Monday, July 2, 2007

On to Krakow

Tuesday the 18th saw the 6 of us piling into Joe's taxi yet again for the ride to the main train station. We remained careful in terms of following his rules and it was a little sad when we bid him a fond adios. Then again, we were free to talk, laugh and touch things again.

We secured reserved seats on the train to Krakow, so we got a compartment. The ride took us to Katowice where we swapped trains. All went without a hitch and Susan even got another stamp on her passport from the Polish border guards that rode the train. It was great to see the countryside as we zoomed by. It looked fairly familiar in terms of terrain. Mostly flat and some rolling hills in other places. A whole lot of farmland planted with mostly small grains. The one thing that did stick out was the red flowers in every field and ditch. They resembled poppies and they were everywhere, even in the grain fields, where I am guessing the farmer would rather not see them. I've attached one of the ride via the train to give you some idea. As we got closer to Krakow, we noticed a change to more pine forests.

We arrived in Krakow late afternoon and rolled our luggage to our new digs. We were pretty close to the city center and the main train station, so it allowed us access to all of the hot spots on the tourist list. Our landlord recommended the place across the street for grub, and boy was that a great tip. It was called the Volcano, and the food was fab and dirt cheap. I think our first night of glutony and drinks came to something under $45. Certainly, if you are looking for a cheap place to vacation, Poland has to be near the top of the list. I guess if you don't consider the $1,500 in travel dollars to get there in the first place. Well, it was a thought anyway.

The next day (19th) we did the tour of central Krakow. We hit the plaza not far from us which had a cathedral and numerous other ancient buildings. I've included a few shots of the crew in various poses. One thing that stood out was the modern sculpture of a head in this very historic setting. I don't have a clue why it was there, but you know the Poles, anything for a laugh.

From the plaza we decided to go up to the castle. Another remarkable structure, where we stopped for Pivo and Perogis. Susan claims these perogis to be the best of the trip.

Oh, on the way to the castle we stopped at a building where Pope John Paul II lived for about 20 years. So, we took a few pics. Also near the castle and this apartment was the seminary where he went to school. And, there's a window there which now has his photo in it. As told to us, this is where he always talked to people when he returned to Krakow for his brief stays. I have a picture of that with the Patriarch below it. We also picked up some religious items while we were at this location.

We then proceeded to the park located close by our apartments, where some of our group made faces at the photographer and other passersby. The long day ended much as they all did with a sumptuos meal followed by 6 handed pinochle.


Sue said...

who's the only one showing her heritage ??

Fred from the far North said...

Aha, you are alive and well. Have you fully recovered yet? I'm just about there, but still getting up before 6am.

Kathy Wilebski Schafer said...

The poppies were one of my favorite sights from my trip to Poland in June, 1999. Had you been there over Corpus Christi (which was the Sunday, June 10, previous to your departure) you would have seen the poppy petals strewn on the sidewalks for the Eucharistic Processions. As you say, Poland is 80-85% practicing Catholics and they process the Eucharist outside their churches on this feast day, with banners and flower petals, and First Communion dresses, altar servers, incense, etc.
We visited Nowa Huta the Monday following and the red poppies were everywhere. Nowa Huta was the town that the atheistic Communists vowed would not have a church building in it. But then John Paul II, still a bishop or archbishop at the time, defied their law for no church and the Catholics gathered for Mass in a field erecting a huge cross in an open field. When the authorities took it down, they put it up again, until a standoff between the people and JPII with the authorities took place and the people won and built their church. One sight you missed during your side trips around Krakow. But there is always another time--right? And then Czestochowo--another worthwhile "Hill of Light" not to miss in Poland.