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Friday, July 29, 2011

Cracow: the cultural heart of Poland

Like Auschwitz and Warsaw, a must-see but for different reasons.It was relatively undamaged in the wars, and is smaller and cuter than Warsaw, bigger and richer than Plock. Unless you have business in Warsaw (such as digging up dead people) Cracow is probably easier and more interesting to see. I liked them both. We saw three capitals of Poland in three days, anyhow. I don't know how many more there are.

By the time we reached Cracow again, I had a blister from my penance tour of Oswiecim ("Oz-vee-ain-chim" Again, run it all together fast.) We drove through the Jewish ghetto and around several other sites, but I told the guide to drop me in a pub while she and Joyce did a walking tour of the old town. I found my friend Zywiec and we had a nice chat in my journal.

To get to Auschwitz from Warsaw, you take the 9 AM (weekend) train, reach speeds of 90 MPH, and arrive in Cracow around 1130. You grab Polish fast food (imagine a spicy chicken pita sandwich) and drive an hour way out into the beautiful countryside to reach the camps.

You spend however much time there, then drive back to Cracow. Then you spend as much time as you want in the Old Town before catching one of the late trains back to Warsaw. I want to emphasize that these trains are VERY nice. They have great seats, a dining car, a snack cart, and a little readout that gives your location, the time and the speed along with other things. It's much more impressive than AMTRAK. (Ugh). And we actually had no intention of going to Cracow OR Oswiecim until the concierge at the Sofitel told us (via e-mail a week or so before we left) how easy it was. Realizing the chance to do it again was very slim, we decided to woman up and see what humankind hath wrought upon itself. And as I said, we're a pack of idiots. Let's hear it for the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. ("Live long, die out" is their motto)

So, while Joyce went sightseeing and amber shopping, I sat in the pub and drank my little beers and caught up on all my writing. She said the market square was very lively and crowded and she didn't buy anything because she couldn't take enough time to look. I had a good time not shopping. I'd rather have a root canal than shop. I actually have had a root canal so I know this for a fact.

After Joyce caught up on beer, we asked our guide to take us back to the train. We shared a sandwich and slept, returned to the hotel very late and collpsed with NOTHING on the agenda until the 8:30 overnight train to Budapest the next evening. We didn't set an alarm or a wake-up call for the first time since leaving home.

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