New York Times: Europe’s next Bohemenian capital is here


 
What attracts crowds of young tourists to Krakow is obvious: the exotic atmosphere, cheap beer, great fun and good-looking girls, who in 90 percent of cases understand English. There is no need for a better advertisement.
But such a reputation may be more of a plague than a blessing.
For the last several years, Krakow has been fighting an uphill battle to do away with its image as ?Europe?s favorite watering hole.? But earlier this month, the city received an unexpected helping hand from the New York Times magazine, which referred to Krakow as ?Eastern Europe?s newest bohemian capital? and ?first choice for the young.?
Where does this unexpected enthusiasm in the young American journalist from the New York Times Denny Lee arise? Lee writes about Krakow as ?a city exploding with creative energy,? and the enthusiastic overtone of the article seems very much based on the fact that Krakow is a major tourist attraction due to its historic architecture, ?long-legged girls,? ?cheap beer,? and ?tons of artists and street performers.?
Lee cannot stop marveling at how Krakow is crowded with an array of artistic communes made up of so-called ?new Krakowians,? and shows a great deal of appreciation for the city?s unique atmosphere, which is ?surprisingly un-touristy? and not yet infected with commercialism. The taste of Tatra beer drunk in the open-air, partying until the wee hours at Kitsch, Lokator or Alchemia — according to the journalist this is what constitutes a true Mecca for ?cultural colonizers? craving freedom and originality.
Fortunately, the author does not oversimplify the image of the city as a mere cradle of bohemian lifestyle, but also pays attention to its multicultural past. Lee describes Krakow as a place where centuries-old churches built in the Middle Ages neighbor Jewish synagogues, the history of Nazi occupation blends with Soviet moral decay, and the traces of the Pope John Paul II are omnipresent.
The Krakow authorities concentrate too strongly on promoting the city?s commercial aspects and, by doing so, neglect other elements which, according to the young American, create the attractiveness and uniqueness of the place. Krakow somehow seems appealing in an unorganized way, full of historic dissonances and so far succeeding in its struggle against anti-commercialism.
The city?s effective PR may prove essential here, as Krakow fights with all its might to avoid the fate that befell Prague, which due to its gradual commercialization, has lost much of its charm. Maybe it would be useful to start a widespread discussion on what type of promotion Krakow should start? Maybe the Krakow Municipality should try to hear what visitors to the city have to say about the subject instead of only listening to the opnions of city officials?
An efficient promotional campaign and well-thought-out strategy for building an adequate image of the city may be useful in Krakow?s struggle against the stereotype of being Europe?s cheapest party town. It is easy to see why Krakow could not have asked for a better advertisement than the article published in the May 27th issue of the New York Times (with a circulation of 1.7 mln copies). The only remaining question is how many people actually read this text. Whichever variant, either optimistic or pessimistic, one takes into consideration, there is no doubt that the enthusiastic article serves Krakow as an excellent and free promotion for the city in U.S. media.
It is well worth remembering that Krakow will always have a large potential for attracting visitors thanks to its ?chic and funky women with impossibly high cheek bones (?) and bell-bottom jeans,? as well as such idyllic urban scenes as the one described by Lee: ?On a Sunday afternoon, there were sharply dressed mothers sipping tea, elderly couples looking at an outdoor photography exhibit, and clusters of students — the nation?s top colleges, including Jagiellonian University, are in Krakow — pecking on their laptops under the 230-foot-tall and Wi-Fi-equipped Town Hall Tower.?

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