Once I showed photos of various Polish towns and cities to my friends in Wales. They liked Kazimierz Dolny best. The town used to be known as Wietrzna Góra (a windy mountain), a small settlement on a bank of the river Wisła (Vistula) surrounded by hills. Its origins date back to the early middle ages (c. 12th century). Over the years it had grown to such an extent that in the 14th century Kazimierz was granted a municipal charter.
Why the name ‘Kazimierz’? In the past Polish lords used to grant various goods to religious orders. And it so happened that Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy (Casimir II the Just, High Duke of Poland) granted Wietrzna Góra, together with the adjacent villages, to the Norbertine Sisters from Zwierzyniec near Kraków. The nuns, grateful for the benevolence, changed the name of the place to Kazimierz in honor of the prince.
The town is still not huge in size, yet attracts large numbers of tourists from Poland and abroad. Where does Kazimierz’ charm lie?
In its atmosphere?
In the tranquillity and certainty that the river provides?
In the hills?
In the ruins of the castle?
In the historic churches?
Kazimierz became a very important spot from the end of the 13th century onwards, as here the trade route between Ruthenia and Silesia and Pomerania ran. The watchtower (tower), overlooking the river, dates back to that period:
To be in Kazimierz and not to climb up the Góra Trzech Krzyży (the Mount of Three Crosses) is like to be in Vatican City and not to see the Pope 🙂 Wooden crosses (three like on the Golgotha) have been standing here since 1708, when several hundreds of the town’s residents died from the plague:
Kazimierz Dolny is also a cultural centre and a mecca for lovers of art and film (every year Film and Art Festival Two Riverbanks is organised here – 10th edition starts Sat 30th July 2016!).