I preferred Warsaw to Krakow. To some people this automatically disqualifies me from writing about places today
. "You're going to Poland," said an architecturally knowledgeable friend, "I've always wanted to visit and photograph Krakow." A Polish university student from Lublin said to us on a bus, "I don't like Warsaw; it's too cosmopolitan."
Here's the case they would make against my preference
: Krakow is beautiful, a living testimony to a long and significant past, the symbol of its nation, a city not overly scarred by war or recent development, a place with a strong identity self-consciously affirmed by its citizens and agreed on by the nation as a whole, and crowned by UNESCO as a world treasure of tradition.
On the other hand, Warsaw was mostly destroyed by the Nazis, then loaded with Stalinist kitsch, and is now sprouting Euro-pomo skyscrapers.
Krakow has an Old Town that is real; Warsaw has an Old Town reconstructed from the ruins according to old images.
That reconstruction was then a heroic assertion of national memory and Polish will to survive, but now it has become a theme park full of tourists
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