Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Eastern Europe - Days 5 through 8 - Poland
We took the overnight train from Prague to Poland - it was the first time in a long time that I'd been on an overnight train, and it was hard to get adjusted to sleeping on the overnight journey.
The first stop was Krakow. We arrived very early in the morning, and wandered around the square for a bit while eating some breakfast. It was lovely to have such a public space all to ourselves - just us and the pigeons.
After breakfast, we boarded a public bus to take us out to the Auschwitz museum. The site preserves what is left of the concentration camp, and it was a fascinating and moving experience. I learned a lot about what happened during the war that day, even though it was emotionally draining to experience. Its one thing seeing pictures or a movie and quite another to actually be there. I didn't take very many pictures when I was there, and so the few that I have are of the momument to the victims at the far end of the concentration camp.
The next morning we headed out again on another day trip - this time to the Salt Mines outside of Krakow. The salt mines are listed as a UNESCO world heritage site because of all of the gorgeous carving and sculptures that are underground. THe highlight of the salt mines is a huge underground cathedral, where even the chandeliers were made of salt. The trip took a bit longer than we thought and we ended up back in the city of Krakow just in time to make our second overnight train to Warsaw.
Warsaw was extensively bombed during the war, and as a result, has been undergoing constant restoration to bring the city back to its former glory. We saw some lovely churches and buildings that had been put back together in such a way that you'd never guess that they were actually a restoration. In the afternoon, we set off to see a Chopin concert in one of Warsaw's public parks. About half way through the concert, the sky started to blacken, so we made our way back onto the bus that we'd came from to get back into town - it was a good decision, as about 5 minutes into our bus ride, the heavens opened, and a huge downpour occurred. We managed to find a small archway to duck into, and then opted for the nearest restaurant, which turned out to be the best Thai food I've ever eaten.