Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weekend Trip to Poland

This weekend we spent in Poland! Thursday night we left the hostel at 1:30 am on our own bus. It wasn't too bad because they got us a pretty big coach and since there is only 13 of us we each could have two seats to kind of lay down in. Most of us slept the entire 7 hour ride to Auschwitz.

Friday morning we toured Auschwitz for a few hours and then we rode another hour and a half on the bus to Krakow. We were starving by the time we got there so we went to get some authentic perogis right away! They were quite delicious. Afterwards, we just explored the city a bit which included watching street hours for a few hours. There was some awesome people. This one guy could make the most beautiful pictures out of spray paint in just five minutes it was crazy. There was also someone else who was making gigantic bubbles for people to chase? Of course we popped a few and made some children hate us.

Saturday morning we had a four tour of the city. It was extremely interesting, but so tiring because we walked most of it. I have a million photos that I will put at the end that I will try to describe to the best of my memory. Krakow was a pretty big, exciting city, but I still liked Prague better. Prague was a lot prettier and seemed more interesting. But the main square in Krakow was really fun.

After lunch at an Italian place, a few of us took their tram (which were just as nice as Prague's) to visit Schindler's factory. Since I had just watched the video last week it was fascinating to see where everything had taken place. Inside the factory was a gigantic exhibit on Poland and Krakow during World War II. It was probably one of the best museums I have ever been to. The way it was laid out and the design of the rooms tried to make you really feel like you were in some of those situations. Very creepy, but learned a lot.

That night we ate dinner at a cafe in the main square and people watched which was great. We hung out at an Irish pub for a little bit after dinner, but we went to bed pretty early because we had to wake up early Sunday morning to drive to the salt mines. We had to walk down many, many flights at the salt mines to reach the floor, but there were so many sites deep down there! The Polish people are very religious so there were many chapels and religious scenes carved into the salt. Also, you could lick the walls so that was an interesting aspect of the tour. Ironically, the french fries we ordered at the end of the tour (still 400 feet or so underground) lacked any salt? We are still perplexed about this.

After the salt mines we drove the 8 hours back to Prague stopping at gas stations every so often to refuel (the bus and our tummies!) It was a pretty long ride, but a lot of spent the time studying for our test Monday.

All in all Poland was extremely enjoyable. The hotel was fabulous especially the softness of the beds and the entertainment of the dubbed Polish television! But I was glad to return to Prague on Sunday night.

Main square in Krakow

The cutest little boy chasing the giant bubbles the man in the square was making.

Pretty park with fountain

Old Synagogue, Krakow

The old Jewish quarter in Krakow. Before World War II there were 60,000 Jews in the city which was nearly a quarter of the population. Many of them lived in this neighborhood.

Helena Rubinstein's house that she grew up in.

A memorial for all of the Jews that died in Poland. Out of the 60,000 before the war only about 4,000 survived and now there are only hundreds left in the city.

Another synagogue with tour trams in front of it.

Signs for Jewish Festivals that are held yearly even though there are not really many Jewish people left.

Jewish Prayer house.

View of the Jewish Quarter from behind the gate.

The area that was used as the Krakow ghetto from 1941-1943.

Memorial to the Krakow Ghetto. The chairs are supposed to symbolize a picture the artist saw of many children walking to the ghetto carrying chairs.

The corner where one of the only non-Jewish businesses in the ghetto was. It was a pharmacy.

Outside of Schindler's factory. There are pictures of all the people he saved in the windows.

Remnants of the wall that surrounded the ghetto. It is made to look like tombstones.

A bridge that used to cover a river that has since been filled in.

Dragon floats! There were hundred of kids preparing dragon floats for a parade. The dragon is the symbol of Krakow.


View from the castle.

Wooo Krakow!

Inside the inner quarters of the castle.

Royal Church at Wawel I think it was called
Beautiful painting on the walls of the building.

Grave of Jozef Pilsudski who was a Polish leader in the interwar period.

Grave of Lech Kaczynski, the Polish President that died in a plane crash in 2010.

Statue of Pope John Paul II. He is from Krakow so there are statues and paintings of him everywhere.

View from the castle. The house in the background with the red flowers is where Schindler lived.

Two old churches that are different styles.

We caught up with the dragon parade in action. So cute!

House where the John Paul II had lived.

Oldest church in Poland. I think she said Copernicus studied here.

St. Mary's Church in the main square.

Wall with the names of all the people Schindler saved.

Pots made at Schindler's factory.

Pictures of those he saved.

Gate to his factory

Outside of the salt mine.

Walking down the stairs of the salt mine. All 378 of them.

An example of the many sculptures deep in the salt mine.

Picture of how the salt mine was supposedly founded. A queen lost her ring and while looking for it they found the salt in the ground.

Huge chapel room inside the salt mine.

Picture of the ubiquitous communist style housing blocks all over Poland and Czech Republic.

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