Monday, May 23, 2011
Trip to Poland
We packed a lot of sight-seeing into our brief time: we toured several large churches and cathedrals, including the Basilica of Sts. Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, which has a crypt containing the tombs of many Polish kings and notable citizens. The Basilica is atop the Wawel, a hill that overlooks central Krakow and is the site of the Royal Castle. We took an extensive tour of the castle and viewed the wealth of royal art and artifacts, from tapestries to cannons.
We also toured Krakow's large market square, saw a duel between men clad in medieval armor, ate pierogi and visited Oskar Schindler's factory. Our most striking experience occurred when we took a day trip from Krakow to Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish). It is a visit that was hard to understand at the time, and I'm still processing what I saw. We took tours of both the original Auschwitz death camp and the nearby Birkenau camp. I learned a lot more about the cost of the WWII on the Polish people - 3 million of the Jews murdered were from Poland, and the original purpose of Auschwitz was to house Polish resistors to Nazi rule - 6 million Polish civilians died in the war. Our tours were sobering showers of facts - the harsh realities of camp life, the numbers of the dead - but it was difficult (for me, at least) to comprehend that the place was one where so much horror had occurred. It is hard to feel the fear of the imprisoned when you walk under sunny skies around a place that, apart from the large number of visitors, is relatively peaceful.
My trip to Poland was a lot of fun. I learned so much about a culture of which I had known very little, and even learned a few key Polish words - Nie rezumiem po polsku ("I don't speak Polish") came in handy when I had to let anyone know that I couldn't understand them!
I'm off. Good bye for now - Do widzenia!