping the Polish-German front in any way possible, often on foot.

In less than a year, the number of refugees in Warsaw exceeded 90,000.

Once the partition of the country between Germany and the invading Soviet Union was complete, on October 12, 1939, the General Government was officially established by Adolf Hitler in the occupied area of central Poland.

The Jewish Council (Judenrat) in Warsaw was formed by the Nazis on October 7.

It was composed of 24 prominent individuals led by Adam Czerniaków, personally responsible for carrying out German orders.

The persecution of Jews began soon thereafter. On October 26, the imposition of Jewish forced labour was announced, to clear the rubble from bomb damage among similar tasks.

One month later, on November 20, the bank accounts of Polish Jews and any deposits exceeding 2,000 zł were blocked.

On November 23, all Jewish establishments were ordered to display a Jewish star on doors and windows.

Beginning December 1, all Jews older than ten were compelled to wear a white armband, and on December 11, they were forbidden from using public transit.

On January 26, 1940, the Jews were banned from holding communal prayers ostensibly due to the risk of “spreading epidemics”.

Food stamps were being introduced by the German authorities, and the liquidation of all smaller Jewish communities in the vicinity of Warsaw had intensified.

The Jewish population of the capital reached 359,827 before the end of the year.

On the orders of Warsaw District Governor, Ludwig Fischer, the Ghetto wall construction started on April 1, 1940, circling the area of Warsaw inhabited predominantly by Jews.

The work was supervised by the Warsaw Judenrat.

The Nazi authorities expelled 113,000 ethnic Poles from the neighbourhood and ordered the relocation of 138,000 Warsaw Jews from the suburbs into the city centre.

On October 16, 1940, the creation of the ghetto covering the area of 307 hectares (3.07 km2) was announced officially by the German Governor-General, Hans Frank.

The population of the ghetto was 450,000 initially.

Before the Holocaust began the number of Jews imprisoned there was between 375,000 and 400,000 (about 30% of the general population of the capital).

The area of the ghetto constituted only about 2.4% of the overall metropolitan area.

The Germans closed the Warsaw Ghetto to the outside world on November 15, 1940.

The wall around it was typically 3 m (9.8 ft) high and topped with barbed wire.

Escapees were shot on sight. German policemen from Battalion 61 used to hold victory parties on the days when a large number of desperate prisoners were shot at the ghetto fence.

The borders of the ghetto changed and its overall area was gradually reduced, as the captive population was ravaged by outbreaks of infectious diseases, mass hunger, and regular executions.

The ghetto was divided in two along Chłodna Street, which was excluded from it, due to its local importance at that time.

The area south-east of Chłodna was known as the “Small Ghetto”, while the area north of it became known as the “Large Ghetto”.

The two zones were connected at an intersection of Chłodna with Żelazna Street, where a special gate was built.

In January 1942, the gate was removed and a wooden footbridge was built over it, which became one of the postwar symbols of the Holocaust in occupied Poland.

The first commissioner of the Warsaw Ghetto, appointed by Fischer, was SA-Standartenführer Waldemar Schön, who also supervised the initial Jewish relocations in 1940.

He was best known for orchestrating an “artificial famine” (künstliche Hungersnot) in January 1941.

Schön had eliminated virtually all food supplies to the ghetto causing an uproar among the SS upper echelon.

He was relieved of his duties by Frank himself in March 1941 and replaced by Kommissar Heinz Auerswald, a “productionist” who served until November 1942.

Like in all Nazi ghettos across occupied Poland, the Germans ascribed the internal administration to a Judenrat Council of the Jews, led by an “Ältester” (the Eldest).

In Warsaw, this role was relegated to Adam Czerniaków, who chose a policy of collaboration with the Nazis in the hope of saving lives.
Adam Czerniaków confided his harrowing experience in nine diaries.

In July 1942, when the Germans ordered him to increase the contingent of people to be deported, he committed suicide.

Czerniaków’s collaboration with the German occupation policies was a paradigm for the attitude of the majority of European Jews vis à vis Nazism.

Although his personality as president of the Warsaw Judenrat may not become as infamous as Chaim Rumkowski, Ältester of the Łódź Ghetto; the SS policies he had followed were systematically anti-Jewish.

The Council of Elders was supported internally by the Jewish Ghetto Police (Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), formed at the end of September 1940 with 3,000 men, instrumental in enforcing law and order as well as carrying out German ad-hoc regulations, especially after 1941, when the number of refugees and expellees in Warsaw reached 150,000 or nearly one third of the entire Jewish population of Warsaw.

Not long after the Warsaw Ghetto was closed off from the outside world, a number of German war profiteers such as Többens and Schultz appeared in the capital.

At first, they acted as middlemen between the high command and the Jewish-run workshops.

By spring 1942, the Stickerei Abteilung Division with headquarters at Nowolipie 44 Street had already employed 3,000 workers making shoes, leather products, sweaters and socks for the Wehrmacht.

Other divisions were making furs and wool sweaters also, guarded by the Werkschutz police.

Some 15,000 Jews were working in the Ghetto for Walter C. Többens from Hamburg, a convicted war criminal, including at his factories on Prosta and Leszno Streets among other locations.

His Jewish labour exploitation was a source of envy for other Ghetto inmates living in fear of deportations.

In early 1943 Többens gained for himself the appointment of a Jewish deportation commissar of Warsaw in order to keep his own workforce secure and maximize profits.

In May 1943 Többens transferred his businesses, including 10,000 Jewish slave workers to the Poniatowa concentration camp barracks.

Fritz Schultz took his manufacture along with 6,000 Jews to the nearby Trawniki concentration camp.

Approximately 100,000 Ghetto inmates died of hunger-related diseases and starvation before the mass deportations started in the summer of 1942.

Earlier that year, during the Wannsee Conference near Berlin, the Final Solution was set in motion.

It was a secretive plan to mass-murder Jewish inhabitants of the General Government.

The techniques used to deceive victims were based upon experience gained at the Chełmno extermination camp (Kulmhof).

The ghettoised Jews were rounded up, street by street, under the guise of “resettlement”, and marched to the Umschlagplatz holding area.

From there, they were sent aboard Holocaust trains to the Treblinka death camp, built in a forest 80 kilometres (50 mi) northeast of Warsaw.

The operation was headed by the German Resettlement Commissioner, SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, on behalf of Sammern-Frankenegg.

Upon learning of this plan, Adam Czerniaków, leader of the Judenrat Council committed suicide.

He was replaced by Marc Lichtenbaum, tasked with managing roundups with the aid of Jewish Ghetto Police. No-one was informed about the real state of affairs.

The extermination of Jews by means of poisonous gases was carried out at Treblinka II under the auspices of Operation Reinhard, which also included Bełżec, Majdanek, and Sobibór death camps.

About 254,000 Warsaw Ghetto inmates (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) were sent to Treblinka during the Grossaktion Warschau and murdered there between Tisha B’Av (July 23) and Yom Kippur (September 21) of 1942.

The ratio between Jews killed on the spot by Orpo and Sipo during roundups and those deported was approximately 2 per cent.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
On January 18, 1943, after almost four months without deportations, the Germans suddenly entered the Warsaw Ghetto intent upon further roundups.

Within hours, some 600 Jews were shot and 5,000 others removed from their residences.

The Germans expected no resistance, but the action was brought to a halt by hundreds of insurgents armed with handguns and Molotov cocktails.

Preparations to resist had been going on since the previous autumn.

The first instance of Jewish armed struggle in Warsaw had begun. The underground fighters from ŻOB ( Jewish Combat Organization) and ŻZW (Jewish Military Union) achieved considerable success initially, taking control of the Ghetto.

They then barricaded themselves in the bunkers and built dozens of fighting posts, stopping the expulsions.

Taking further steps, a number of Jewish collaborators from Żagiew were also executed.

An offensive against the Ghetto underground launched by Von Sammern-Frankenegg was unsuccessful.

He was relieved of duty by Heinrich Himmler on April 17, 1943, and court-martialed.

The final battle started on the eve of Passover of April 19, 1943, when a Nazi force consisting of several thousand troops entered the ghetto.

After initial setbacks, 2,000 Waffen SS soldiers under the field command of Jürgen Stroop systematically burned and blew up the ghetto buildings, block by block, rounding up or murdering anybody they could capture.

Significant resistance ended on April 28, and the Nazi operation officially ended in mid-May, symbolically culminating with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw on May 16.

According to the official report, at least 56,065 people were killed on the spot or deported to German Nazi concentration and death camps (Treblinka, Poniatowa, Majdanek, Trawniki).

The site of the Ghetto became the Warsaw concentration camp.

The Warsaw ghetto was almost entirely levelled during the Uprising; however, a number of buildings and streets survived, mostly in the “small ghetto” area, which had been included into the Aryan part of the city in August 1942 and was not involved in the fighting.

In 2008 and 2010 Warsaw Ghetto boundary markers were built along the borders of the former Jewish quarter, where from 1940–1943 stood the gates to the ghetto, wooden footbridges over Aryan streets, and the buildings important to the ghetto inmates.

The four buildings at 7, 9, 12 and 14 Próżna Street are among the best known original residential buildings that in 1940–41 housed Jewish families in the Warsaw Ghetto.

They have largely remained empty since the war. The street is a focus of the annual Warsaw Jewish Festival.

In 2011–2013 buildings at number 7 and 9 underwent extensive renovations and have become office space.

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DESTINATIONS

Brexit: How will it affect my holidays to Europe?

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Poland Holidays

While political uncertainty over Brexit continues, life must go on as normal for British families – and that includes making plans for holidays to Europe.

The UK is due to leave the EU next month, right before the Easter holidays.

We still don’t know how Britain will leave the EU – with a deal, or without.

If the UK leaves with Theresa May’s deal, then there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, in which little will actually change.

If not, then there will be even more questions about what’s happening after 29 March.

Here’s what we currently know about how holidays abroad might be affected by Brexit.

Am I OK to book a holiday in the EU?

You might be wondering if it is safe to book at all, given the dire warnings from some about what could happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which offers advice to travellers and represents travel agents and tour operators, advises: “There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 29 March. Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.”

It says that those who book a package holiday with a UK-based travel company will have “the most comprehensive consumer protection” as they will continue to be covered by Package Travel Regulations, which entitle them to a full refund if the holiday cannot be provided.

“The best way to protect your holiday is to book a package. It is the travel provider’s responsibility to make sure your holiday is provided and to offer an alternative or refund if it cannot be delivered,” Abta says.

And as for travelling by plane, the government has said that “flights should continue” as they do today, if there is no deal, adding: “Both the UK and EU want flights to continue without any disruption.”

What documents will I need?

The main question most people want to know is whether or not they will need a visa to get to Europe.

You can breathe a sigh of relief – to some extent – as the European Commission has said UK travellers won’t need a visa even if there’s no deal, Abta said.

But British people will need to apply for – and buy – a visa waiver to travel to member states after Brexit whether there’s a deal or not.

The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which will cost €7 (£6.30) and be valid for three years, won’t come into force until 2021 though. It’s not just for the UK but many non-EU countries.

If there is a Brexit deal, EU citizens and UK nationals will continue to be able to travel freely with a passport or identity card until the end of the transition period in 2020.

When that ends, the European Commission has offered visa-free travel for UK nationals coming to the EU for a short stay, as long as the UK offers the same in return.

But nothing changes in terms of travel to and from the Republic of Ireland. British and Irish citizens will be able to continue to travel freely within the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, the government says.

Will there be bigger queues at the airport?

It might be a bit too soon to say “without knowing whether it’s a deal or no deal”, says Abta.

The government says from 29 March, if there’s no deal, most people won’t experience any difference to security screening at airports.

The European Commission has proposed measures to avoid there being any extra security or screening of passengers from the UK when they’re transferring to onward flights at EU airports.

Do I have to get a new passport?

No deal? If the UK leaves without a deal, then new rules will apply. You’ll have to check if your current passport meets those rules and renew it if not.

Basically, British passport holders will be considered third-country nationals as part of the Schengen agreement. Other third country nationals are those from places that aren’t in the EU or European Economic Area, like the US and Australia.

So according to the Schengen Border Code, passports from these countries have to have been issued within the previous 10 years and be valid for another three months from the date you plan to depart the Schengen area, which makes up 26 European states.

But because you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days, the government is advising you to make sure your passport is valid for at least another six months after your arrival.

Abta advises people to check their passports now to see how long they’re valid for.

If there’s a deal, your passport will be valid until its date of expiry for anywhere within the EU.

What about the European Health Insurance Card – Ehic?

About 27 million people in the UK have Ehics – which entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment in the EU and other countries which have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Brussels. They cover pre-existing medical conditions and emergency care.

The scheme will continue during the transition period if the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
If there is no deal, then, in theory, the cover provided by an Ehic would cease to exist.

If there is no deal, the advice for those travelling on or after 29 March 2019 to EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is to buy travel insurance to cover health care “just as you would if visiting a non-EU country”.

But there could be attempts to put emergency measures in place for UK citizens, or for there to be reciprocal arrangements with individual EU countries. It’s unclear at the moment what the outcome might be.

Are there any changes to insurance?

ABTA says it’s worth making sure what your travel insurance covers and checking the terms and conditions.

For any trips to the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein after 29 March, travellers should make sure their insurance policy covers any possible disruption, the government says. If you already have insurance sorted, then your insurer should let you know if there are any changes that might affect you after the UK leaves the EU.

What will happen with compensation for airline delays?

That’s set to be the same as it is now once the UK leaves the EU – so passengers will be entitled to assistance or compensation if there are boarding problems, delays or cancellations.

What about ferries and Eurostar?

Ferries are covered by international maritime convention so there won’t be any changes, says Abta.

And it’s the same for Eurostar – you’ll still be protected by EU regulation on rail passengers’ rights, as that’s being brought into UK law.

Are mobile phone charges changing?

There’s currently a system in place so you can travel in the EU and won’t be charged extra for roaming – so you can use your mobile for calls, text and data like you would in the UK.

If there’s no deal, that wouldn’t be guaranteed any more – so we could see the return of roaming charges.

The government has said it would introduce a law to cap charges at £45 a month.

If there is a deal, that would be on hold until the start of 2021 and it would then be up to the networks to decide what to do next.

What happens if I want to drive abroad – will I need a new licence?

If there’s no deal, your licence might not be valid by itself when driving in the EU. It means you might need to get hold of an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well, which costs £5.50. You might also need one of those to hire a vehicle. You will need to carry your UK driving licence as well.

Spain, Malta and Cyprus require a different type of IDP – the one governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic – which lasts 12 months. All other EU countries, as well as Norway and Switzerland, recognise the 1968 convention IDP, which is valid for three years.

For those British nationals living in the EU, it’s a bit more complex.

They’ve been urged to swap their licence for a local one as soon as possible in case there’s no deal. If they don’t do that, they might have to pass a new test in the country where they’re living if there’s no deal.

Is anything changing with duty-free?

Duty-free shopping within the EU came to an end in 1999.

There will be no immediate return of duty-free sales if the UK leaves with a deal because, under the arrangement, customs rules will continue to apply during the planned 21-month transition period.

After that period, duty-free sales could return as part of a future trade deal with the EU.

Duty-free sales could also make a comeback if there is not a deal.

What about my pets?

Any pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU if there’s no deal.

If you want your pet to come with you, whether in a deal or no-deal scenario, you will have to contact your vet at least four months before you plan to travel, so you can get the latest advice.

In short, the rules will change if the UK leaves with no deal. You would have to get your cat, dog or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel – it would then need a blood sample to be taken at least 30 days after having the vaccination.

This test is basically to make sure the vaccine has worked. You’d then have to wait another three months before you could travel.
BBC

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DESTINATIONS

10 Things To Do In Lodz

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Lodz Poland

Lodz knows the transformative power of a lick of paint and a little imagination. A textile manufacturing hub in the 19th century, the Polish city fell into a period of post-WW2 decline known as “Grey Lodz”.

But rather than shuffling off in a moth-eaten shawl, it has spent the past decade dusting itself off and filling in the cracks. Buildings once dressed drably in flaky paint and crumbling plaster are now adorned with bold murals. Mills and factories have been reinvented as lively neighborhoods with apartments, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.

So its nickname, “Polish Manchester”, makes perfect sense – unlike its actual name. Pronounced “woodge”, Lodz translates as “boat” (something of a misnomer for a landlocked, urban sprawl in the center of Poland). Once you’ve wrapped your brain – and your tongue – around that, here’s what to do in this charming city.

Walk Poland’s longest street

At 4.2km, Piotrkowska is the longest commercial street in the country – and probably the most eclectic. From its northern tip at Plac Wolnosci (Liberty Square) to the junction with Pilsudskiego, you’ll find a hotchpotch of architectural styles from the neo-baroque House of Schiebler to Wilhelm Landau’s Bank House, adding some art nouveau into the mix.

Then there’s “Holly-Lodz”, the city’s take on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (it makes more sense if you remember how to correctly pronounce Lodz). Pavement stars honour Roman Polanski, a graduate of the city’s film school, and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.

Off Piotrkowska is so-named because it’s, well, off Piotrkowska Street – and because it represents the independent and offbeat side of the city. The grounds of an old cotton mill factory have been taken over by barbershops, artisanal ice-cream, irresistible boutiques, food trucks, restaurants and cafes. Mitmi Restobar is a cool spot for lunch, dinner or a prosecco cocktail with lychee and grapefruit liqueur, and has tables spilling out onto the square.

Stroll around street art

Edgy and eye-catching murals are plastered around Lodz, a reminder of its determined reinvention. The city-approved Urban Forms Foundation launched in 2009 with the mission of brightening up the post-industrial landscape. And it certainly worked.

Around 40 creations by local and global street artists have transformed beige buildings into canvases and car parks into galleries. Look out for the weasels on Ogrodowa Street and blue flying elephant on Uniwersytecka Street.

The largest of the lot, featuring Lodz landmarks and a wooden sailboat, is on the corner of Piotrkowska and Pilsudskiego.

Dine on dumplings

Traditional Polish food is hearty, rich and satisfying, cut through with tangy pickles and brightened with ingredients like beetroot and spring onion. In other words, it’s delicious. And, in Lodz at least, it’s also a great value.

Try Delight for dishes like smoked goose breast, herrings, pork knuckle braised in beer, and pierogi – dumplings filled with wild mushrooms or spiced ground pork. Koperek Bistro is where locals go when they can’t be bothered to cook, with a daily changing menu of dishes like borscht and breaded pork chop.

Peek inside a palace

The 19th century Izrael Poznanski Palace is next to the Manufaktura complex, where the textile magnate built his factory (and fortune). Now, the former home of Lodz’s second-richest citizen is a lavish example of the city’s eclectic architecture.

When you’re that moneyed, why settle for one style? The vast, vaulted-ceilinged rooms house the Museum of the City of Lodz with exhibits on famous residents, including Arthur Rubinstein and resistance fighter Jan Karski.

Even the most niche interests should be satisfied in Lodz. There’s the Museum of the Factory, which tells the story of the city’s textile manufacturing boom.

The Central Museum of Textiles, in the classicist buildings of the White Factory, gets down to the intricate stitches, while the Museum of Cinematography celebrates Polish cinema with original film posters, props, and filming equipment. There’s even a Museum of the Sewer, a restored red-brick subterranean reservoir accessed from Plac Wolnosci.

Visit the Jewish cemetery

One of Europe’s largest Jewish necropolises covers more than 100 acres with around 180,000 graves, including the imposing Poznanski’s Mausoleum.

Many of the more modest plots are tangled with greenery and shaded by trees, lending an eerie beauty. In the “Ghetto Field”, many plots are marked with cement posts and rusty bed frames – gravestones were forbidden for those who died under Nazi occupation.

Park up

Lodz has 40 urban parks, gardens and green squares. Zdrowie (meaning “health”) has gorgeous botanical gardens and stalls selling beer and street food. The prettiest, though, is Zrodliska. Founded in 1840 as a meeting spot for cotton mill workers, the original bandstand remains a focal point on the lawns, while the Palm House has paths winding between 140-year-old trees. The roof is occasionally raised to accommodate them as they grow taller.

Party on Piotrkowska

It’s easy to find the party in Lodz – pretty much all the clubs and bars spill out onto the wide promenade of Piotrkowska Street. Most have outside seating for people-watching (in summer, at least) while ducking down a cobbled alleyway often reveals courtyards with a handful of drinking spots.

Lodz Kaliska is a labyrinthine pub/club with a chilled-out terrace and a terrifying loo with a one-way mirror (don’t worry, they can’t see you pee). Just off the main stretch, Piwoteka pours small-batch local beers from IPAs to sours.

Sleep in a factory

Sprawled across a site the size of 54 football pitches, Manufaktura is huge in scale and ambition. Shops, bars, restaurants and museums occupy the tangerine-brick buildings and grounds of a former textile factory.

Vienna House Andel’s Lodz occupies the weaving mill, and is widely considered the city’s best hotel. The painstaking, thoughtful renovation has resulted in chic, cosy rooms and quirky design details. Look out for tiny faces stencilled on walls around the building. Each represents a figure involved in the building’s history, from original owner Izrael Poznanski to hotel staff.

Travel essentials

Getting to Lodz

Wizz Air (wizzair.com) has several daily departures from Luton and regional airports to Warsaw Chopin, about an hour from Lodz. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies direct to Lodz Wladyslaw Reymont airport six days a week from London Stansted from £17.49 one way.
The Independent

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DESTINATIONS

St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków

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Saint Mary's Basilica Krakow

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also known as The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is a Brick Gothic church adjacent to the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture.

Standing 80 m (262 ft) tall, St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss.

On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers.

The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th-century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.

The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like Saint Michael’s and Saint John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the Polish Cathedral style.

The church is familiar to many English-speaking readers from the 1929 book The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly.

According to chronicler Jan Długosz, Saint Mary’s Basilica in the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż.

The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland.

Between 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later, in 1320.

St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was completely rebuilt during the reign of Casimir III the Great between 1355 and 1365 with substantial contributions from wealthy restaurateur Mikołaj Wierzynek.

The presbytery was elongated and tall windows added.

The main body of the church was completed in 1395–97 with the new vault constructed by master Nicholas Wernher from Prague.

However, the vault over the presbytery collapsed in 1442 due to a possible earthquake, which has never happened before nor since in Kraków.
In the first half of the 15th century, the side chapels were added.

Most of them were the work of master Franciszek Wiechoń. At the same time, the northern tower was raised and designed to serve as the watchtower for the entire city.

In 1478 carpenter Maciej Heringh (or Heringk funded a helmet for the tower.

A gilded crown was placed on it in 1666, which is still present today.

At the end of the 15th century, Saint Mary’s Basilica Krakow was enriched with a sculptural masterpiece, an Altarpiece of Veit Stoss (Ołtarz Mariacki Wita Stwosza) of late Gothic design.

In 1536/37, King Sigismund I. declared that the sermons in the church should be changed from German to Polish.

The large German community of Kraków was relocating their place of worship to the smaller Saint Barbara’s church.

In the 18th century, by the decision of vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki, the interior was rebuilt in the late Baroque style.

The author of this work was Francesco Placidi. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture, benches and paintings were replaced and the walls were decorated with polychrome, the work of Andrzej Radwański.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the city decided that a cemetery near the Basilica was to be shut down and replaced by a public square. Today, it is known as Plac Mariacki (Marian Square).

In the years 1887–1891, under the direction of Tadeusz Stryjeński, the neo-Gothic design was introduced into the Basilica.

The temple gained a new design and murals painted and funded by Jan Matejko, who worked with Stanislaw Wyspianski and Józef Mehoffer – the authors of stained glass in the presbytery.

On 18 April 2010 in St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków a funeral ceremony for Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria was held. The coffins were later transported and buried in one of the crypts of Wawel Cathedral.

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