Krakow and Auschwitz

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July 16th 2015
Published: July 16th 2015
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Photos have now been added to this blog. So if you have already read it you might want to look at them. If you haven't already read it then this message is completely irrelevant so the question must be asked: Why are you reading it? Wouldn't it make more sense just to skip this section (which you are still reading) and go straight to the blog? Rather than worry about all this waffle, you could be reading about our exciting times in Poland, which follows at the end of the paragraph. The end of this paragraph is actually quite near as it happens. It comes at the end of this message, which is right now.

Wednesday 15 July:

Two groups of 5 Irish young people checked in yesterday and soon found each other. Unfortunately even putting them all together they still had an IQ of less than the value of pi so there were some disturbances overnight. After Heather had given them what for they were later told to leave the hostel if they wished to continue partying. They did and then returned about 6am and decided to have a final drink / eat in the common room and kitchen area. So when we went in there to have our breakfast a bit after 7 the place was a complete pigsty. Oh well, I’m sure their parents are all very proud of them.

Anyway we managed to find a space to make and have some breakfast. Utensils etc are very minimal but we made do. Then Heather was off for her visit to Auschwitz.

Zachary and I went back to the room as it was too early to go anywhere and he watched a movie. After that we went back to the main mall in town for morning tea. We had spotted a pirate ship for children to play on yesterday so we went there and Zachary had a bit of a play on that.

We then went to the Museum of Municipal Engineering (which is just a short walk from the hostel). I went because it has a display of old trams and cars but the best part of it was an interactive area where children (and adults) could do various activities and experiments based on motion, resistance etc. This was good fun for us both. The tram display was a bit of a non-event and the cars were not on display during reconstruction of a hall. There was an interesting exhibition about the history of the printing press with lots of old printing tools, but Zachary wasn’t particularly interested of course so we got through that quickly. There was also a small playground so overall it was a good place. And for 10 zloty (about $NZ4) it was good value.

We then walked a bit further down the street, past the impressive Corpus Christi Church, to Wolnica Square. This is the heart of the Kazmierz district, known for restaurants and clubs. We found a bakery and despite the owner only speaking Polish and Russian we managed to find something. I’m still not sure what is was but it was some sort of warm sweet filled pastry. It was very delicious whatever it was!

Then we got another tram and headed for the Polish Aviation Museum. The tram ride was actually a bit scary. We were standing as it was packed and the driver will go full speed and then stop very quickly. We were jostled and thrown about and we hung on for dear life. While the trams here are uncomfortable and wobbly, this driver was a lunatic.

We went one stop too far but that worked out okay as there was an old tram that had been converted to a café so we had ice-cream there. Zachary got his way through a toffee cornetto (price 2 zloty or about 80 cents) and then we walked back to the museum. This was okay – it had 163 planes, 44 gliders, and 16 helicopters on display. Most were in a large outdoor area but there were some themed indoor exhibits too. There wasn’t much info in English but it was a good collection of mostly military planes. They also had Pope John Paul II’s papal helicopter which we could go and have a quick look inside. Just like yesterday we got a very heavy rain shower in the afternoon, but this time we had our raincoats. We got the tram back to the hostel (a sane driver this time) and rested / relaxed while we waited for Heather. I had spotted what looks like a good Polish restaurant in Wolnica Square earlier so thought it might be good to try. We met Heather at the tram stop close to there and went from there.

Heather had had a very good day at Auschwitz. On the bus from Krakow she bumped into another Heather, from Hamilton, that she knew through Guiding. She got a lot out of the day, although she said she could have spent longer and gave me some tips for tomorrow,

The restaurant was good, not great. We tried to order a pizza but that had run out. It appears pizza is a nice thought in Krakow, but not a reality. So I had Polish style ribs, Heather a pork dish and we had pierogi. Pierogi is a Polish speciality which is essentially dumplings stuffed with either meat or with potato and cheese. We chose the latter so Zachary could have a bit of everything. The pierogi was quite tasty I thought but the dumplings were a bit rubbery – not crispy like we would associate dumplings with. Overall though it was fine and we had dessert too. I also had a beer and Heather a cocktail and the total bill was only 133 zloty (around $NZ50).

Back to the hostel to get Zachary to bed asap. We are really working hard to eliminate some very silly behaviours and habits that are becoming too frequent and he has been hard work the last couple of days. Tomorrow I go to Auschwitz and then we will meet back at the hostel to take our stuff to the train station, have dinner, and take the overnighter to Prague. After that we have some longer stays so hopefully Zachary will settle a bit more again. He and Heather will probably have a fairly quiet day tomorrow. Zachary wants to go back to the Municipal Engineering Museum so that could be a plan and then maybe find a park or two.

Thursday 16 July:

Today was my turn to visit Auschwitz. I will post some photos with commentary in the next day or two in a separate blog. I think both Heather and I were moved greatly by some of the things we saw. However, for both of us it was rather busy and, while we appreciate the need to get people through in an organised fashion, it did perhaps diminish the experience somewhat. Going to Birkenau though was a bit different as we could walk around here at our leisure.

Zachary showed Heather where the Municipal Engineering Museum was and he spent another 90 minutes or so in the science room. He really is interested in that sort of thing which is great! Then they came into town to the Mall and had the, apparently world-famous, Cinnabon for lunch which was very sweet. Then it was off to the pirate ship for a while. Zachary started to lose the plot so Heather decided he needed a sleep. They went on the tourist hop-on hop-off bus and Heather got a good overview of the city including passing by Schindler’s factory and the Krakow Ghetto. Zachary fell asleep as planned.

I met them back at the pirate ship where Zachary had made friends with a couple of older boys and they were playing chase wonderfully together. The older boys would make sure he was in their sight and if he got too far behind they would stop and let him catch them.

We went back to the Chinese place for dinner as we knew it was good and then headed back to the hostel to pick up our stuff which Heather had stored there for the day. Back to the train station, on the number 50 tram which was now working, and we settled into wait for our train to Prague, due to leave at 2150. It is from there I am blogging and hopefully we get at least some sleep tonight. We are due in at 0640 and while we can’t check in to our room we can use the common room area if we like and store our stuff. So we’ll look for some breakfast and hopefully have a little look around the city before coming back for a rest after lunch. That’s the plan anyway, the reality may be different.

Also, I received some sad news just now that Missy, our beautiful dog that our friends in Waiuku took on, has passed away. She had developed some serious health problems and they made the right decision to have her put down. A huge thank you to the Harris family for looking after her.


17th July 2015

Hi guys, Im glad you've had a reasonably good time in Poland. I cant wait to get there one day to see where my Nana-in-law was born and raised.(oh the FIL too). The pierogis are on the chewy side as they are boiled first, then fried. I cant wait to hear about Auschwitz. Im not morbid, its where the Nana in law worked. Lots of family history there. Cant wait to see you when you get back. We are sad to hear about Missy too. Take care, love to you all, Zeetra xx
17th July 2015

Hi Zeetra and whanau. We didn't know about your Polish / Auschwitz connection so we'll definitely catch up about that when we get home. Keep those winter woollies on (as I write this it is 36 degrees!!!)

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