This was where angels feared to tread. But changes have been meteoric. If Praga was once a byword for abandonment and decay, today it has become a calling card for the very concept of urban regeneration.
Inside a bar thick with smoke, babble, and antique booby traps, I lost myself in the cacophonous atmosphere, gazing helplessly at a barmaid in a tight tiger print top. I’d fallen in love: with her, with Kazimierz, with Kraków and with Poland.
Attracting a specific clientele defined not by their wealth or success, but rather their attitude to life, it is a place of openness, creativity and boundless good times.
Finding Wrocław listed on TripAdvisor as an Emerging Destinations, Webber says the inclusion of one of his favourite city’s in Poland is ludicrous. “Under-the-radar? Only if you’ve spent the last two decades in a Kentucky jail,” he scoffs.
True, the Kardashians would struggle to adapt, but says TFN’s Alex Webber, this “village within a village” is exactly the place to go to enjoy the wilds of Poland in their rawest form.
The energy that initially seduced me is still there, and if anything has grown all the stronger. Manifesting itself in a raft of top eateries and alternative hangouts, these have been ably complimented by a slew of modern attractions that range from the compelling Emigration Museum to a funicular cable car with vertiginous views of all that’s around.
From a personal point of view, it’s sheer depth of contrast comes somewhere near the top: lavish wedding cake palaces that reference the might once wielded by the city’s power players; futuristic office compounds; blackened, broken tenements; abandoned, creepy warehouses; restored redbrick factories; and PRL blocks of cosmic dimension.
From polar bear trails to revamped castles, Webber presents his top travel finds of 2020.
Lying less than 15 kilometres north of Kraków, the 14th century castle was built as part of the Eagles’ Nest trail: a string of ancient fortifications constructed to defend the region and its trade routes. Here, you know you’re in a castle and that’s a feeling that is a bonus in itself.
Following a gentle curve, and opening out at the mouth of Wawel Castle, is ul. Kanonicza 22. A guestbook exposes some of the past guests that have slept here: Jim Carrey; Depeche Mode; Hans Zimmer. Not bad company that I keep, I think to myself, as my gaze falls on a signed snap of Benedict Cumberbatch.