July 23, 2013
Travel Journal (Day 6)
We left Prague for Krakow, Poland, on July 18, 2013. Our mode of transportation, you wonder? Why, only the coolest mode ever…night train. That is right; we booked sleeper cabins on a train and traveled the eight hours or so to Krakow via train. This is, most definitely, my favorite way to travel. I just love trains and train travel. Plus, train sleep in sleeper cars is simply divine. I mean it. The sway of the train, the fresh air whipped in through the window, the constant hum of the train simply lull me into a deep, comforting sleep.
But, prior to that, sleep is the fun of train travel; talking with the group, drinking and eating, and just generally enjoying the euphoria of train travel. I wish the US had more train travel like this. It is bliss.
We arrived in Krakow about 6:30am, took a tram and then walked to our hostel, Nathan’s Villa Hostel. We could not check in until afternoon, so we just locked up our packs in the luggage room, grabbed some breakfast, and then made our way to a walking tour of the city.
Our tour guide has been giving tours of the city of his birth — the city he loves most — for quite some time now, and he was perfect. His energy, interest, and knowledge kept our exhausted group going masterfully.
We saw the Krakow castle, the town square, spots used to make the move Schindler’s List, the Barbican, and oodles more. We learned about the importance of dragons for the city, Copernicus, university systems, Pope John Paul II, and, of course, the impacts that the Nazis and then the communists had on Krakow and Poland as a whole.
We also learned that the people of Krakow are still bitter that the capital of Poland was moved hundreds of years ago to Warsaw.
Krakow is really an incredible city. It is large, yet there is a peace and calm that I never felt in Prague. The way the city is set up around the castle is really no different from any other European city, but there is something about Krakow that just feels different. And it is a difference I adore. Poland is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I love being here.
It is interesting to start this trip first with Prague and then with Krakow. One reason is that where the Czech Republic is something like 77 percent (or so) atheist, Poland is about that much Catholic. The switch to a place with such strong conservative roots is fascinating, especially considering that the two cities are so close.
Moreover, their connection as cities under siege throughout the centuries is undeniable. Both suffered under first the Nazis and then the communists. Both have dealt with invaders and conquerers for millennia. And both have survived each change of regime. The people of these two cities show a resilience and strength that we all could learn from.
Tomorrow, July 20, 2013, we go to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Already, my soul is heavy. So, for now, I must go to prepare myself for the residual pain of the atrocities.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com