krakow and such

so with prague being as wonderful as it is…krakow, poland had the challenge of maintaining pace for me as i enter the last month of my trip.  and it has done so, swimmingly.  with funds running low, i decided to go the couch surfing route.  much to my surprise and against my safe thinking, it has gone great.  my couch host is the perfect first go at this.  with the exception that she’s extremely busy with school, she has done everything to make me feel perfectly welcome and she is very proud of her city.  she’s a polish-american over here studying and creating art, so we have similar ideas on life.  hers a little more liberal than mine, but i’m not here to discuss politics…even when she has tried.  anyway, i have my own room to sleep in and she is always coming back from her long days of schooling/finals with traditional polish fare.  so i’m getting the culture even when i’m not out getting it on my own.  can’t thank her enough for the place to stay.  guess i’ll have to consider being a host sometime to “pay it forward.”

so…krakow.  first day i went to some crazy salt mines, as recommended by some fellow travelers along the way.  honestly, a bit underwhelming.  maybe if the tour had been a little bit shorter…or maybe if i hadn’t been a cheap ass and taken the english tour instead of the polish tour.  i was one of two people in a group of 30 that didn’t understand what was going on.  i tried to just stay out of the way of the tour guide as we winded down towards middle-earth, in hopes of not being spoken to.  the only other person that didn’t get it was a 3 yr old girl.  one time when the guide made a joke and the group softly laughed, the little girl gave a big pee-wee herman “ha ha,” and i thought it was hilarious.  she and i saw eye-to-eye…and we laughed together at the ridiculousness of this tour the rest of the time.  her mom didn’t like that.  a couple of highlights shone through.  seeing as though i didn’t understand what the guide was saying, all i could do was see what was to be seen, which was a lot of sculptures made completely of salt.  some not so great, some amazing…like an entire cathedral built of salt.  designs of all of the jesus’es.  “away in a manger” jesus, “praying” jesus, and “on the cross” jesus.  a design of pope john paul the second.  the altar and even the huge chandeliers were made of salt.  pretty cool.  on the way out of the cathedral, a polish guy looks over to me and mutters some things and i waited for some sort of out for me…and there it was, he started laughing without me saying anything…so i obliged and laughed back, followed quickly by one of those faces that looks surprised and kinda pointed with my eyes that i wanted to walk past him.  i tiptoed by without him knowing.  he probably saw my cowboy hat though…there’s no escaping that.

second day…a bit more difficult to take in.  i made the trip over to auschwitz-birkenau.  it’s kind of an emotional day for everyone that decides to make that trip.  a very gripping, detailed tour of how the nazis occupied the small town of oswiecim, poland and did what they did.  i really don’t need to go into detail and it’s very difficult to wrap your head around the inhumanity, especially when you’re standing on the grounds.  and the effort to make what they were doing to innocents more efficient and systematic is nauseating.  i recommend going if you make it over to poland, but be prepared.

now that i got all that out of the way, i have been able to see krakow for all its beauty.  like prague, it has castles and a river and beautiful churches.  but the one thing it has is probably the greatest market town center in the world.  this square is HUGE!  people everywhere!  i love.  gonna spend the rest of my time enjoying the wonderful weather and the scenery.  eastern europe…amazing.  can’t wait to come back.

next stop…UK.

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