Journal 23 – March 27, 2007
We took our three-day weekend to go to Auschwitz and Krakow. Krakow is an amazing city. We had gone to Prague, which was prior communist, but there was something different about Krakow, maybe because we were able to see the country side and see the poor that still exists. There were roosters running around people’s front lawns, and big gardens that were being used to fill their diets. It was an incredible sight. On Sunday morning, people FLOODED out of the churches. I’m sure the town was dead except for at church. Their cemeteries were the most colorful I had ever seen. Every tombstone had vibrant flowers, special dried bouquets.
The city itself rests on the Vistula River, which I went in, of course!! I did not want to, it was freezing outside, but Liz insisted that I would regret it if I didn’t. She was right, I was so glad after I dipped my foot into that chilled water. My sister went to Lafayette and she almost put her foot in the Wabash River to send me a picture of it!! I would have died laughing, that is just too funny. I love that she was thinking about me!
We walked through the old Jewish section, but we could not find Schindler’s factory, which was rather disappointing. The synagogues were difficult to find and although they should have been having Havdallah services, they weren’t open.
We went to Auschwitz which would probably be the most disappointing part of my entire European experience so far. We went on a tour with See Krakow and it was awful. It was so short, impersonal, and left no time to reflect. I felt like I didn’t even get to go. I was and still am completely bummed about the whole situation. I mean, yes, I saw the shoes, the hair, the suitcases, the tallit, the empty cans of Zyklon-B, the Death Wall and many other horrible things. But we were completely rushed and at Birkenau we saw two barracks and then were ushered home. I was so upset. I did not have time to grieve for the victims or to cherish their memories.
On a lighter note, we went to Wieliczka, the salt mine in Krakow. This made Krakow and its king very rich. I was not excited about the mine at all, but once we got there, it was really neat. The mine goes down for hundreds of meters. There are carved statues everywhere. The men would get bored and carve into the rock. My favorite one was of eight dwarves. They were so cute. There is also the world’s largest underground church. The whole thing is dug out of the earth, it is truly magnificent. There are pictures carved into the wall of the Last Supper and a huge statue of John Paul II, since he was from Krakow.
Sunday night I got to witness a beautiful precession down the main streets of Krakow. They were celebrating (or commemorating) the Twelve Stations of the Cross. There were police with speakers strapped to their backs. They were singing Polish prayers, and then they’d stop, say a prayer, kneel, bow, and then get up and do it again. It was a mass of people, some with candles. It was very moved by the act and their devotion.
All in all…I will be heading back to Krakow someday, maybe with Rachel next time. (Who I love and miss, as well as my family!!)