Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Road Trips, Had Me a Blast! Part II

Less than 24 hours after returning to Vienna from our Prague adventure, we were on the road again.  Krakow was our destination for a long weekend visit.   Poland.  Land of some of my people.  Although we are not sure exactly where our Polish people emigrated from (paging the research department!), the food brings a flood of happy thoughts of my Italian Grandmother cooking Polish specialties, learned through marriage into the Slavic clan.  

This union of Italian and Pole makes sense in the context of Bona Sforza, the Italian royal who married Polish King Sigismund the Old in the 14th Century.  The Queen brought Italy and Poland together,  helping to incorporate Italian foods and artistic styles of the Renaissance into the Polish Court.

Italian poet Gianbattista Guarini wrote of the connection:

"I luoghi sono ben lontani, ma gli anni son vicini"
"the places are so far away, but the spirit is close"

I get it.

Krakow has much of the "hipster" vibe of Prague, only less densely packed with tourists.  We visited 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites:  Historic Centre Krakow and Wieliczka Salt Mine.  We are talking important Polish sites since at least the 13th Century.  The concept of being "close enough to touch" these connections to the past will never cease to amaze and inspire.  The medieval city center boasts the largest market square in Europe, Royal Wawel Castle complex is still partially surrounded by its walled fortifications, and the Kazimierz district forms part of the historic and tragic Jewish ghetto.  Krakow is also a University town with former students ranging from Copernicus to "hometown" Saint, Pope John Paul II.

St. Mary's Basilica

Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall Market

Saint John Paul II

Wawel Cathedral Complex at the Castle

St. Florian's Gate

St. Kinga's Cathedral in Wieliczka Mine (all made from rock salt)

We also continued educating ourselves and our 10 year old about Hitler and Nazi atrocities, by visiting parts of the Jewish ghetto.  Polish Jews lived in Krakow from the 13th century until Nazis forced more than 65,000 men, women and children into the Podgorze ghetto and systematically orchestrated their deaths there or in concentration camps, like nearby Auschwitz.  Even the Old Jewish Cemetery (established in 1535) was destroyed by the Nazis.  Tombstones were demolished to make paving stones for the camps.  Much of what is viewed today is post-war restoration.

Remuh Cemetery-Old Jewish Cemetery

Building in Kazimierz

Memorial to the 65,000

Oh Krakow.  We did not have enough time to fully appreciate all of your gifts.  We will return.  Our desire for pierogis and golumpki (aka piggies), along with a breaded pork chop and an ice cold Tyskie is far too great to keep us away.

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