Walentynki Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in Culture

Valentine’s Day is a relatively modern concept in Poland and, like Halloween, seems to have come from the west over the past 20 years. For Poles the traditional ‘Lovers’ Day’ as it were would be Kupała or St. John’s Night – celebrated on the night of June 21st. Marking the beginning of summer the tradition sees young women making wreathes (wianki) of flowers which are then cast off into the river. According to tradition if your wreath joins up with another you will have found a friend for life, while if a young man snatches yours from the water you will have found a partner for life.

Valentine’s Day, however, is now established and you will see many places promoting special Valentine’s Day packages and offers. While we’ll leave that to you to figure out, here are some other ideas if you are here over the Valentine’s weekend and want to romance your significant other.

First of all you could find yourself in very few cities more suitable for a romantic weekend. The Old Town forms a wonderful backdrop for a romantic tryst and a stroll around it’s cobbled streets certainly helps set the mood. You might also be interested in following a new tradition that has sprung up in Kraków at the city’s ‘Love Bridge’. The Father Bernatek footbridge which links the Kazimierz and Podgórze districts has been adopted by young lovers and follows a trend seen in a number of other cities around the world.

The first thing you’ll notice about the bridge is that it is covered in padlocks, many engraved with the names of lovers. The legend behind this particular tradition is remarkably modern. In 1992 Italian author and filmmaker Federico Moccia published a love story entitled “Tre metri sopra il cielo”. The book told the story of two young Italian lovers. The hero convinces his girl that it is traditional to seal their everlasting love by attaching a padlock to the third lamppost from the north side of Rome’s Ponte Milvio. Having closed the padlock the key was then thrown into the Tiber flowing below signifying the bonding of the pair forever. While the book later went onto become a film, the story prompted a series of ‘Love Bridges’ to spring up all over the world. In Kraków young couples have taken to engraving padlocks with their names before fastening them to the bridge and together throwing the key into the Wisła. As you can see many couples have already done this and the water below the bridge must be swimming with small padlock keys (mu husband, myself and our daughter just did it on our recent trip to Poland  – it was a similar bridge with locks, but in Wrocław).

After having secured your padlock take a stroll through the Old Town, and the particularly atmospheric Pl. Mariacki and Planty park ringing the Old Town. This is a particularly magical place at this time of year, even more so if covered in freshly fallen snow. Having set the mood and no doubt worked up an appetite, why not head for a romantic meal at one of the old town restaurants offering special Valentine’s Day deals. While you would struggle to go wrong at many, take a look at three of our favourite places on or near the square – Resto Iluminati, Marmolada or Aqua e vino. And then having wined and dined your partner finish the evening in one of our favourite places for a romantic nightcap – The Piano Rouge on the market square. The perfect end to a romantic evening.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.