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Last Day in Gdansk

Wow! What a Week

sunny 65 °F
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This morning Chris and I had breakfast together. How nice it was. We even ordered pancakes, getting crepes of course. I had mine with honey and raspberry jelly. Chris had his plain. The only talks that interested Chris today were at 3:00pm, so we decided to make it our first morning together since Saturday. P7270006.jpgIMAG0312.jpgWe toured and shopped. I love finding that interesting story with a life. We found just that with a leathersmith. From the outside it looked like a petfood store, as it was, but they also made muzzles, bags, and belts. I enjoyed talking to the old couple and their daughter. IMAG0302.jpgWe happened upon two pieces of wall, one part of the Berlin Wall which fell in 1989, the other was a part of the Wall around the shipyard, where now stands the Monument to the Shipyard WorkersDSC01899.jpgDSC01901.jpg, built after a strike in 1980 and the start of the Solidarity trade union led by Lech Walea, elected President of Poland. This was most likely led to the fall of communism. We headed back the Hall for lunch, again for some lettuce and rice and other traditional dishes. Chris decided to hang around a bit and meet me back at the hotel at 4:30. I spent the entire afternoon souvenir shopping (boy, was that fun...no spoiling the fun, you'll have to wait and see, except Ms. Ella if she can guess by the picture).IMAG0313.jpg I went back to the hotel and convinced Chris to head back out quickly for two more gifts, then we came back and IMAG0316.jpgdressed our best for the banquet held in the Central Maritime Museum. DSC01912.jpgDSC01911.jpgThe canons are Russian discovered from a sunken ship.DSC01906.jpg Soldek was the first Polish ship built after WWII that was oceanready. We ate, we drank, and I even danced (with a colleague). Eager for an early morning train ride, unpacked, and tired, we headed back to the hotel and caught a most descriptive shot of the ruins in front of the beautiful old town Gdansk.IMAG0315.jpgThat's why this blog didn't make it in time. I'll be a day off for now, I'm sure.

Posted by jwhitehurst 13:36 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Warsaw - Part 1

The Ghetto

semi-overcast 63 °F
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We ate together again this morning, and I packed a couple of extra rolls, meat, cheese, and bananas just in case the buffet on the train wasn't a meal (and it wasn't). IMAG0082.jpgThe 6 hour train trip started out as a novelty but soon wore off IMAG0075.jpgafter the 5th 10 minute stop on the tracks because of construction on a high-speed rail (ironic, I think so). When arriving at Warsaw, we didn't know what to expect because all we'd heard from the Polish community is that Krakow is so nice every time we mentioned Warsaw. Chris and I, however, were quite taken with our first view of the city DSC01914.jpgwith the towering Palace of Culture and Science (reminds me of ghostbusters for some reason). After checking into our gorgeous hotel, Polonia Palace, we went on for a bite of burritos at the seamingly admired Mexican joint down the block. IMAG0090.jpgThe chips were stale, the beef burrito had chewy steak, and the beer was fine. IMAG0087.jpgThe menu said it all, if you can read the inscription. Maybe we should have done fine dining at the McDonalds instead. DSC01916.jpgBurning off the calories was easy on our, get this, 6.5 mile hike around the town, yes, at 6:00. Let me show you the sights (Griswald style, as Taylor suggests). IMAG0093.jpg First was the Saxon Gardens' huge fountain next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (huh, we aren't the only ones with such a thing), policed by two guards stiff as statues. DSC01921.jpgThe whole walk was specifically for 4 monuments of the era of WWII and the Polish Jew massacre. Before we got to the first monument, IMAG0098.jpgIMAG0097.jpgon the ground was the mark of the Ghetto Wall, where the jews were isolated by the Nazis. IMAG0101.jpgThe first monument was the Monument to those Fallen and Murdered in the East. It was a depiction of a rail car with crosses and a track etched with names. Check out this "beautiful" shot at dusk. IMAG0103.jpg Next came the Umschlagplatz Monument, IMAG0105.jpgthe site of a former railway siding. DSC01926.jpgIt was here that 300,000 plus were carted from the Ghetto to camps. Next to last was the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto DSC01928.jpgIMAG0107.jpgIMAG0109.jpg, showing the struggle of the last in the Ghetto as it was torched in total. Finally we came to the Pawiak Prison. DSC01933.jpgIMAG0112.jpgThis is were Poles and Jews were arrested by Germans. The tree has obituaries nailed to it. We had a sombre walk home, but it was a good history lesson.

Posted by jwhitehurst 13:12 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Warsaw - Part 2

Churches, Churches, and more Churches

rain 60 °F
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Today was going to be just as long but lots more to see, and a little more uplifting (that was, until the rain came and never went away). But to start out we travelled east along Al. Jerozolimskie to the National Museum we found under construction. DSC01936.jpgLast night we did the City Centre. Today we continued North on Nova Swiat through the Royal Route to the Old and New Towns. Marked with a statue of Copernicus was the Staszic Palace from the early 19th century. DSC01938.jpgNext door was University of Warsaw, DSC01942.jpgfor which we failed to locate a t-shirt. We stopped in several churches, and the first was the Church of the Holy Cross where Chopin's heart is urned in an inside column. IMAG0322.jpgAcross the street and next to the most expensive hotel in Warsaw is the Namiestnikowski Palace, the president's home. DSC01943.jpgTwo guards out front and one on the side, honestly, that's it. Wanting to cover a lot of ground, we skipped out on the Royal Palace DSC01944.jpg, imagining ballroom, high celings, fine art, and breakable stuff. We did catch sight of the King Zygmunt III Column IMAG0119.jpgIMAG0326.jpgwho made Warsaw the capital, and St. Ann's Church DSC01945.jpg, whose interior ceilings caught Chris' eye IMAG0118.jpg. Next on our shopping list was St. Johns' Cathedral, first a church in the early 15th century. We took several stainglass and organ shots. IMAG0125.jpgWe even paid a toll to see a crypt IMAG0333.jpg where former presidents, arch bishops, and military officials are interred. Nothing more to do after that, but eat, so I picked a supposedly inexpensive traditional Polish cuisine. As we strolled through the old town square DSC01954.jpg, we were concerned of the high prices. At Kompania, We got a tray of seafood, from fried squid to baked salmon. IMAG0337.jpgIt was yummie (sorry you missed it, Mom). You wouldn't have loved the 15 minute wait for our check. While we waited, Chris kept noticing women climbing on a wall and posing, so after lunch he thought he should join in on the Barbican, built in the early 1500s. IMAG0341.jpgThe next stop was really quite interesting. We paid to enter Marie Curie's Museum. IMAG0346.jpg We saw pictures of her family and Einstein's on vacation, her contract for $50,000 in Paris in 1943, and old scientific equipment. IMAG0349.jpgIt was raining quite well now as we quickly grazed the new town towards Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary "the Church of Our Lady Mary". DSC01966.jpg The trees kept us dry for a bit as we looked out on the Vistula River. DSC01967.jpg We had but one more Monument to check off (I thought), so we headed a bit west on Dluga to the Monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. IMAG0356.jpg It happened to be taken over by a concert fiasco (try that on the Vietnam memorial in DC, yeah right). A quick peak at the Krasinkich Palace, DSC01975.jpg now the National Library, and then BACK to the old town to get one more in. Chris just had to see the half Jesus. IMAG0357.jpgI'm glad he did because what I saw I had to capture on film. Etched the walls of the Church of St. Martin were fourteen etchings of Jesus' arrest and crucification. IMAG0359.jpgThe church was also a nice break from the rain (glad I had my packing poncho). A bit hungry for ice cream but not willing to stand in the rain (apparently all the resaurants had window salesman of ice cream but not inside), we settled for a Polish dessert, waffles with whip cream, nuts, raisins, and caramel... delicious! IMAG0365.jpg 30 minutes later, Chris was hungry for pizza, so we got a personal pan closer to our hotel, stopped at a famous restaurant for a famous t-shirt for a not-so-famous mother, and eventually ended up at the hotel where I proceeded to sort 100 or so pictures, write details, and put it away for when I got wifi again.

Posted by jwhitehurst 14:07 Archived in Poland Comments (2)

Krakow - Part 1

Auschwitz

rain 62 °F
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OK. It's been over a week, and I think I can now tell the story of Krakow. We left on Sunday morning from Warsaw (beautiful hotel to leave) IMAG0366.jpg, and we headed on train to Krakow. It was about 4 hours and quite an ok trip. We were in a cabin with three other ladies who kept to themselves while Chris and I caught a quick nap. Upon arriving at Krakow, it was nice to see that our hotel was literally across the street. (Great job, Jane) IMAG0136.jpg and a quaint hotel with old style. We had just a few minutes to check in and carry our luggage up to the second floor (no elevators) before we went back to the train and bus stations to find a ride to Auschwitz (Oswiecim). The bus we caught just in the nick of time was filled with English speakers from Canada, Apex, and Chicago. One lady's nephew even went to Apex High where I teach. It was an interesting 2 hour trip through small towns and tiny curvey streets. We were welcomed with the saying "Arbeit Mach Frei", IMAG0368.jpg a saying all too familiar with the concentration camps that lied to its prisoners "Work makes you free". This was Chris' first visit to a camp. The barbed wire borders were just as a jail. DSC01978.jpg We joined the last tour at 3:00 in the pouring rain. IMAG0370.jpg What prisoners must have had to go through with this and the snow is unbelievable. In Auschwitz I, there were 20 blocks or brick bunkers for sleeping, medical experiments, torture, photos, etc. DSC01982.jpg We toured four of them that were turned into a museum. The sights were ghastly, but a few really stuck with me. One was a map of origin for campers. IMAG0371.jpg The jews, gypsies, gays, and war criminals came from as far as Rome and further. One was a collection of prayer shawls left over from inmates. IMAG0373.jpg and one was a large pile of children's shoes. That one caught me off guard, and I had to exit. I took no photo except that which is in my mind and forever will be. The last bunker we visited had prison chambers including a stading cell for four persons that was maybe 4x4. Outside the block a recreation of the firing wall became a point of mourning and remembrance. IMAG0375.jpg On our way out, the last thing we saw was the last thing nearly 400,000 of them saw, the crematorium DSC01985.jpg. This was a history lesson that neither of us would forget. The bus ride home was quiet. We decided to walk into town for some dinner and leave the major sight seeing for tomorrow. We ate at "Lizard" a dinner/bar/theatre IMAG0376.jpg. We walked along the streets. IMAG0138.jpg and we saw the opera house on the way back through the gardens IMAG0378.jpg.

Posted by jwhitehurst 14:47 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

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