The fabric of our cities: presenting Krakow with its very own tartan

The Lord Provost blogs from Poland as he represents Edinburgh at Krakow's Tartan Festival.

Edinburgh has been partnered with Poland’s Royal Capital, Krakow, since 1995 – a relationship which has benefitted both cities over the years and keeps growing stronger.

A picturesque European City of Culture and UNESCO City of Literature, Krakow certainly shares many similarities with Edinburgh when it comes to culture and heritage.

I have had the honour of spending a busy weekend in Krakow, to represent Edinburgh at their Tartan Festival and to present the City with its own Edinburgh-designed fabric following a hotly contested competition.

The winning tartan was created by Alex Imrie and selected by the citizens of Krakow. Alex’s beautiful cloth represents the weaving of connections between our cities and our countries. The design reflects the colours of the Polish and Scottish national flags, the Krakow City Banner and the Edinburgh Coat of Arms. Look closely and you will also notice a touch of yellow thread, which is a nod to the iconic golden dome of Krakow’s Sigismund Chapel.

This is the first and only city abroad to have its own tartan, and therefore its registration on the Scottish Register of Tartans this year is very significant indeed. It has been a pleasure to meet with those involved, and to spend time with the Mayor and members of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce during my trip.

Over the last 24 hours, I have discussed the close cooperation enjoyed between the University of Edinburgh and Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, which allows our students the opportunity to exchange campuses and our academics the ability to collaborate on research projects.

I have heard about the importance placed on music and literature in Krakow. In fact, it was on a visit with the University I was shown a piano played by a rather esteemed Polish artist – Fryderyk Chopin himself.

It should come as no surprise, then, to discover that music and art is hugely important in Krakow culture. The Polish presence at our August Festivals grow every year, and Polish heritage is entwined with Edinburgh’s thanks to the integration of the many Polish-born people who call Edinburgh home. The statue of Wojtek the Soldier Bear and Polish War Memorial in Princes Street Gardens is just one lasting reminder of the history we share. I have enjoyed promoting Edinburgh as a place to live, study and work in and a fantastic place to stay.

What has struck me must, however, during my time in Krakow has been witnessing the part Scottish culture plays abroad. Talented bagpipers have performed during our trip, I have been treated to traditional Scottish country dancing and the reading of traditional Scottish tales, and the Tartan Festival has even included a taste of Scottish cuisine with a Polish twist.

Cities are all about their citizens, and it is wonderful to be part of these festivities celebrating the mixed heritage of Scots-Poles.

Frank Ross

Rt Hon Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh

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