Where to live in Krakow?

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Where to live in Krakow? If you are planning to come and live here for a relatively long time you may be puzzled. However, help is at hand, as I have lived in several different locations in the city. First and foremost, I should warn you that a foreigner here is an object of disdainful fascination. Your every move will be closely observed by people suffering from a national inferiority complex. Closest to a Poles heart is the desire to prove his superiority and the best way to do this is generally to be very rude… to you. Groups of beer drinking young men have often gathered outside my home during the evenings, living proof that ignorance is bliss.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that most people here will ever be friendly – they’re not. Don’t expect people to help you – they won’t. I recently saw an American in Krakow wearing a ‘White Power’ slogan on his T-shirt, but how wrong he was. Any foreigner here is a third class citizen and whether black, or blond and blue eyed, you will receive the same unpleasant treatment. 
On this basis I would therefore advise accommodation with security parking and a secure entrance. To leave a western European or American car parked unattended on the street is to invite theft and vandalism. The police, as I know from personal experience, are at best uninterested and powerless to act. Most foreigners here wisely choose to live close to the centre, more expensive, but more cosmopolitan. The other extreme would be infamous Nowa Huta, to the east, where brave men fear to tread, but I have to say that it’s more pleasant and safer there than in the poorer districts of most British cities. However, nearby Pradnik Czerwony is not so idyllic and is best seen through your rear view mirror. Bielany, in the west of Krakow, is now arguably the most sought after district. It is close to the airport at Balice and also adjacent to the large park and forests surrounding the zoo. Also in the west, Wola Justowska, on the opposite side of the Las Wolski forest, was previously the most desirable location in Krakow. It is a very quiet and scenic area, within walking distance of the city centre. To the south Krakow extends into large areas of blocks such as Kurdwanow. After these concrete jungles come more rural suburbs of detached houses, such as Soboniowice, which gradually merge into farmland and villages. The northern suburbs of Krakow include Pradnik Bialy, Azory, Bronowice and Krowodrza. Once again prepare yourself for miles of identical housing blocks.
The quietest areas of central Krakow are as follows. To the north-east of Rondo Mogilskie there is a small suburb surrounding the larger road called Jozefa Brodowicza. This is a peaceful but very central location. Similarly, the area of houses directly opposite Wawel Castle, Debniki, on the far side of the river Wisla, is comparatively tranquil. Cichy Kacik near Jordan Park is also a fairly relaxed location. 
What type of accommodation do people here have? Generally a relatively small (fifty to seventy square metre) flat in a block. The atmosphere of the blocks varies enormously from light and airy to dark, dismal and occasionally dangerous. Terraced houses are rare. Semi-detached housing is available, although detached houses are much more common. In Krakow every man’s house is his fortress and people often have little idea who there neighbours are. As for the next street, it might as well be in China. On the outskirts of Krakow are many villas, home to the nouveau riche of Poland’s developing social classes.  
Foreigners have been able to buy property in Poland for two years now without applying for permission from the Government. To buy land in Poland written permission must be obtained. If you are thinking of working here and taking credit from a Polish bank to buy property, good luck. Most Polish banks require foreign borrowers to have full Polish citizenship and an income far above the national average. The system of international equality that should be introduced by membership of the European Community is somehow missing. As Polish skinheads say, “Europe for Poles!”
Peter Fairless
Peter Fairless is a foreigner in proud Poland.
Peter can be reached at fairless_peter@yahoo.com

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