Much of The Lullaby of Polish Girls is set in the Polish city of Kielce (pronounced Kyell-tsay). The author, Dagmara Dominczyk, is a native of the city and she paints a beautiful picture of Kielce, not just of its tourist attractions but of small draws favored by locals like the Relaks cafe where "families and tourists flooded the place on weekends, lounging on blankets, renting kayaks, and taking strolls uphill to the Relaks for cold beer and French fries that were served in cone-shaped napkins with tiny plastic forks."
With a population of a little more than 200,000, the city is located to the south of the capital, Warsaw, and is the capital of the Swietokrzyskie voivodship (province). Kielce is known for its scenic vistas, as it is at the foot of the Swietokrzyskie (Shwee-yentok-sheskee) (Holy Cross) mountains, one of the oldest mountain chains in Europe. Surrounded by forests, it lies in the valley of the Bobrza River and its tributary, the Silnica, which winds around the city. In Kielce, the Silnica is crafted into an artificial lagoon, one where Anna and her friends from the novel spend many a summer day. Marked tourist trails traverse the city and are popular with walkers and bicyclists alike.
Once a center for limestone mining, Kielce and its surroundings are known for its geological formations and finds. While the city is now fairly vibrant and particularly welcoming to business and tourist travelers, it does have a dark spot in its past. In July 1946, residents launched a pogrom against Jews after false rumors were spread about a Christian child being abducted in order to satisfy Jewish rituals. Rioters killed at least 42 Jews and wounded approximately 50 more. Until the 80s, talk of the pogrom was taboo in Kielce's public venues and homes. Even today's websites devoted to tourism for the area neglect to mention this fact about the city's history.
On a light note, Kielce is considered the birthplace of Polish hip-hop and has a monument for Miles Davis outside its Cultural Center.
Popular tourist attractions in Kielce include:
The National Museum The Kielce branch of the National Museum (the main branch is located in Warsaw) is housed in what was once the summer residence for the bishops of Krakow. The building itself is considered a masterpiece of architecture from the 17th century. Ancient Polish armaments, as well as Polish decorative art, are on permanent display here.
Kadzielnia Park The city of Kielce is known for its geological diversity, which is best exemplified by Kadzielnia Park located in a limestone quarry. Fossilized coral and cephalopods have been discovered here. A series of 26 spectacular caves carry a wide variety of rock specimens. The park even boasts of an amphitheater carved in the rock face and is popular among locals and tourists alike as a nature spot in the middle of the city.
Sienkiewicz Street The longest street in Kielce, Sienkiewicz street is considered the economic and cultural artery of the city. The street has popular department stores as well as historical monuments. In the novel, Anna Baran and her friends might well have frequented many attractions here. Today these include renovated hotels, a new shopping mall called Euro Center and the Stefan Zaromski theater.
This article was originally published in June 2013, and has been updated for the
February 2014 paperback release.
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