After having studied abroad in Kraków for a few months now (which is crazy to think about) I have come to really appreciate the history and traditions of this city. One of my favorite things about this city is that it is largely a student town where students can make up approximately 20% of the population of the city. There are always so many things happening for students or led by students, but one of the biggest events that happens in Krakow is Juwenalia, which is usually celebrated for a week in May and apparently goes back to 1964 when students first organized different competitions and events as well as a parade through the streets. There are actually different Juwenalia celebrations depending on the university, though there are a few events, such as the parade, that every university takes part in together.(http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/krakow/Juwenalia_72156f)(http://www.krakow-poland.com/krakow-tourist-information/students-in-krakow)
There were many different events for the Juwenalia for Jagiellonian University that I didn’t attend, but I went with a group of friends to a big concert on Thursday to kick off our Juwenalia experience. I didn’t know any of the bands and I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but it was so cool! The concert was set up on a huge field with a second screen because the concert grounds were so large. All of the bands were a lot of fun, but I think my favorite was Enej- they had such a fun energy that had everyone up and dancing and trying to sing along, even though we didn’t know the words!
The next day was a big day for Juwenalia week—it was the day of the big parade! Early in the morning, university students all met together to march around the whole city together. The group of exchange students had the theme of “cowboys and Indians” so we just threw on some plaid shirts and called it a day, but when we arrived to the meeting point we were all shocked. It turns out that this parade is bigger than Halloween back in the US—everyone was dressed up in crazier costumes than I had ever seen! People were so silly and so creative—there were people dressed up as Sims, there was someone dressed up as a milk carton, and others even built huge cardboard spaceships that someone could ride in! The theme for Jagiellonian University was Star Wars so I saw a very real looking Darth Vader and a few storm troopers as well. People must have been working on these costumes for weeks because they were all so extraordinary, and I was so impressed!
We joined the huge mass of students and paraded around the city until we eventually ended up at the main square where there was a big concert area set up. Everyone formed a big group and just started dancing around to the music, which partially turned into a big water fight in the heat of the day. The big moment came where the mayor of the city then symbolically handed the keys of the city over to the students and Juwenalia officially began!
We went to another concert later in the weekend, and it was the final concert for the Jagiellonian Juwenalia celebrations. I didn’t know that one of the most popular Polish bands would be playing, and the concert was absolutely packed! HappySad was jumping around the stage for more than two hours and the crowd was loving it the whole time! I haven’t heard of them before, but they are all over the Polish radio stations and I think I will have to listen to them again in the future.
Overall, Juwenalia was surprising in all of the best sorts of ways, and I am so glad that I have had the chance to participate in such an amazing and unforgettable student tradition!