The awful truth

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Street in Krakow

Street in Kasimierz, Krakow

The awful truth is that after four or five days in Krakow I began to understand why Le Corbusier wanted to rip the heart out of Paris. I felt oppressed by the relentless sameness of scale and the limited palette of styles; I felt hemmed in by the dense fabric of the city; I craved the new. Krakow is beautiful and historic, but it also looks old, a bit shabby outside the main square, and its industrial-strength air pollution gives you a quite literal taste of what the modernists hated about late nineteenth century atmospheres.

Of course, the air will someday be better, and the buildings are being gradually cleaned and repaired. But when they have done all that, won't Krakow then look like Warsaw's Old Town, which people complain has become a theme park?

I hope that adaptive reuse will bring development in Krakow that keeps the city fabric intact -- there's a new hotel and mall going in on the edge of the Old Town, where the present bus station is, and they might be too tall. I want Krakow to keep and improve its own identity, but I prefer the tensions and complexities of Warsaw. Warsaw has a feel more like New York compared to Krakow's Boston. Warsaw has both history and an unfinished quality. Krakow feels more like an art work that you have to preserve in good condition.