The city to which a Varsovian on his way to take the waters used to refer with contempt: ‘Cracow? What is Cracow? Only the Cloth Hall and Hawełka restaurant, started to disturb and intrigue the whole Poland. Pawlikowski and his theater became a legend. Paon cafe and its carousals became a legend, too […].
Then, the legend of an eerie, astral apparition spread throughout Poland – the apparition of Wyspiański. The legend of the city of painters, the city of stained glass, the city of poetry, the city of graves, the city of life, the city of art - the city of Cracow.
In comparison to these spiritual changes, physically Cracow has changed very slightly. Of course, the city grew a little, however slowly and bashfully. I have mentioned before how the special features of Cracow curbed its economic development, industry, commerce… Cracow was predominated by the element of clerks; yet, at this point there is a paradoxical symptom to be observed as well. A distinctive feature of every capital city is its ability to attract the most enterprising, ambitious and talented individuals. Well in Cracow, which is a capital city in its own way, it was exactly the other way around. Every year, there was a search for the most talented forces that were taken to Viennese ministries. The only people who stayed were lightweights or those who, engulfed by the artistic and bohemian allure of Cracow, were less concerned with their careers. Hence, along with the ensembles of artists, there were clerks with aesthetic taste, great lovers of art, reading, debating, and curious about everything.
I’ll give you one example of the supremacy of art in Cracow. There was a young distillery clerk (a very decent government job) who was also an amateur musician. He fell in love and proposed to a young lady. She accepted his proposal on the condition that he would change his profession and become ‘a real artist’. He resigned from his post and commenced a strenuous education. They got married and moved to Paris. They suffered through poverty; today he is one of our most recognized musicians. In keeping with matrimonial tradition, the opposite scenario would be considered normal. But that was Cracow at that the time.