Heritage and Atmosphere

3 July 2020

An interview with Julien Hallier, French businessman living in Kraków and champion of Polish-French cooperation.

Karnet: Would you say you are a “tourist in your own city” in Kraków?
Julien Hallier: I’m French and I have been living and working in Kraków for 17 years, and although I’ve got to know the city really well, I am still discovering new, fascinating places. I really enjoy it and I take great delight in sharing my latest finds on social media with friends from Poland and abroad. So yes, I can definitely say that as a tourist in my own city I am something of an ambassador of Kraków.

What made you decide to make Kraków your home?
It all started in 2003 when I came to Kraków as part of the Erasmus programme to study at the University of Technology. I met my future wife Katarzyna. In the beginning I knew very little about Poland and I didn’t speak the language. This soon changed since I was really keen to learn about Polish culture and customs, and I started working in the local tourist industry. I now run my own businesses in tourism and other areas, always looking for ways to extend Polish-French collaboration.

Brittany is well known for being a unique region in France, not just because of its language. Do you see any similarities between your home region and Poland?
Brittany is something of a world to itself, deeply rooted in its history and customs. Traditions and folklore are flourishing in Poland and Brittany, attracting visitors wishing to experience the atmosphere for themselves. Personally I love the Polish traditions and events of Easter and Christmas. 

Going back to the beginning, what really surprised you and enchanted you with Kraków?
I first arrived in 2003 on a coach from Paris. I was taken aback by the coach station in Kraków, which seemed incredibly chaotic. I was also surprised by the cold and short winter days – I still find them difficult now – and the heavy Polish cuisine. But I was instantly captivated by Kraków’s fascinating culture and heritage, and by how friendly and welcoming everyone is.

What are your favourite places in Kraków? Where do you come back to time and again?
The old part of Podgórze – the district where I have lived and worked for over ten years. I feel great by the Vistula Boulevards and the Bednarski Park, and I love spending my free time here. I’m delighted to have seen the dynamic development of this historic district, especially after the opening of the new Father Bernatek footbridge. Today, the Old Podgórze is a bustling, popular district. Planty Garden Ring is my favourite place for an early morning run, and of course it’s always a pleasure to walk around the Old Town.

You have been bringing French tourists to Kraków and to Poland for many years. What are they most interested in? How do you surprise them?
Tourists are always positively surprised by Kraków, because it tends to far exceed their expectations. The rich heritage, diverse culture, delicious food, top quality tourist services and unique atmosphere mean that visitors instantly fall in love with the city and want to come back. I like helping people experience local customs and traditions, such as participating in workshops in painting Easter eggs, making pierogi, baking bagels or weaving garlands. After visiting a local vineyard, a delighted French journalist published an article asking whether Poland will soon be better known for its wines than its vodkas!

You love good food – did it take you a long time to get used to Polish cuisine? What do you usually recommend to your compatriots?
Polish cuisine has really changed in recent years – it’s far more modern while still relying heavily on seasonal, local produce. I really like this kind of food, and I always try to promote it to my clients when they visit Kraków. French people are always pleasantly surprised by Polish cuisine, and they enjoy trying Polish dishes in their traditional and more modern versions. I’m delighted that Bottiglieria 1881 was the first Cracovian restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star – it’s a real honour. Congratulations to the head chef Przemysław Klima!

“Destination Pologne” sounds like an imperative... Why do you think foreign tourists should visit Poland?
The name Destination Pologne reflects our company’s mission to promote Kraków and Poland to French-language markets as an attractive destination for holding special business events, discovering Poland’s rich cultural, religious and natural heritage, taking part in acclaimed music festival and visiting wellness centres and spas. My work brings me a lot of satisfaction – the hospitality of the locals, the delicious food and thriving traditions and folklore are a real magnet attracting foreign tourists to Poland.

The campaign “Become a Visitor in Your Own City” aims to encourage Cracovians to see their city anew. What do locals miss in Kraków in their daily lives?
Kraków is simply a beautiful city, and that’s easy to miss in the daily hustle and bustle. Let’s look up to notice the beautiful architectural details; let’s open gates and look around courtyards hiding fascinating surprises and stories. Let’s appreciate how lucky we are to live here!

Interviewed by Grzegorz Słącz


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