Dzien Dobry!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Stalin Style Building
Greetings from Krakow, Poland! After a long day of flying with a three hour layover in Heathrow, we made it to Warsaw! We had been up for 33 hours so I was exhausted and had the best sleep of my life. It is a very nice city but after the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, Hitler decided that he wanted the entire city leveled so nothing survived the war. Everything is new and there are so many communistic style apartments. You can almost see the difference in the buildings built just after the war in this style and the buildings that have been built since 1989 after the fall of the communist party. The only way you would ever be able to tell that such historic events took place there is by the 50 foot remains of the brick wall that surrounded the Ghetto. Unfortunately, you have to have someone who knows exactly where it is because it is through a winding alleyway. The Old Town Square, however, was completely rebuilt based on paintings of the area from before the war. We took a nice walking tour of Warsaw where we saw where many important buildings once stood and where many great events took place. We also visited the only Jewish cemetery that remains there. I cannot describe the creepiness of that place. It was amazing.

Wall of the Warsaw Ghetto

Part of town rebuilt from paintings
We spend the night in the Hotel Novotel and got up nice and early in the morning to drive to Lublin. We walked around there for a while and ate in a Jewish restaurant which was interesting. I told them I was a vegetarian and they gave me fish. Oh, well. We also only stayed there for one night and got up early to visit the Majdanek Concentration Camp. A lot of it was gone but there was still the cleansing station, a group of barracks, the crematorium, and the gas chambers. It was scary to walk through the places where the people were shaved, washed, and many of them killed. You could still see the blue-green stains on the wall that were from the chemical reaction of cyklon b gas. One of the barracks was filled entirely with the prisoner's shoes. Another barrack still had the seemingly endless rows of bunks, built three high. Walking along the barbed wire fence led to a memorial that was made up of a huge basin of human ashes. The crematorium still had the huge ovens. There was also a bathtub that the Germans would use to bathe in while the burning bodies of the prisoners heated their water. Disgusting.

Stains from the cyclon b gas

After Majdanek we had a five hour bus ride to Krakow where I am writing from now! Yesterday after we arrived we had five minutes to change and then we had to go Shabbat Services. We went to the only functioning synagogue in Krakow. Before the war there were 120. The service was very different from the reform one I attended in Sharon. Everyone went at their own pace and the women had to sit in a separate room with a neck high wall with a curtain at the top. After that we wandered around the city until we found a bar. We had a drink there and then found an "Irish" pub. The bartenders did not speak English, they were playing Jamaican music, and we were hit on by a man from Norway.

Today we had a walking tour around Krakow. It was rainy and extremely windy all day. We visited what used to be the heart of Jewish Krakow. Now it is mostly old synagogues converted into restaurants or stores. There were four synagogues in a 100 foot radius. It's amazing to imagine what that would have been like before the war.

Our tour guide grew up in Krakow so he felt that he needed to show us a good bar where we took a drink break at 11 a.m. I'm a big fan of Janucz. We ended the tour in the Old Town which is the oldest medieval square in the world. It was a lot of fun. We had the afternoon to ourselves so we found a restaurant, did some shopping, and visited and old castle. It was so miserable out that (after 8 hours of walking in the rain) we headed back to the hotel. Luckily, we remembered how to get back from the previous night of bar hopping. We were on our own for dinner and I was planning to meet up with some people to find somewhere to eat but I ended up sleeping from 6 to 9. Now I'm here!

Tomorrow we are visiting Auschwitz. That is going to be sad although a group of kids from D.C. told us that Majdanek was worse because Auschwitz is very touristy. I'll see for myself. I think we're spending one more night in Krakow and then we will be heading to Prague which I'm a extremely excited about!

Until then!

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