Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 22: Krakow Szopka cribs

Happy Friday! It’s Day 22 of our Advent Calendar which means that Christmas is less than two days away. Today we are headed to Krakow, Poland to check out another lovely local Holiday tradition. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!




Cribs, crèches, nativity scenes – whatever you want to call them – are a common sight around Christmas time in Christian homes, but in Krakow, the tradition has a unique local variation. In Poland it has been a long standing tradition for local woodworkers to create elaborate scenes as sets for the nativity plays, Jaselka in Polish. The plays would be acted out with puppets on the streets, sometimes involving legendary figures from Polish folklore, though straying too far away from the source material was strongly opposed by the Catholic church. The tradition goes back all the way to the Middle Ages. During the 19th century woodworkers started creating slightly smaller versions of their elaborate cribs, szopka, as seasonal decorations to be sold to the wealthy. In 1918 when Poland gained its independence, miniature szopkas were sold as souvenirs in Krakow. It is unclear when the tradition of setting the nativity scene in famous Krakow landmarks started, but the most popular source of inspiration is the St. Mary’s Basilica, though the Sukiennice trade hall and the Wavel castle are also often depicted in the szopkas.

Every year on the first Thursday of December a competition is held to find the most beautiful szopkas from different categories. The best works are displayed in the Historical Museum of Krakow or sold. The first time the competition was held was in 1937 and it has been held every year since, with the exception of the war years.

In which landmark would you place the Nativity scene?


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Top 10 dog-friendly beaches

Sandy beaches, crashing waves and warm sunshine – it’s no wonder our furry friends love going to the beach. Sandy paws equal happy dogs AND happy owners, so Marco Polo have sniffed out the best beaches from all around the world where dogs are welcome with open paws…

Dog on beach

Photo credit: Henning Leweke [CC BY-SA 2.0]

1. Barneville-Carteret, France

Untamed nature and the wind in Fido’s coat… Anyone who loves the bracing sea air will feel at home on this beach in Normandy. Even when it is deserted and nobody can be seen far and wide, dogs still have to be kept on a lead.

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2. Wenningstedt-Braderup, Sylt,  Germany

Endless beaches to make any doggie’s heart beat faster. Where? On the designated dog beach in Wenningstedt on Sylt.

INSIDER TIP: The Hotel Windrose publishes a brochure for guests with dogs with masses of useful tips in it. A must for every dog owner.

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3. Böda Sand, Öland,  Sweden

The climate is harsh, especially when storms blow across the island in autumn. Dogs can run to their heart’s content on the clearly signed dog beach near Böda Sand. Their two-legged friends can relax after a long walk with one of Johan Theorin’s crime novels.

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4. Bagno 81, Rimini, Italy

Quietly relaxing with Lady and the Tramp on the beach and letting the sun warm their coats or even going for a doggie-paddle – everything is possible at Bagno 81. There’s even free Internet access. Woof!

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5. Neßmersiel, Germany

A holiday with a difference for our four-legged friends. Teach your dog new tricks at the ‘Fun Agility Park’ next to the dog beach on the North Sea or simply let them run around. They can then explore the hiking trail for dogs and their owners in Dornumersiel.

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6. Blåvand, Denmark

Chasing clouds, barking at seagulls, digging holes and getting wet paws. Dogs love it on the wide North Sea beaches near Blåvand. There is a fenced-in area of  woodland near Oksby so dogs can run off the lead.

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7. Swinoujście, Poland

Fetch! Since 2011 Fido, Bella & Co. are officially allowed to run around and play on the beach
in Swinoujście in Poland. However, dogs which tend to get over-excited or bite others have to
wear a muzzle.

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8. Grömitz, Germany

Barking, digging and paddling on the flat Baltic Sea beach in Grömitz. Our four-legged friends are allowed off the lead here and can run, jump and do whatever they or their owners like.

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9. Skagen, Denmark

Furry family members will feel especially at home at the northern-most tip of Denmark where the North Sea meets the Baltic. Apart from the fact that (Great) Danes love the wind, there is often an especially strong breeze blowing here, to the delight of all ‘wet noses’.

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10. Schönhagen, Schlei, Germany

When the ball lands way out in the water, all four paws go f ying as Fido chases after it in the waves. The largest dog beach in the Baltic Sea resort of Schönhagen is enough to turn any pampered pooch into a fierce sea lion!

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Do you know any other great dog-friendly beaches you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.