The old buildings of Krakow escaped some of the ravages of WWII and communism, even if the people did not. As a result, and for many other reasons invisible to us, I’m sure, the outlook of the city seems more hopeful. Everywhere we looked, we saw signs of humor, pride of place, and appreciation for the good things of life.
The city was once surrounded by a moat, but this was filled in long ago and turned into a park. Karel and I rented bicycles and enjoyed getting around via this lovely, continuous belt of shady green. Our guide arranged a food tour, so we spent an afternoon tasting traditional specialties. Everything comes with cabbage in some form, but there’s plenty of meat, fish (especially herring), beer, and vodka. We also had good weather, punctuated by an occasional, epic downpour. Of course, the Tour of Poland had followed us, so there were big crowds, traffic jams, and rowdy parties to deal with, but Krakow is a mature and sophisticated city that can handle such things. There was plenty to see here, and I wouldn’t mind going back someday.
However, the other side of this visit was much darker. On our second day, we boarded a private bus to Auschwitz, where we had a guided tour of the original concentration camps and the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Karel and I lasted through the first part of the tour, but when we arrived at Birkenau, we both decided not to go in, Karel because his leg was hurting, and I because I was emotionally exhausted after the first part of the tour. I’m not going to try to describe any of it. It’s one of those places that everyone should visit once in their life; one of those tragedies that we should contemplate, remember, and try to understand. As for preventing such a thing from ever happening again, we have already failed many times. And if we should ever think that all that’s been done to try and heal this wound over the past 70 years has helped, just read today’s headlines.This entry was posted in Vacation 2014: Europe