Communist Krakow

Trip Start Apr 28, 2009
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Trip End Jun 01, 2009


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Where I stayed

Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Sunday, May 10, 2009

I woke up surprisingly early seeing as I had a late night. I had a tour arranged for 11 am that takes you in an old Eastern German made Trabant. My guide will take me through Kazmierez, Jewish ghetto, Schindler's factory and Nowa Huta. My guide Peter was born and raised in Nowa Huta, a suburb that the Communists designed as being the "ideal" neighborhood.

One thing about these Trabants is that they are death traps. The fuel tank is beside the engine and the body is made out of pressed cardboard. At least they have seatbelts!! We first went to a Krakow mound which is a huge mound that Krakovians built up pailful by pailful of dirt to honor it's National heroes. Climbing up to the top gave beautiful views of Krakow and you could see the base of the Tatras mountains in the distance.

After that we went to Kazmierez and went into Izaak Synagogue where there are these written inscriptions all over the walls that have been there for hundreds of years, but when the Nazis took over they tried to erase it all. The Nazis plan was to erase their religion, but still be able to use the building. There was a flea market going on in one of the squares where Polish people were selling mounds and mounds of clothes. Apparently it's a big deal here and there were tons of people there. We stopped and had a beer at this neat place called Alchemy which was a bar that is styled after a old time pharmacy and living quarters. It's funny how Poles park their cars right on the sidewalk. Freaks you out when you are walking on the sidewalk and a car pulls up on it. As long as there is a meter between the car and the wall it is legal.

He then took me to the Jewish Ghetto where during the Nazi occupation they were taken from Kazmierez and placed here. On the main square there are many empty chairs that are symbolically placed so the backs face Kazmierez and the front faces a concentration camp that is close by. It also represents that when kids went to school they had to walk their own chairs (as well as school supplies) across the river to Kazmierez to get to school.

Peter then took me to Schindler's Factory where parts of the film was filmed. Inside the factory is an exhibition telling you about the history of the factory, about Oskar Schindler, and his plight to save the Jewish people he employed. They are preparing a bigger exhibition but that won't be ready until November 2009.

After that we went to Nowa Huta and he took me to the steel work factory that once employed 40,000 people. Today it employs maybe a quarter of that. He then explained to me life living in Nowa Huta where religion was banned, people distrusted one another and huge statues of Lenin dominated the squares. He said that when he went to school he was taught by his teachers to tell authorities if their parents had opposing views.

After the tour I went back to the hostel and met up with some people and we checked out a few beer gardens and vodka bars. I had a really cool vodka shot that was honey vodka with coffee beans, you light it on fire, blow it out, and drink it through a straw. It was delicious! After a few drinks we returned to the hostel where a few of us continued to drink. I had this vodka that is flavored with this Bison grass and when you mix it with apple juice it tastes exactly like apple pie!
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