The Planty

July 27th, 2007

krakow planty_1

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Krakow’s most popular park surrounds its Old Town like the remnants of an ancient moat. A big green ring. Actually, The Planty stands over what were once the city’s walls and moat that protected it from invasion. Unusual? Oh, yes—modern developers weren’t around to build hi-rise condos. Nevertheless, genius was afoot from a simple plan.

Krakow’s Medieval city walls were largely destroyed after 1807. The area left behind formed a narrow belt that lay unused and undeveloped. Finally, after ten years, the government decided that the best and cheapest way to use the land was to make it into a park. The area was filled in, trees planted, walking lanes laid down, and today The Planty gives this thriving, busy city more than 52 acres of green space at the center of its most visited tourist spots. Krakow planty_4I like to think of The Planty as the Old Town’s arteries, from which people draw that flow of life’s blood to give them a wider sense of feeling that all city dwellers need. It’s the hustle of city life that makes a park so welcome, especially to travelers.

Long, straight lanes stretch beneath tall trees—many the original 1820′s plantings—and lead to sunny corners and curves where colorful flowers bloom from late spring on into autumn. The trees are tall enough to give an open feeling to the Planty. There is plenty of shade to find on hot days, yet the light canopy allows dappled sunshine to fall onto the benches as a breeze moves through the park. The space is well planned and used to suit the things people come to a park to enjoy: wide sections have kids’ playgrounds, areas for teens to skateboard, gazeboes, and sculptured flower arrangements; benches line narrow lanes that are off limits to rowdy play usual wide-open park recreation.

Krakow planty_9It will take you about two hours to walk around The Planty. There is such a variety of things to see on a tour that taking the time away from the crowded Old Town Square is as much an attraction as it is a rest for the eyes from your church prowls, museum hopping, or square walks. At any point along the ring you’ll find a bench to sit down, relax, and absorb nature. A pond and small water ring near the southwest arc has a bridge over which you can walk onto an island, where yet another flower garden excites the senses; at the northeast curve (near the train station) is a great place to people watch; at nearly every street crossover you’ll find a fresh-fruit vendor; statues set amid flower displays track the eye; and since the city surrounds the Planty as itself surrounds Old Town, your sightlines catch unique angles of church spires, castle walls, Baroque buildings, bell towers, and stone gateways.

(read more about The Planty’s highlights here

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