My trip to Poland exposed me to death, dragons and delicious food…naturally I loved it. I have to thank Karolina and Igor for being amazing hosts, and for feeding me continually.
On Monday, Karolina and I set out to explore Kraków. The city’s name comes from a famous legend. The legend has many different versions, as these old tales often do. Essentially, King Cracus was pretty annoyed with the fact that an enormous fire breathing dragon was terrorizing his town, wreaking havoc etc., so naturally he needed to get rid of it. Some legends tell that the king slew the dragon, but the most popular version suggests that a young shoemaker ended the beast by stuffing a tasty animal with explosives. After the dragon’s demise, a castle was built on top of the dragon’s lair, and the city was named for King Cracus.
This castle is the famous Wawel Royal Castle, and it’s the equivalent of Westminster Abbey in England. If you visit Krakow, please please visit this place and spring for the audio tour. Beyond the fascinating history we learned, we also visited the tombs of great kings and citizens of Poland, marveled at the architecture and ogled the exquisite paraphernalia of the bishops of Krakow (JP II figures heavily at Wawel)….and c’mon it’s a castle built on a dragon’s lair!
Beyond the inner wonders of the Wawel, wandering the grounds provided scenic views of the city.
Part of the tour involved a short trip up to the bell tower. I was amused when the guide in my ears warned over and over that visitors should be in good physical shape. THEN, we began our ascent. The old stairway was narrow, cramped and it was definitely not approved for the likes of PC, or more corpulent visitors.
After lunch, we embarked on a quick mission to find an American-style Cupcakery which yielded delicious results.
Tuesday happened to be my birthday. I could think of no better way to spend it than with a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration/extermination camps. There is no sarcasm in that statement, but those who know me are probably not surprised to know how eager I was to visit this place. There were two sites to be visited. The first site is the original Auschwitz camp. Each barrack has been converted into a museum for different aspects of the war/holocaust. The amount of information is dizzying in its breadth and subject, however you’ll want to examine it all.
The second site is that of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, built to accommodate the increasing volume of prisoners that Nazis hoped to liquidate. Not one picture I took could adequately document the enormity of this site. It is terrifyingly monstrous. As the war came to a violent close, the Nazis attempted to destroy the evidence of their systematized terror. A few barracks have been rebuilt, but hauntingly, the crematoria have been left in ruins. It was unforgettable, overwhelming and I am grateful for the experience.
After Auschwitz, a match against Jastrzebski Wegiel saw the end of Generali Haching’s Champion’s League drive, but all of the Australian’s on the court played well…so…there were some positives 🙂 . In all seriousness, I was too smitten with Poland to be upset for long.
After a delayed flight home, I was met with beautiful birthday flowers from my family, which my German neighbors had thoughtfully put in water. After a couple of days of sorting out bank issues, work and laundry I will be off to Berlin. See you next week!