Ok, Let me preface by saying firmly that Auschwitz Concentration Camp is no joke– not funny at all- and I would never, ever insinuate that it is. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the concentration camp…………..We will call this the Concentration Camp Kerfuffle.
Let me explain…..Frank and I have been to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp outside Berlin several years ago. It was an emotional experience for us both; it forever changed me. On a human level it was unbelievable and as a Jew, it was frightening. A couple years ago, we went to Dachau outside Munich- it was a similar experience. Being such a short distance right outside Auschwitz, I felt it was necessary to make this a part of our journey here.
Last night, we purchased tickets through our hotel, through a private agency called see Krakow http://www.seekrakow.com/ The tour guide picked us up outside our hotel and brought us to a van which held 3 British Prince Harry wannabe’s, boasting their previous night’s conquests with the ladies. They permeated the tight enclosed space with their onion reeking sub, munching away their hangover as they discussed loudly in detail, all the gals they conquered.
The next stop- we picked up no less than 20 sorority type girls, clacking their gum, their waifey little bodies, squeezing 2 and 3 girls in one seat, as Frank and I were crammed against a window, trying not to inhale the loves baby soft and onion concoction. This tuna can on wheels turned into a night club/hook up scene- that in no way represented the sacredness and sobering tone going to a death camp should inhabit. In the end, this was the main reason I chose to leave this excursion.
When the tour guide realized the tour was overbooked, I chirped up and volunteered to forfeit our seats for a refund, because honestly- I felt trapped in a bad teen movie. Some negotiations over a walkie- talkie in aggressive Polish began. In the end, we were booted off the van (graciously) with promise of full reimbursement. As I coolly wished Prince Harry and his brigade good luck- I wacked my head on the roof of the van, knocking my glasses off-all in a totally “cool cat- 40 something AARP card carrying way.”
*By the way, I can’t comment one way or another regarding the tour company as they did oblige to our wishes. In addition, our hotel was completely professional and actually apologetic and gave us a full refund.
In the end, we chose mutually that memorializing the ways the Jews lived, rather than how they were murdered is how we chose to spend the rest of the day- so please read on….
So, yesterday I mentioned having a Plan B on standby, and I am nothing if not a woman of my word. This is in fact, what we did. We went to The Bishop Erazm Ciołek Palace http://muzeum.krakow.pl/For-visitors.53.0.html The palace is from the 1500’s and has a mild smattering of Renaissance paintings and artifacts. It was a pretty small collection as half the museum was under construction. But, it was enjoyable and only took a short time to work our way through them.
Next, we stopped at our new favorite coffee/cupcake joint- cupcake corner http://cupcakecorner.pl/en/ It’s all organic, has yummy flavors and good coffee- as we have not found a Starbuck’s yet here in Krakow. We collected our thoughts, made a plan and moved on to our next stop.
We made our way on foot to the Jewish Quarter as we had yesterday, minus the golf cart and the creepy guy. The same tour company we used on our first day- Free walking tour http://freewalkingtour.com/jewish-krakow,city,1,9,10,40.html also has a tour of the Jewish Quarter. Well, let me tell you, we got our money’s worth on this one! It is a 2 ½ hr. tour that takes through the Jewish Quarter, many of the major historic hotspots, the Jewish Ghetto and lastly Schindler’s factory from Schindler’s list.
The guide was a lively young guy, who barely took a breath- reciting interesting facts, and an intimate spin on things from a real Krakovian. Outside the famous and oldest synagogue- Remuh Synagogue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXKzxDHf4W0
Which was where the tour started- was a festive Shabbat service was underway. A circle was formed, 100 people with arms wrapped around each other singing Jewish hymns. A mutual love and camaraderie flowed from this group. We made our way to many memorials, famous restaurants and historic areas.
After the tour, we took a taxi back to the center of the Jewish Quarter to an old slaughter house that ironically is now a thriving market. But, the real focus is on a zapiekanka
http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/polishmaincourses/r/zapiekanka.htm It basically is all the rage here (at least for tourists or drunk 20 somethingers) but it is a “Stouffers type” French bread pizza with numerous possibilities and additions. You wait for 5-10 minutes for this little creation. Everybody eats standing up, with eager begging pigeons, nibbling on the zapienkanka droppings that fall from the overly eager “diners”. It was somewhat satisfying, somewhat disappointing. My combination was slightly unsettling, especially because I personally chose it— green onions, pickles and ketchup. My belly flip flops just reminiscing….
After our strange food consumption, we scurried back to the hotel to change quickly for the symphony at Philharmonic http://www.filharmonia.krakow.pl/?l=2 It was a lovely concert, performed to perfection.
After the concert, we walked through the main square, purchasing some gifts for the peeps back home and a few little trinkets for ourselves. The pottery is exquisite here and we have picked up some unique pieces.
At this point, hunger was nudging again. Yes, I am sorry- food is a major part of a vacation. And, if I must eat it, you must hear about it. That is just the way this blog thing works. Remember, come one week- protein shakes and salad are my friend… But for now, we are eating our way through Krakow…..
We stopped back at the hotel for some food recommendations and had a very entertaining, informative conversation with Jan- our receptionist at Senacki Hotel http://www.senacki.com/ Him and his colleague Lucas have gone out of their way to answer all our questions (and there are numerous) and has been extremely accommodating. If ever in Krakow, I highly recommend this hotel. They have truly made the experience a memorable one.
I digress…. Back to eating- we dined at an Italian establishment just behind our hotel called la Campana http://www.lacampana.pl/en We had a light dinner, out in the courtyard, by candlelight, under the stars. There were some technical issues and logistics, like reading a menu in the dark and dropping one’s fork several times and such, but it was a romantic setting, good food- not to filling, but satisfying all the same. And, being that this was our 8th meal of the day (just kidding)………….
So, that’s our concentration camp story- sad but true….
Love and strange French bread tasting- unable to pronounce- weird concoctions that drive the tourists wild ………..
~B & F~