On the edge of a city park in Kraków there is an entrance to a forested trail, and at the head of the trail is the head of a King. It is embedded in some rough stone, adorned with flowers, and the marker at the base of the stone reads “aleja Elvisa Presleya,” Elvis Presley Avenue.
How Elvis Presley Avenue and the soulful Elvis stone came about can be credited to one man: Jan Blajda, vice president of Krakow’s Elvis Presley fan club. In 2006, Jan was a man with a mission. It had been almost 30 years since Elvis had died, and he wanted the city to commemorate the King’s life in their own, distinctive way. So he petitioned the City Council to rename a quarter mile stretch of a street named for someone else (sorry, Jan Pietrusiński) and call it aleja Elvisa Presleya. The city agreed.
The renaming alone didn’t do the trick for Jan though, so he had a memorial statue added to the park at the entrance to the renamed section, which runs into a trail through Skały Twardowskiego Park. The piece was a large golden stone, with Elvis’s sculpted head in the center, floating in a bath of smoky silicone. At first, the statue was clean and bright, and Elvis was untarnished. But after a number of years, some city soot began to sully the stone, and a passer-by darkened Elvis’s hair with what looks like shoe polish.
Maybe the best way to think of the before-and-after stages of the statue would be like the before-and-after stages of Elvis himself. Fresh and shiny on the Ed Sullivan Show, but a little world-weary and shoe-polished in Vegas. No matter. He’s still the King.