Published: August 9th 2008August 6th 2008
THROUGH SLOVAKIA TO POLAND
On Wednesday, August 6th, we left early from Budapest for Poland. We had asked our tour company, Ayelet Tours, to put on a stop in Slovakia at the Museum in Banska Bystrica instead of driving straight through to Krakow. This museum is dedicated to the Slovakian Uprising against the Nazis, an uprising led from this small city near the Tatras Mountains. The small museum is inspiring and so well done. The man who took us through, one of the researchers or program people from the museum, was so dedicated to its mission. It showed the pride of the Slovak people in their nation and in their resistance. We highly recommend it. We were also impressed that this is the Museum that created the traveling cattle cars educational exhibit a few years ago. They took two train cars that had been used by the Nazis to transport Jews to death camps during the Holocaust, outfitted them with an exhibit about the Nazi genocide against the Jews, and then took them along the train routes that Jews had traveled through Slovakia to their deaths in Poland. At each stop, school children and adults came to see the exhibit and be educated about the Holocaust. 48,000 Jews were deported to death in the first wave of Slovakian Jews’ extermination by the Nazis. The first “tour” of this train exhibit reached 48,000 Slovak people. The museum person saw this correspondence as a powerful message to combat anti-Semitism and to memorialize those who were murdered. The exhibit was also taken a year later into the Czech Republic. We were very impressed with what this museum is doing to teach about the Holocaust.
After an attempt to park at a nearby mall to have a quick lunch, we pulled in to a gas station that had pre-made sandwiches. Then back on the bus (a small not so comfortable one for this 8 hour total drive) and continued on to Krakow. One nice thing - there’s no border control from Czech Republic to Hungary to Slovakia to Poland. They are part of the same consortium. Helped keep the trip moving along.
Crossing the Tatras mountains was beautiful and Janusz told us about the hiking and the dangerous mountain weather. He had some harrowing stories! All was sunny and green and beautiful. Then we came into Krakow, which Janusz calls “the most beautiful city in the world.” Guess you can tell where he grew up and lives! We drove to the hotel (Radisson SAS) and checked in. Lovely location across from a park and just a short walk to the Old Town Square. The first night a dinner at Ariel Restaurant (in former Jewish quarter) was included. Janusz had to go to an emergency dentist appointment, so another guide friend of his (Marta) went with us to dinner. She pointed out a few doors from our hotel the house where Oskar Schindler lived in Krakow. The dinner was so-so, though the soup was actually excellent. The former Jewish area is very, very weird for us. The “restaurants” all serve Jewish foods but are not Jewish owned. The Jews of Krakow were wiped out for the most part, though there is some small community there even today. We had a feeling of being in a rebuilt period theme park.
After dinner a few of the group went walking in Old Town Square. We were pleased to have a quiet evening, knowing that we would be at Aushwitz-Birkenau the next day.