Thursday, October 16, 2008


I woke up early this morning had coffee and mueslix and checked the train schedule for Warsaw. I found a fast train that takes only 2 1/2 hours. The other trains are cheaper, but can take up to 8 hours. I decided to book the faster one so I would have time to roam around Krakow. I checked out of the hostel and walked over to the train station to lock up my backpack and buy my ticket. One of the best secrets I've learned is that Europe train stations have secure lockers for storing your belongings. Knowing this makes sightseeing a lot more bearable.

Wawel's Castle
Krakow's main attraction is the Wawel Hill where the Wawel cathedral and castle reside. I visited both locations and wasn't too impressed by the interior of the castle. The beauty in this case was only seen in its exterior. The Wawel cathedral had a crypt where all the Polish royalties are buried. King Kazimier's tomb was there, which dates back to the 13th century. Most of the tombs are made out of stone and are garnished with medieval skulls and cross bones.

Jewish Quarters- Kazimierz

After my self-guided tour of the castle I walked down to the Jewish Quarters. The Jews in Krakow were expelled and forced to resettle inside these small Jewish quarters. Kazimierz was named after the King who tossed the Jews out of Krakow in the 13th century.

I've been inside most sectors of Christian churches, mosques, but haven't been into a synagogue. Today was my first experience. I went inside one of the oldest synagogues in Poland called Remuh Synagogue. It is from the 16th century and looked more like an old house than a synagogue. Outside of the synagogue was a Jewish cementary with old Renaissance gravestones. The cementary was enclosed with a cobblestone wall.

I came across a little hole in the wall restaurant that advertised homemade periogis in large font written with magic markers. A Polish girl helped me figure out what to have with my limited funds. I could only afford desert and ate banana filled periogis with chocolate sauce. I was really hungry and gobbled them up and walked around for awhile more.

There was a large gathering at one of the main cathedrals by the city center. Hundreds of candles and lanterns were infront of a huge poster of Pope John Paul II. There was a stage with an orchestra getting ready to perform. The stage surrounded by blue lights in structures that looked like reverse umbrella frames. I asked a girl watching the event what all this was for. She told me that today was the 30th anniversary of when Pope John Paul was annotated. I wanted to stay longer and listen to the orchestra, but needed to get back to the train station.

Along my way back I asked a girl if I was on the right path. She said she would walk me to the train station. All I needed for her to do was point me in the right direction, but she insisted otherwise. She and I walked to the train station making small talk. We walked through Rynek Glowny (the main market square), which is Europe's largest medieval square and she pointed out the smallest cathedral. It was so tiny and only held 20 people. A direct contrast was St. Mary's cathedral located in the northeastern corner of the square. I went in the church before and it has some of the finest sculptures I've seen on my travels. I made it to the train station and said thank you. This act of kindness is generally what I've been experiencing in the four days I've been in Poland. Everyone is friendly here.

When I arrived in Warsaw it was pouring. A car went over a puddle and splashed me with dirty cold water. I was soaking wet by the time I reached the hostel.The hostel that I booked for online told me they never received my email and were fully booked. I walked along and lucked out by finding another hostel 5 minute walk from the first hostel. I am here now and the hostel's computer is slow and clunky, but at least it works. Tomorrow I will run around Warsaw to see Chopin's heart displayed in a cathedral in town and visit the Rising History museum.

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