Home > Uncategorized > Quick trip to Krakow

Quick trip to Krakow

The next few blogs will document some recent trips we’ve gone on. Excuse the delay … I’ve been very busy and/or lazy lately.

At one point over our weekend in Krakow I said to Jenna, “Now I know why the English language rarely uses the letter ‘Z’ … Poland stole them all.” Z is their A — it feels like every other Polish word has at least one Z in there somewhere. Fittingly, there is one Z (and two strangely-written Es) in the only Polish word I picked up while in Krakow in mid March.

Jenna and a friend/colleague had some meetings there on a Tuesday, so we (me and Jenna; plus her colleague and his wife, Jon and Raven Moorehead — part of our Dublin contingent) decided to travel there a few days early to see the place.

Whenever we travel, I try to learn a few pleasantries in the local language so that — in the midst of forcing everyone we deal with to speak our language — I show even a slight bit of respect and gratitude. In 3.5 days in Krakow, though, my Polish vocabulary maxed out at one word — Dziękuję — which means thank you.

The word sounds nothing like it looks (at least from an English perspective). Phonetically, it’s pronounced GIN-kwee-yuh. Each time I slipped the word in — perhaps to a waiter as he refilled my glass or took away an empty plate — it would draw a double-take. I think they were both amused and appreciative of my feeble effort. Probably more of the former.

Auschwitz gas chamber

Despite these frequent moments of awkwardness, I’ll remember this trip mostly for a sobering, somber tour of the Auschwitz. A month later, sorting through the photos of this infamous concentration camp — its name synonymous then and now with death — feelings such as sadness, anger and helplessness return.

Take this photo on the right. It’s the entrance to a gassing chamber. The Nazis would march prisoners into this building, but under false pretenses. A guardsman would stand above the door and entice prisoners to enter by promising hot food and applications for jobs. Once through the door, the prisoners would be stripped, then sent to a painful death. Sickening.

Some more photos from our Auschwitz tour …

Bunk beds at the concentration camp. I had seen these reproduced in films like Schindlers List, The Grey Zone and Life is Beautiful, but seeing it in person has such a greater impact.

Through the barbed-wire fence stand dozens and dozens of chimneys, what once were the centerpieces of the barracks at the concentration camps. Most of the barracks were destroyed, but the chimneys somehow remained.

A place like Auschwitz stirs up conflicting emotions. It fills you with sorrow and hate, yet you realize its hate that triggered much of this history. These gallows were used to hang a Nazi officer following the liberation of the camp. Somehow it doesnt feel wrong to find a slight bit of joy or relief knowing a death occurred here.

The walls of one section of the museum were lined with the photos of all the victims who lost their lives at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz memorial

Rather than hide from this despicable snapshot in human history, the Polish — as the sign on a memorial to the left shows — put it on display. It offers a stark warning that forgetting the past makes repeating it in the future all the more possible.

Well, I don’t want to misguide you. Our whole trip wasn’t this sobering (far from it). While the tour of Auschwitz was the highlight — worth the experience despite the overflow of emotions — we saw a fair bit of other sites around Krakow that weekend.

Below are a few more photos from the weekend …

Following Auschwitz, we took a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, hundreds of yards beneath the ground. This is a look down the long, winding staircase to get to the bottom.

The mine has dozens of miles of passageways and rooms, and we took dozens of photos, but this is one of my favorites. This gigantic room was all carved out of the salt. On the walls are reproductions of famous paintings — again, all carved out of the salt.

I cant remember who this statue depicts, but its representative of the amazing carvings throughout the salt mine. No professional artists did the carvings — they were all made by the miners, many of them who lived for months at a time underground. Its a literal underground city, complete with chapels for prayer, cafeterias for eating, and residences for sleeping.

Jenna wouldve been mad at me had this blog not contained at least one photo of us.

Whats a visit to an old European city without at least one castle sighting? This is the Wawel Royal Castle perched on a hill overlooking Krakow.

Categories: Uncategorized
    May 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    OK I am holding you to your promise. I had not been checking your blog since you had not been writing much. Now I will check everyday.
    Keep up the good work writing & running. You can do both!
    See you in Memphis!


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