A Travellerspoint blog

Gdansk Day 1

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Walked around the historical port city of Gdansk with its city gates, and colorful Ulica Dluga.

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I visited the Uphagen House whose furnished interior was typical of the houses in the 18th century.

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Also toured the Main Town Hall with its ornately decorated meeting rooms.

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Posted by lcostet 10:52 Archived in Poland

Krakow Day 4

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I took the tram to the former Jewish ghetto of Podgorze which lies south of Kazimierz across the Vistula River. It was here at today's Plac Bohaterow Getta where thousands of the city's Jews were forcibly moved and incarcerated in March 1941. ("Schindler's List" depicts the sad scene of the Jews loading their belongings onto carts and trudging over the bridge into Podgorze.)
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Ghetto Heroes Square (Plac Bohaterow Getta)
The memorial includes 33 large empty chairs and 37 smaller chairs located on the edge of the square and at the tram stops. This square was called the Umschlagplatz by the Nazis. It was the place where the Jews had to assemble before being transported to the Belzec death camp in two separate actions in June 1942 and October 1942. The Podgorze Ghetto was liquidated on March 13, 1943 when the Jews who were able to work were sent to the Plaszow forced labor camp just outside the city of Krakow, and the rest were sent to the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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Surviving Podgorze ghetto wall with a commemorative plaque at Lwowska Street. The ghetto wall looked as though it had been made with tombstones put close together.

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I took the tram back to Krakow Glowny and got a tram to Nowa Huta ("New Steel Works"), a former Soviet Socialist planned workers' community outside of Krakow. Nowa Huta's main Central Square (plac Centralny) was ironically renamed for the anti-communist Ronald Reagan.

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At the end of the day, I got my luggage at the hotel, and took the train to the airport for a flight to Gdansk.

Posted by lcostet 10:44 Archived in Poland Tagged poland krakow podgorze

Krakow Day 3

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Very foggy and cold today! Visited Wawel Castle including Wawel Cathedral which contains the silver tomb of the first Polish saint, Stanislaw. I climbed the narrow wooden stairs up to the 11-ton Sigismund Bell. Unfortunately it was too foggy to appreciate a view. Then, I descended into the royal tombs of Poland's greatest war heroes, and former kings and queens. After that I toured the Royal State Rooms.

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Then I walked through the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz to the Oskar Schindler Factory whose offices have been converted into a museum that deals with the Jewish experience in Krakow under Nazi Occupation from 1939 until 1945. Unfortunately, you do not see the actual factory.

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Oskar Schindler's office.

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Posted by lcostet 08:59 Archived in Poland

Auschwitz-Birkenau

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Got up early and walked to the bus station next to the Krakow Glowny Train Station, and bought a ticket from the bus driver for the trip to Oswiecim to see the concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. The bus ride took about 1 1/2 hours. I intended on seeing the camps on my own, but when I got there it appeared that everyone was going on a guided tour. An English tour was leaving shortly, and I decided that might be the best course of action to fully see the camps.

The famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" entrance gate which translates to "Work Will Set You Free." What can be said that hasn't already been said. The exhibit that affected me the most was the mountain of human hair in a display case, that had been cut from the heads of victims after being killed with Zyclon-B in the gas chamber. You could see different hair styles such as braids. I gasped when I saw this.

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The area where prisoners stood for hours on end for roll call while the block kapo stood in the wooden hut until all prisoners had been accounted for.

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A reconstruction of The Black Wall where prisoners were shot.

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Entrance to Birkenau.

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Posted by lcostet 12:30 Archived in Poland Tagged poland auschwitz krakow birkenau

Krakow Days 1 & 2

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After a long train ride with a couple of connections, I finally arrived at Krakow Glowny Train Station. It was very foggy and made it difficult to see where I needed to go to get to my hotel, but fortunately a young student who was walking his dog offered to walk me to my hotel. The next day I took the local bus to the Wieliczka Salt Mines for an amazing tour. The mine covers nine floors and goes to a depth of nearly 1000 feet. Talented miners have over the years crafted incredible chambers, chapels, and statues from pure salt. The highlight was the Chapel of St. Kinga where they put on a light show that includes chandeliers made from salt crystals.

The next day I walked Krakow's Old Town. The photo below is the Florian Gate, part of the old city wall.

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The tiny Church of St. Adalbert, the oldest church in Krakow.

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Krakow's Main Market Square with St. Mary's Church and a statue of Adam Mickiewicz, a famous Polish poet.

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Horse and buggies in the Town Square with St. Mary's in the background and the Cloth Hall.

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St. Francis' Basilica which was Pope John Paul II's home church while he was archbishop of Krakow. I sat in the very pew which bears a silver plaque with his name, which was his favorite place to pray in the church.

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The Archbishop's Palace still has a photo of Pope John Paul II in the window which was his residence when he was archbishop of Krakow and when he visited his hometown as Pope.

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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

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This building used to be the former residence of Karol Wojtyla before he became Pope John Paul II.

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Posted by lcostet 13:56 Archived in Poland Tagged poland krakow

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