Trip Start Jan 03, 2008
38Trip End Mar 14, 2008
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As I was settling in I met 4 fellow roommates, one from England, 2 from N. Carolina and 1 from Brazil. That evening we all walked to the city center to find some authentic Polish cuisine. The food was amazing, Dumplings as appetizers, and chicken stuffed with ham and cheese with potato's and cabbage for garnish. The Piwo (beer) was cheep and excellent as well, so on the walk back we picked up a few cans to enjoy over each others company in the common room before we all went to bed. The two from the states were taking off the following day and the Brazilian and English friend was to set out to Auschwitz in the morning - too soon for me, I need time to get acquainted with my surroundings before jumping on into Auschwitz.
The next day I walked around the old town city gates - actual historic city walls with one gate intact. In the center of Old town within these city walls is a giant Cathedral and a market in the center. The market is wonderful for all of your touristy shopping needs in one location with a roof over your head. Adjacent from the market is a lonely clock tower, standing proud in the corner of the city center plaza. I walked each street sprouting from the center, beautiful buildings and stoned roads - it is great to see all the shops in every window and every ally, these shops need not worry about souvenirs - the market stole that glory
I walked in one direction as far out as to come by a Jewish cemetery I have been looking for. While anticipating for my trip, a good friend Todd (a fellow traveler) who loaned me my pack and provided pointers, had pointed out this place. The Jewish cemetery was a very large cemetery that was destroyed in WWII, in the reconstruction of the cemetery, they once again dedicated the cemetery to all Jews who were alive during and died during the holocaust. There are still remaining gravestones from the old cemetery along with recent editions in the last century. The cemetery walls are made of all the grave stones found from the debris of the old grave stones, these graves and walls governed with moss and foliage gives this entire place a strange and eerie presence. As I entered, it is accustomed to sport a Yakima while visiting the cemetery. It was amazing to see so many tombstones with letters under rocks on many of them, I often wondered what many of them said. After the cemetery I strolled through the Jewish quarters and the old Jewish ghetto of WWII. Not much left of the ghetto besides shops - most of which owned by Jews of course, still put a new unfound prospective on Krakow.
With much time left of day light, I walked to the castle within the city, situated nicely along side the river
I walked the river out of town and enjoyed a sandwich I snagged from the inclusive breakfast supplied by the hostel. I found myself walking well out of city limits and up on residential roadways, past cemeteries, and up hills. On my map there was a point called 'The Mound' That I was curious about. A fellow dorm mate said it was worth a visit. The Mound is exactly that on a giant hill that overlooks Krakow. Once on the hill, lay a gigantic perfectly shaped mound, for a price I can walk up and see the city. I didn't quite feel like paying to go 50 meters higher then I was standing, but I did just walk so far out of my way. After paying to walk up this mound of grass, the view was too foggy to get a good sight on the city. I kicked a rock the way down the spiral ramp off the mound
After a full day of walking, I spent money. I hate spending money, every dollar I spend I feel as though I have gained nothing. That is to say I now feel the only thing I can gain is experience at this point everything else material is just null. I did justify my dollar however. Besides the good graces of my friend Todd for lending me the much useful pack that has been up 2,015 meters above (Tatras) and 135 meters below sea level (Salt Mines) and well over 2,000 kilometers of distance - my back feels as if it is 2,000 years old and I have begun to carry with a slouch - I decided after 2 months in, it was time to invest in a more ergonomic pack for my body structure. I (un)fortunately found one affordable that could carry quite a bit more then my original pack. Within the next two weeks my load will have drastically increased in weight, good thing the pack promotes a good posture.
The following day was the day of Auschwitz. I took an hour and thirty minute bus to the camp. The day was raining, heavy winds and completely gloomy - it really created a fitting backdrop for the day. The museum is free, however I paid about 15 dollars for a tour guide. The whole visit was completely surreal - really was unbelievable. Passing the barbed wire fence through the gates translating to 'Work Will Make You Free' and passed the corridors of buildings housed for soviet POWS, Polish officers and citizens, Citizens of all of the surrounding countries and so fourth
Still ever so raining outside, I missed my bus from the camp by 2 minutes and waited in the cold for an hour - always looking on the bright side, at least I get to leave. I left the camp not sad or hurt, but more angry and bitter more then anything, this feeling stayed with me the rest of the day. I took a nap and there after I was really in the mood for French toast so I made just that for supper. That night I got to compare stories with my other roommates that were at the camps the previous day
Another gloomy and rainy day outside I ventured out to the Salt Mines. The Salt mines is 300 km worth of minus underground that has been in operation for hundreds of years. The mandatory guided tour went through about 1 percent of the mine. The thought of going through a mine was really cool and it vaguely covered what tools and conditions were like for those who mined in the past, but rather it lead through a maze of staggering rooms of wall engravings etched into the salt - most depictions of biblical scenes. I am glad I got to see what the mines were all about, but I left rather disappointed from what I did expect to see at that expensive visit.
Still gloomy, it was a perfect opportunity to visit the Nowa Huta, The Huta is the first (and only) completed suburb of idealistic living and well thought out ingenuity of street systems designed by Stalin himself. Many places where in the process of mimicking this ideology of living in 'blocked' housing but where never completed. Examples of these places are Budapest, Bratislava and Sophia - all as I mentioned for its ugliness and signs of communism in my previous blogs. It felt very awkward walking these streets especially because they are all in use today, it would be a waste not to otherwise, what felt even more awkward was snapping the few photos I did as a tourist of people actual living conditions, I felt as if I was making a mockery of them. Huta gave me a much more appreciate for the living situations I am accustomed to and was raised in. I was glad to leaving out of that suburb back into the comforts of downtown Krakow once again.
*NOTE* If you are at all sensitive to WWII, Concentration camps, and grave-yards; Then DON'T bother viewing the photo's. If you are curious to see more then I will surely show you in person, bring the bottle.