After finishing classes on Friday morning, Dorota took us to the train station to start our journey to Krakow. First was a train from Kotun to Warsaw, where we got onto the fast train to Krakow. All in all, it was about a 4 hour journey. We took bagged dinners with us for the ride (courtesy of Reymontowka) so we didn’t even have to eat train food! The train accommodations were nice (and tickets were relatively cheap!), and once we arrived in the city we decided to walk to our hotel. We got checked in and settled and then I decided to journey out to the Old Town square, which was about 2 blocks from our hotel. There we got DELICIOUS pierogi from a little hut in the square, and sat and people-watched for a little while. It was a chilly evening, but there wasn’t any rain…and definitely no shortage of people! The square is full of adorable little vendors with everything from pottery to chocolate tools. We even stumbled upon a rally for one of the Presidential candidates…there was a run-off on Sunday for the next president (the newbie beat out the incumbent!). It was quite the event to see, even if I couldn’t understand anything that was being said. We even stopped for some gelato on the way back the hotel…which got me VERY excited for Italy!
After a delicious hotel breakfast Saturday morning, Rob and I met Chester (our private guide) outside of the hotel and drove about an hour and 45 minutes to Auschwitz. The weather was cold and dreary, but it seemed appropriate. We spent the morning on a tour of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with a very knowledgeable and informative guide. She shared the stories of many of the individuals who suffered and/or died there, which made the experience all the more powerful. Visiting these locations was one of the most emotionally difficult things that I have ever experienced, but had a profound impact on me. Walking on the same grounds that these persecuted peoples did really made me realize just how incredibly blessed we are to have our freedom. The fact that people would treat other human beings in such an inhuman way is absolutely unfathomable; it‘s atrocious. It was a difficult morning.
We then drove back to Krakow to pick up Kenita and to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It was a beautiful place, and they even have a underground cathedral! It’s one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and I can see why! There are beautiful rock salt carvings, four chapels, and even chandeliers with salt crystals. They charged us an extra 10 zly if we wanted to take pictures, but it was definitely worth it! Our day was running quite late, so by the time we got back to Krakow it was 8:30, so we decided to just find a restaurant in Old Town for a late dinner. We ended up at a fantastic Italian place where I demolished a pizza with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, accompanied by a glass of Cabernet.
Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and then decided to just spend the day touring the city. We visited Wawel Castle and Cathedral, where we did some sightseeing and visited the dragon’s lair. According to legend, the king built the castle atop the dragon’s lair…it was a fun (although very touristy) place to see. I spent some time in Old Town shopping for pottery, carvings, and more. It was fun to walk around and just take in the sights, sounds, and smells! For lunch, I decided on kielbasa and pierogi (potato and cheese/strawberry). It was DELICIOUS! I swear I could eat Polish food forever…I definitely have never gone hungry here. We caught the train back in the early afternoon, and made it back to Reymontowka all in one piece, just maybe a little heavier? (thanks to food and souvenirs!). An awesome weekend all together…looking forward to the last week! I know it’s going to fly by!