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Sukiennice (Cloth Hall, Drapers’ Hall) in Cracow, Poland

February 22nd, 2008 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Sukiennice (Cloth Hall, Drapers' Hall) in Kraków, Poland, one of the city's most recognizable icons, was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, it was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Kraków, Poland's royal capital, was among the most magnificent cities in Europe. However, its prosperity would not last indefinitely. The city's decline was hastened by wars and political ineptitude. By the time that restoration was proposed for Sukiennice in 1870, much of the historic city center was decrepit. Nevertheless, a change in political fortunes for the Galicians ushered in a renaissance of sorts, and the successful renovation of the Cloth Hall was one of the proudest achievements of this period.

The Hall has hosted countless distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries. Britain's Prince Charles and Emperor Akihito of Japan were welcomed here in 2002. In times gone by, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had liberated the city from the Austrian Empire in 1809. Aside from its grand history and great cultural value, the hall still flourishes as a bustling center of commerce, albeit offering items for sale that are radically different from those of previous centuries — mainly souvenirs for tourists.

Other, similar cloth halls have existed in other Polish as well as other European cities such as Ypres, Belgium; Braunschweig, Germany; and in Leeds, England (four successive halls: 1st White Cloth Hall, 2nd White Cloth Hall, 3rd White Cloth Hall and 4th White Cloth Hall); but the one in Kraków is the best-known and best-preserved.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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