Trip Start Jan 06, 2009
37Trip End Jun 01, 2009
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Where I stayed
I flew into Katowice on Thursday March 5th because the weather was too bad to fly into Krakow. Ryanair provided a bus to Krakow airport and then I proceeded to my hostel for the night.
On Friday I woke up early and decided to sink my teeth into the city. One could basically walk everywhere and I started the day walking around trying to soak up as much of the city as possible. I must say though, I have NEVER seen so many non-lapsed Catholics in my life...or so many churches in one day. They were all so beautiful and I am sad that I could not take any pictures to show y'all but it was not allowed. On top on that practically every single church that I walked into was in use. No matter what time of the day it was there were people praying or going to confession and a couple of times I accidentally walked in on a service. It was really nice to see the churches in use for their actual purpose rather than as tourist attractions...and besides it meant they were free :) The architecture of the churches and the inside decorations were rather different than what I had seen before and one could definitely see an Eastern European and Russian influence. Unfournately I do not remember all the names of the churches I visited...but I did visit at least 8...I think...probably more than that...
There was the main street to the hostel which led to the main square and from there to Wawel Palace where the monarchs of Poland historically lived. I visited the armoory and the treasury and the Cathedral where the monarchs were crowned. There was so much history that I had no clue about and I am so glad to be taking a Poland the Baltic States class next semester to get it all straight :) Like for example, I had no idea that Poland and Lithuania used to be a commonwealth and they elected their kings...There was also a crypt and a bell tower that could be visited as part of the cathedral which was reall cool. In addition, in the crypt area, there was the altar where Pope John Paul II said his first ever Eucharist...how exciting is that?! There was even a Pope John Paul II museum with everything from his robes to his shoes, etc. The Poles do love their Pope :)
After Wawel Palace, I visited the Barbicon and Floden Wall, which were the original borders of the city. In addition in the main square in the City Centre there was a market full of amber, fur, and other distinctly Polish items.
For dinner I had the traditional Polish dish of pierogi which is baiscally Polish dumplings and are DELICIOUS :) They even had fruit ones that I tried...yum yum :) I also tried Osciewm which is essentially Polish Budweiser...it seems like every country I visit has its own beer...even Italy and France...
That night I went to the Harris Piano Bar where a Blues band was playing. It was so much fun! It was interesting because while all the songs were in English in between they would talk in Polish...didn't know quite what to make of this... but it was a good time and a good atmosphere... I came back early so that I would not bother others in the hostel with coming in late...I shouldn't have bothered...they didn't come in till like 4 or 5 in the morning... oh well...
I walked so much today...but Krakow is such a lovely city and most definitely one of my favorite places that I have visited so far.
The hostel that I stayed offered a guided tour of the famous Nazi Death Camp which was a 30 minute car ride outside the city. There are really no words...it is just horrifying what humans can do to each other. How meticulous the Nazis were...the records they kept...they photographed every single person that came through the concentration camp...it was the ultimate con...these people just thought they were going to be re-settled so they brought along goods to make a life like kettles and pots and linens and such. And the Nazis took everything from them and used it towards the war effort. They even used the hair that they shaved off before entering the gas chambers in order to make bags and other goods. There was a display where there was 2 tons of human hair. The room with the shoes also really got to me...kids shoes...sandals...every make and type...and the Nazis destroyed much of it...this was only a small gragment and it was still so many...It is estimated that 1.5 million people died at Auschwitz and overall about 3 million died in total during the Holocaust...and half at one camp...it is just unreal. Not even just the gas chambers...but the torture chambers as well...there was a starvation room...and a standing room where there was not enough space to sit or lie down and they made them sleep like that! Those who were deemed 'fit to work' didn't last long...a male about 6 months and a female about 3. It was so eerie walking through the camp (its actually 3...Auschwitz 1, Auschwitz 2, and Birkenau)...it felt wrong taking pictures...like I was impinging on something sacred that should not be disturbed. I knew the Holocaust was a terrible thing but until I was confronted with it physcially I don't think I truly grasped the extent of the horror of it all. This is probably the most important thing that I have done my entire trip. It was heart-wrenching but also very important and I am so glad that I went.
Train Ride to Wroclaw:
Well...my day didn't end on a COMPLETELY depressing note...in fact I have a funny story to tell :) I felt like I was on the Orient Express! It was one of those trains with compartments. The scenery was lovely and as I was riding along it began to snow! And I absolutely love snow! It was really cute too because there was this middle-aged Polish couple in the car with me and the man started a conversation with me...it was really cute because he knew barely any English and it was interesting to hear his ideas about America. He was a plastic surgeon with a private practice and his wife was an immunologist. He used to be in the army and his school was under Russian occupation. He found out I was from the South which he thought was really interesting. The Polish word for South is Zit. It was really cute because he demonstrated with his hands voting (putting a piece of paper in the ballot box) and he was like you vote for Obama! But you no black?! He was very interested in talking about American views on race...apparently white southern girls who voted for Obama should not exist...:)
Oh...and I haven't even gotten to the funniest bit yet! So...since the ticket was in Polish...and I had no idea what I was doing...I accidentally got on a first class train instead of second...the first guy who took my ticket didn't say anything...but the second guy started yelling at me in Polish...and then the man's wife started yelling at him in Polish and got a discount on the ticket for me :) She said something like I was helping her with her husband or something like that (he had just gotten hurt in a ski accident...)...I don't know...it was very amusing...the guy decided to nickname me Kamikaze because I went to a country where I did not know the language... lol
Overall, I really enjoyed Poland...the people were lovely...just wish I knew Polish so I could actually communicate with them a bit better. I am so glad I went and can't wait to go back and visit (cough cough hint to Nancy cough cough) (For those of y'all who have not met the lovely Nancy Bialesz she has family in Poland :) )