A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3 in Krakow

Ghetto Square, Wawel Castle, St Mary's Basilica and shopping!

all seasons in one day 20 °C

After a leisurely morning brought about by a late check-out time, packing slowly and several significant rain showers I finally headed out late morning to catch up on a few more things in Krakow I had missed.
After finally bothering to work out the tram ticketing situation (not difficult at all due to awesome ticket machines that not only had the information in English but explanations for the tickets), I made my way down to the old Jewish Ghetto across the river. This square has this unusual ‘monuments’ in the form of several chairs neatly organised across the square. It was depicting one man’s image of the ghetto immediately after liquidation where all that remained was the chairs from the processing of the Jews.

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I then caught a tram up to Wawel Castle. I found it impressive that these buildings have survived so well despite being in the middle of town – through 20th Century invasions and occupation by the Germans and later the Russian Red Army. The Cathedral was beautiful particularly surrounded by the other buildings up on this hill.

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After wandering back up through the old town I got caught in a rain storm and sheltered in the very pretty St Mary’s Basilica with its incredible gilded high altar and surrounding stained glass windows. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Catholic church with a blue roof with stars – very pretty.

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After a steady rainstorm seemed to set in I decided to head to the Gallerie Krakow, where against my better judgement I decided shopping would be a good use of my time… 2 tops, 1 skirt, socks and 4 books managed to squeeze into my luggage but not the smartest of me.
Anyway, hung around there until it was time to collect my luggage and head to the train station for the trip from Krakow to Vienna overnight, and then on to Salzburg the next morning.

Posted by ellenjd 13:03 Archived in Poland Tagged church castle krakow ghetto Comments (0)

Night in Krakow

overcast 16 °C

Late Friday I decided it was an opportune time to check out the Krakow old town by night, and see if I could take some nice photos at the same time (new camera, still definitey experimenting with it...). Some were good others not so, but here is a sample of Krakow by night. Mostly these are of the Market Square, a couple of Wawel Castle and the light display on the Wilsa River.

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Posted by ellenjd 00:24 Archived in Poland Tagged buildings night krakow Comments (0)

In Memorium

Auschwitz and Birkeneau Concentration Camps

all seasons in one day 24 °C

Well today I had organised a tour to Auschwitz - not so much as a pleasant day trip but a reminder and recognition of the Holocaust and the atrocity of genocide and of war in general.

Osweicim is approximately 75 minutes from Krakow - which is the Polish name for the city where Auschwitz was to be (which was the German name for the same time). Little wonder the Polish choose to retain their name for the town, which seems to be a thriving little town from the short observation driving through it.

Having read or seen much about the Holocaust through various forms of media (including watching Schlinder's List many many times for Year 12 English) had prepared me somewhat for the experience. I must say that Steven Spielberg took some of the black and white pictures taken and perhaps made a better recreation than I had envisaged. I'm sure there were many aspects of the film that were not based on historical fact, but I was still impressed by what was done.

Auschwitz suprised me somewhat in that I didn't know that it was previously a military barracks, and it looked so small in comparison to what I had envisaged. But that was countered by Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) which was so vast. Our tour rushed Birkenau quite a bit which was disappointing. It would have been good to be able to walk the entire train track and visit the memorial which is apparently at the back of the camp. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that these two sites are absolutely necessary to continue to educate and horrify generations to come in the hope that such events do not transpire again.

I must admit to feeling a little sick for the rest of the day - a good sign of humanity I guess. It was not the huge things (though the size of Birkenau was one), but things such as the thousands of shoes and toothbrushes left behind and on display that made the biggest impact on me. I have posted just a few of the outdoor photos here. The rest I think you have to see for youself.

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Posted by ellenjd 00:23 Archived in Poland Tagged poland auschwitz Comments (0)

Prague to Krakow

all seasons in one day 22 °C

After all I'd heard about the difficulties of getting from Prague to Krakow or vice versa in recent weeks (partially due to the transport strike in the Czech Republic) - it really couldn't have been much easier.

I had secured myself a sleeper berth and ended up sharing with one Polish lady with a reasonable command of English and exceptional command of talking without breath so it seemed. Actually she was lovely, but I got myself 20 questions as well as a history lecture on baroque versus renaissance architecture and the differences between Prague and Krakow.

The train left an hour late, which rather suited me given there was probably no way I was going to be able to check into my room before 7am. Once things quietened down a bit, I think i had the best nights sleep so far. I know buses are cheaper than trains - but I can sleep on trains and can't sleep on buses or planes. I think it's purely the lying down thing because I wouldn't say it is quieter.

Upon arriving in Krakow, I discover it is a public holiday (Corpus Christi) - glad I decided on spending the extra night here rather shoot off tomorrow night. I also managed to secure myself a train ticket outta here (to Wien/Vienna) which I had also heard could be a bit difficult and several trips had been cancelled. Crossing my fingers for no issues this week. And to top it off, my hotel (yes I needed a short break from hosteling) let me check in at 8am. DEVINE!

Unfortunately it was also pouring with rain by this stage and it looked like the day was a bit doomed. So I hang around in my OWN room for a bit - did some washing, caught up on the BBC news (think this is the only English station) and managed to unpack everything I have. But it did clear and I took the opportunity to wander into the old town. Being a public holiday most of the stores that were anything other than souvenairs and food were closed but instead I got myself a religious parade - a rather impressive one too. I have never seen more nuns in my life.

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Poland definitely is a Catholic country. Mass was being said over loudspeakers in the main square (which is huge by the way). The only bit I recognised was the Halleluiah Chorus from Handel's Messiah (probably because it's not in Polish).

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Anyway, I also wandered down to Kazamierz (the Jewish Quarter), with it's deserted jewish synagoges and buildings in disrepair. I find it amazing that so little has been done to the area - a testament to WWII or the result of communism I wonder? The Jewish ceremtery was full of character and charm. also completely overgrown with ferns but all the more character because of it.

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Managed to get myself some colour - yes - a little but of burn on my arms and a whole heat on my neck - oops - it had been raining when I left.

In the afternoon I went on a tour to visit the Salt Mines just out of Krakow. These were pretty impressive I must say. Photos of some of the chambers are attached.

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In the evening I really just crashed. All this walking... Anyway, tomorrow I head to Auschwitz for a different experience.

Posted by ellenjd 23:57 Archived in Poland Tagged poland krakow salt_mine Comments (0)

A day wandering around Prague with no purpose

No plans means more walking

sunny 30 °C

After getting the best sleep yet of the trip (possibly getting over jetlag, or maybe because the dorm mates didn't make it back to 5am - the rowdy ones anyway), I had a leisurely morning breakfast and packing as I leave tonight.

After that I had a chance to update this blog for the last few days and persue the Prague map for today. Decided to head to Mala Strana (over the river to the 'lesser town'). The early afternoon brought the first touches of SUMMER to the trip - yes - the temperature gauge on the sign at the funicular said it was 30 degrees. Indeed the legs were bared for the first time for the trip when i pulled out a pair of shorts this morning. As usual, my tan needs a lot of work.

There was a monument commemorrating those that lost their lives to Communism which was quite brilliant and confronting at the same time (look away for those with an issue of nudity in bronze?).

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So with a trip up the funicular (cable car) up Mala Strana saving the legs from walking up views a stunning were found at the top.

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The park was fairly pretty as well...

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Ice-cream became manadatory once I got back down to street level as it was rather warm. Had a look in the baroque church of St Nicholas - I must say this is the church that taught me what Baroque really meant when referring to music. Whenever I think of baroque music I think of the most ridiculus number of cherubs climbing in and around the organ pipes at this church. It didn't fail to disappoint this trip either.

Crossing the Charles Bridge in the peak of the day was a frustrating experience and made me glad that I visited at 5:00am the day before.

After that it was a lazy early evening catching up on accomodation booking, a bit of facebook and general chit chat. Now time for dinner then head to Praha hln to catch a night train ready for the next leg of the trip - Krakow.

Posted by ellenjd 09:58 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague mala_stana Comments (0)

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