Debniki: Krakow’s little secret

Krakow is pretty but Krakow can get packed. To the brim. The overfill of the Rynek Glowny can in itself produce hypertension, rise in stress levels and the occasional douse of claustrophobia. And that’s even before you get crushed by the galloping horse and buggy lady in her stylish getup with her fancy stallions. There is an alternative to this general stomping crush. The answer lies just on the other side of the river. Debniki, the old suburb of Krakow, has loads to offer with zero queues to stand in your way.Just a hop and a skip away, Debniki lies across from the Wawel castle on the other side of the Vistula. Once a village, it existed to service the king and the city with its leather tanning services and agricultural goods. By the 16th Century its quarry and brick production produced the building materials needed to spruce up the growing demand of the town and the ever increasing size of the castle. The place was also a bustling fishing village. The local fishermen would sell their catch on the other side of the river. Small boats and fishing vessels were also made in Debniki providing much of the river transport in the Middle Ages. With the turn of the 18th Century the village slowly transformed itself into a town. The grandeur of the buildings still exist to this day. You can stroll past the vicars’ manor on ul. Tyniecka 7, or the neo-Gothic palace on ul. Tyniecka 20, which once belonged to Lasocki, the owner proprietor of Debniki in the 1800s. The villa’s architectural point of interest is its four angled tower. After being turned into a municipal administrative center in the early 1900s, then to a juvenile institution, then an apartment block, the palace is today in the hands of a private owner once again. You can still stroll into the gardens of the Palace Lasocki, just on the banks of the river. There are plenty of bike tracks that will lead you to it, starting at the Grunwaldzki Bridge. By the 20th Century Debniki started to attract professionals such as clerks and the militia. Apartment blocks with gardens were built to accommodate what we would now call the urban sprawl. You can see these early 1900s units on ul. Praska 25 with its Cultural House still amidst the residential blocks. By 1910 Debniki officially became a ?villa’ suburb of Krakow, with the ceramic and metal industry taking off. This transformation gave the area its own official square. The buildings around the square were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Debniki are also linked to Pope John II. He lived there at ul. Tyniecka 10 after he finished primary school. He lived in the apartment block with his dad when he was a student and also when he carried out manual labor at the limestone quarry. If Hitler had his way, Debniki would look somewhat different to what they look like today. Hans Frank, who occupied Wawel during World War II and had grand plans to turn Debniki, with the help of the architect Huber Ritter, into a massive administrative center for the German Nazis, complete with a casino, bars, sporting facilities, recreational amenities and a square for the purpose of ceremonies and public speeches. The plan never came to fruition with the onset of the Soviet invasion from the east and counterattack. Debniki may not have the bustling pub and souvenir existence of its big sister across the river, but it is a place with an exciting history and much to see. Grabbing yourself a bike, a map and a bottle of chilled water will prove to be an excellent day spent. If you don’t hurry the investors will get there first and transform this little gem quick smart.

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