The global pandemic has already changed the world we live in. Some of the changes are temporary, and some are here to stay. While many of those changes have already come to haunt us with a sense of deprivation, uncertainty and fragility, some have actually brought people closer, within communities, families and circles of friends. Many believe the covid-19 pandemic has also made us more observant and attentive to qualities and characteristics of our immediate surroundings that we have long forgotten to appreciate.

Over the past few months, global media outlets have posted countless stories speculating about how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced our private lives. At a time when even wedding receptions are seen by many as high-infection-risk territory (as opposed to a long-awaited time of joy and celebration), it is perhaps a good moment to take a look at how cultural heritage and our romantic inclinations are related, whether we talk about a city like Kraków, believed by many to be the most romantic city in Poland, or just about any other beautiful destination around the world.

Kopiec Krakusa, overlooking the Old Town area

Love and culture, culture and love

If you happen to live in an old city, one where beautiful architecture and photogenic urban landscapes are literally difficult to avoid, you will know that in every such city there are places that are frequented by couples of all ages, on a daily basis, and have long been the residents’ favourite spots for picnics, get-togethers and short weekend outings, not to mention hordes of aspiring photographers. While some of these places are profiled in tourist guidebooks, many are less obvious, waiting to be discovered by those adventurous or curious enough to look for the new within the confines of the well-known.

In Kraków, the list includes great many parks, hilly patches of forest near the city’s ZOO, river banks along the Old Town area as well as Krakow’s four historical mounds, to mention only a few attractions. Speaking of mounds, in Polish, the word is kopiec, followed by a proper name like Kopiec Kościuszki, Krakusa/Kraka, Wandy and Piłsudskiego.

There is even a popular city run spanning three of them, so if you happen to be a running enthusiast and don’t mind a little up-and-down-the-hill variation, at a total distance of 13 kilometres, you will not regret signing up for this one. In the past few years, Nowa Huta has become increasingly popular among tourists, theatre, architecture and history enthusiasts.

Mounds of love

If you go to any of the mounds mentioned, chances are you will bump into at least one couple of newly-weds on their golden-hour photo session, no matter whether it’s a chilly winter afternoon or a sunny autumn morning. If the weather is really encouraging, multiple white wedding dresses is what you should be prepared for, almost on a par with the number of trees around you 😉 Over the last two days alone, I came across three different couples in less than an hour, when visiting just one of those mounds.

Kraków’s Historical Old Town Area (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Fly high with me

On and off, for almost a decade now, Kraków has experimented with an idea of having a tethered balloon in the Old Town area, allowing visitors to admire the city’s historical contours and diverse architecture from the height of over 150 metres above ground, or, if you are lucky, as high as 270 metres. This tourist attraction (controversial as it is in the eyes of some of the more conservative guardians of city aesthetics) has already earned itself a reputation as a ‘pop the question’ venue of choice.

To find out if it’s really the case, I couldn’t resist calling the balloon operator to confirm if diamond rings popping out of pockets at high altitudes comes as an exception or has already become a rule. Believe it or not, but it turns out that as many as two engagements a month take place on board! Given the queues waiting for their opportunity to admire the city, the sunset or the night lights from high above, I wonder if ‘two’ is a statistically impressive figure. I guess it is, but remains only a fraction of how many times one heart in love with another chooses the very heart of the city (Kraków’s Main Market Square) to pop the question.

The architecture of affection

Across cultures, asking another person whether they would willingly agree to spend the rest of their days together (in an ideal scenario, that is), has always been associated with looking for the right place and the right moment. For this reason alone, I should perhaps feel a little less surprised every time I see this happen. And I do see it happen quite a lot. After all, there is something truly special about this ancient city of Kraków, once the capital of Poland and the seat of kings, and today, a global tourist destination with dozens of international festivals, fantastic cuisine offered by hundreds of restaurants, and weeks of cultural heritage to explore, appreciate and enjoy, all within walking distance.