On the 16th of June, Czerwieński Boulevard at the foot of Wawel Hill saw the beginning of the 2018 St John’s Fair. For three days, from Friday to Sunday, all the visitors had the opportunity to go on a journey to the fascinating world of the Renaissance – at least for a brief moment, where they were welcomed with plays, balls, martial arts demonstrations and of course feasts. It was also the first time that a spectacular première took place: a great culinary campaign, carried out by ten restaurants in Krakow, during which one could taste dishes inspired by the cuisine of the time of Queen Bona.

The eighth edition of Krakow’s St John’s Fair started on the 16th of June 2018. The first day of the event was dedicated to Anna Jagiellon, preparing for a ball organised just for her in the gardens of Zwierzyniec by King Henry III of France. The main themes of the day were dance workshops and fashion shows, complemented with scenes from comedies dell’arte. In the evening, King Henry III of France came to the City of Kings on the barge of the Horyzont Zdarzeń Foundation, and he was greeted by the entire royal court on the quay.

On the second day we celebrated the name day of our two kings: Sigismund I the Old and Sigismund II Augustus – who was 9 years old and was still awaiting coronation. Various shows were planned to celebrate this occasion, and the Parade of All Brotherhoods marched – as always – through the Main Market Square, and encouraged the residents of the city and tourists alike to join the fun in the Czerwieński Boulevard.

On Sunday, the 18th of June, King Stefan Bathory came to the Fair on horseback, accompanied by the Hussars. There, he met his wife Anna Jagiellon, and together with all the brotherhoods he celebrated a happy return from the war with Moscow in the distant lands of Livonia.

These were just some of the historical attractions prepared for this year’s Fair. On every day of the event, the visitors could enjoy many attractions, performances, plays, workshops and concerts. Stalls and crafts workshops were also open throughout the three days. Traditionally, there was no shortage of surprises and activities for the youngest attendees, who could see the work of ropemakers, potters, armourers, printers, woodcutters and barbers. Those, who felt the urge competed for the licenses of a fair runner, royal cook and trabant, and everybody could have a taste of the dishes eaten during the times of King Sigismund.

The Golden Age on a plate

“The culinary heritage of Poland is very rich and extensive. Few people are aware of the diversity of the court cuisine in the 16th century and how different it was from things that were eaten by the representatives of the lower classes of the Polish society at the time. We will try to show it during St John’s Fair,” said Robert Rozciecha, deputy director of the Krakow Festival Office, before the Fair started.

The culinary reconstruction was carried out by Małgorzata Krasna-Korycińska, a culinary historian, an archaeologist and museum worker, as well as Hanna and Paweł Lis, who reconstructed recipes from the old Slavic times and served dishes based on lentils and groats, also showing how food was preserved in the days old, while Anna Rumińska (Chwastożercy) talked about the use of wild plants in the kitchen and the medicinal uses of herbs. In the Knights’ Kitchen, weary travellers could satisfy their hunger mashes, bryjas and kutasik sausages, as well as dishes inspired by the court cuisine of the Renaissance.

In the kitchen of Queen Bona

Starting on the 9th of June, an unusual attraction was also available for all gourmets in Krakow. Until the 18th of June, ten restaurants in Krakow offered visitors a taste of dishes inspired by the cuisine of the time of Queen Bona.

Chefs from Albertina, Biała Róża, Bistro 11, Filipa 18, Gościnna Chata, Stół, Twój Kucharz, Wesele, Wierzynek and Winestone did not skimp on the precious saffron, roots and products imported from sunny Italy. The special menu included numerous specialties, including a cock with asparagus and royal groats, guinea fowl with tomato and onion jam, asparagus and millet groats, buck ossobuco roasted in garlic and juniper sauce with forest plants, served with potatoes, or roasted turkey leg with chestnuts with saffron, almonds and fennel in citrus and honey sauce.

Everybody who wanted to be well-prepared for the June meetings with history could take part in two walks with Mariusz Wollny – writer, ethnographer, author of a very popular series of novels about Kacper Ryx. On the 10th of June, the participants could take part in a trip entitled “Art and crime in Renaissance Krakow, or the strange and tragic fate of Bartolommeo Berecci, designer of the Sigismund Chapel on Wawel Hill”, and a day later, on Sunday, the 11th of June, Mariusz Wollny led a trip along the trail of “Secret Arts and Sorcerers in Renaissance Krakow, the great trio of magicians: Faustus, Twardowski and Sędziwój”.

Another St John’s Fair will take place next year. Be sure to join us there!