This is the eighth (and last) in a series of posts about a trip to Europe in the summer of 2016
After having read bits of WW2 history, having watched movies and read books (mostly fiction aside from Anne Frank), it was difficult to decide whether we should visit Auschwitz. We did. It was really uncomfortable, very much so. It was painful and not the least bit cathartic. It was an important visit but left me with a very heavy burden. That so many people, human beings, (and innocent children) were subject to so great and so systematic a form of barbarianism for so long is unfathomable. And to this day neo-Nazis are not condemned like they should be. I will not say anymore. I just pray that the world at large learns a few lessons from history. Is all.
Onward to Krakow. Compared to the other European cities we visited, the one striking feature about this city was its deeply Russian flavor. Firstly, it was cold. Our woollies came out before we entered Krakow, and of course the rain didn’t help much. It was one of those places where you can imagine a character from a Tolstoy strolling in the street. I’ve never been to Russia but I’m a presumptuous soul. The city was: cold, a bit stark, unusual architecture, unapologetic, had restaurants with cellars….you get the drift. Poland is a relatively poor country in Europe and you get a grip of that fact with just one look around the city – little shacks everywhere selling food and other wares, the cheapest gelato we had on the Continent (I tried chocolate chilli this time and it was worth all the rave), our apartment rent had to be paid in cash, pot-holed roads. Just little things that contributed to the feeling. And it is openly acknowledged that of the damage the Nazis and the Soviets did to Europe, the worst hit was Poland. And we ought not to discount the warring knights and the Tartars before that. So my feeling is not completely baseless. But don’t get me wrong, the city can beat the best in Europe architecture-wise, gargoyle to gargoyle, the fairytale castle in tow with the beautiful Vistula River. A point to note here- Krakow was one of the few European cities that wasn’t reduced to rubble, so when the Soviets came in they never got a chance to build any of their boring, concrete apartment blocks. We stayed in a decent enough one-bedroom apartment called Best Rest Apartment. The double bed was a bit narrow and the bathroom was miniscule, but nothing too bad.
The city is not as tourist-thronged as some of the others, despite having the largest market square in all of Europe. The Polish also have their proud offerings – Copernicus and Pope John Paul; both figures are much-touted national heroes.
We had literally 36 hours in Krakow and since it was the last city on our road trip, we were consumed by fatigue, so we only managed half a walking tour. Also the toddler developed a sudden interest in getting out of the stroller and walking all over hand in hand.
Krakow gave us a very good flavor of Poland and if given the chance I would certainly be interested in another visit to the country but this time to Warsaw and Wroclaw.
This brings me to the end of a series of posts (eight in all) on a road trip to Eastern Europe, one for each country we visited during the summer of 2016. It was an epic journey to say the least and with the completion of this mini-travelogue Post Vacation Stress Disorder is hitting me again. BUT, life must go on. Dreaming of the next vacation already. Adios friends!