(Krakow, Poland) – Krakow is a beautiful city. After visiting Auschwitz/Birkenau on Saturday with my friends, Lance and Jana, the city was a welcome respite. I have to tell you I was drained after the tour of the two camps. Waves of sadness and deep sorrow flowed over me and I still cannot get some of the images of things I saw out of my head. Maybe that’s a good thing. Central Europe has experienced so much heartache in the 20th Century. I personally have no frame of reference or experience to imagine what it was like. I do have empathy as a human being so, in that respect I can relate a little bit. Much has been written and many films have been made about those times and I have personally met and have heard first hand stories from survivors of the camps so whatever information I have is minimal. All I know, is that the whole experience (2 hours in Auschwitz and 1 hour in Birkenau) had a pretty profound affect on me.
I have been wanting to visit Poland since, like, forever so I am here in Krakow sitting at an outside table at the hotel on my last night here before boarding the train back to Vsetín. I know it’s kinda late for an espresso and I have to be up early to make the train, but it is espresso, what can I say. Traipsed around the huge old town yesterday beginning with mass at the Jesuit church of Sts. Peter and Paul. First baroque church in the city. Well…it’s Jesuit, what did you expect? The town square is massive compared to the town squares I’m used to seeing. Lots of tourists from all over. Late in the afternoon I walked over to Schindler’s factory to get a sense of a feel-good story from that awful era. On my way back, I got lost. Yes, Susan, I did get lost. I couldn’t find the Vistula River, which was my landmark. (This happened in Prague at Christmas time as you recall). After walking for about an hour and a half I finally went to a gas station and simply asked where the river was. Got the direction and realized I had been walking in circles. But, (and there is always a “but”, in my travels) I stumbled upon where the Jewish ghetto used to be and saw part of the wall that surrounded the whole area. After the war, many of the old buildings were torn down to build new ones and only a few of the original buildings still remain. So getting lost opens opportunities for discovery…like it did in Prague. So there! For dinner I had a Polish sausage…in Poland…what are the odds??
This morning it was back to old town looking for knick knacks to bring home. But first I climbed up to the
castle. Tons of tourists as well as school field trip groups were there. I went into the Cathedral where the kings and queens of Poland were crowned. Large sarcophagus’ with carvings of various kings wearing their crowns were all over the place, laid out like they were asleep or something. “Sic transit, gloria mundi” (“so passes the glory of the world”) kept going around my head as I went from king’s tomb to king’s tomb. It was probably in this very church that they were crowned and it is in this church they are laid to rest. From pomp and circumstance and joyful music to the dirges of a funeral march. Full circle. I guess when it comes to living these guys aren’t much different than me. They just had more money and power. I wonder if they were buried in their crowns.
Tomorrow morning I head back to the Czech Republic (with it’s simpler money) and Vsetín. I plan to do a bit of cleaning and washing and try to get things ship shape for the next occupant of my flat on Smetanova Street. I’ll do some refection a little later about the whole experience, but for now it’s time to dig in and dig out. And that is just my hotel room.
and so it goes…