Monday, April 14, 2008

Krakow, Poland

Back from Krakow, Poland...quite the interesting experience. I am a bundle of mixed emotions over this very old European city; its beautiful, vibrant and alive yet the entire time I was there I couldn't help but remember all the tragedy that has befallen here. There is a sorrowful undercurrent that flows through Krakow. Everyone is modernizing and seems to not want to look back, yet the buildings still remain, the statues, the walls - are all standing sentinel for those people who didn't make it to this renaissance period for Poland.

Of course it didn't help that on Friday my friend and I went to Auschwitz, which of course made me cry. I can't help but be mindful of how, while some Pole's helped to save their neighbors, many were all to willing to give into their latent antisemitism. From what I've read, the Nazi's could not have gotten away with what they did, if it hadn't been for the willing participation of the people in the countries they invaded. (Here in Denmark only 51 Jewish people perished, the Dane's saved the rest of their 7,200 Jewish population through hiding and sending Danish Jews to neutral Sweden). These feelings of xenophobia seem to have either stayed on or are part of the Polish make-up; I didn't see any non-white non-Catholics in Krakow (aside from tourists). Its one big homogenous society.

Following the horror of WWII, Poland than endured communism, in which I'm sure many more Poles one talks much on it, but I'm sure more sadness ensued.

This is the city square, EVERYTHING happens here (I saw mini-concerts, wedding party photos and flame throwers). Its quite pretty, when walking through, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was in Venice. Its this square that exhibits best how much Pole's want to toss off their tragic history.

This is the interior courtyard of the main castle in Krakow - doesn't it look so very classical European??? Krakow was Poland's capital for much of its history and had a long history of royalty. I believe their royal family now lives in exile.

I am glad I went; there is so much history here in Poland. But I was definitely happy to touch down in Copenhagen.

On a side note, the friend I went with was acting very weird by the last day of our trip. Very passive-agressive, clearly giving off behavior that she didn't want to be there with me. I wish she had just said why, was it something I said, did, didn't do? Was I boring? or smelly? Now that we are back in Copenhagen, I'm wondering, should I say something to her and if so, what? Or should I just forget about it?


Blogger Kate said...

I am so amazed at all the trips you have managed to fit in to your time in Denmark. Amazing! I've heard great things about Krakow and should really get my act together and go.

Is your friend still acting weird? Is it someone you've traveled with before? I'd wait to see if she's still strange now that you're back. Sometimes dynamics can change during traveling - because of lack of personal space, tiredness, disorientation in a new place. I have to confess I'm sometimes like that and now know myself well enough to warn the person I'm traveling with that I need a bit of time on my own each day. She might have other similar 'travel requirements' that she didn't share with you and which made her grouchy. Don't take it personally, but if she keeps acting strange now that you're back, and if she's someone whose friendship really matters to you, I'd speak to her to clear the air.

I hope her attitude didn't ruin your trip - it sounds like enough of an emotional roller coaster as it is!

9:25 AM  
Blogger slawek said...

First of all I would like to say that this is some rubbish with this participation in Holocaust. It is impossible to compare conditions between Poland and Denmark in the WWII. Of course many people were indifferent, they did not care about the fate of Jews (some were simply more afraid about their own lives), there's no doubt about it. But simply Poland was a home for a very large number of Jews in the world and if Hitler wanted to extreminate the Jews, he had to exterminate mostly the Polish Jews.
Secondly - since the XVIth century,when the Jagiello's dynasty has got finished without descendants century kings in Poland were elected like presidents, so there was no dynasty and royal family. And from the 1596 the capital of Poland is in Warsaw.
With regards

11:25 AM  
Blogger mommanator said...

Wow Slawek-say it like it is!? or not!
Gal- sorry bout the travelling companion- I agree with Kate wait and see!
What a veried experience you are having there-good for you!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Pax Romano said...

Now look what you've gone and done! You got Slawek all in a tither - offer him or her a drink until he or she calms down.

I love that you are traveling, I live vicariously thorough your posts. Just keep on going and take A LOT of pictures to share with your old Blog Father.

As for your friend, don't worry, I've contacted the Danish counselatte and told them that SHE was the stalker of the Royal family. She should not be much more of a problem for you!!

9:04 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

i wouldn't say anything... unless it continues... i seriously doubt it was anything you did.

Maybe she was just grouchy and over-tired.

2:38 AM  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

No, tell your friend it seemed strained at the end and ask if you did anything. Better to find out and change or pick a friend that matches better.
As for slawek, stuff the bones of some starved concentration camp non-survivors down his throat. If people choose to take care of themselves rather than help others they deserve to be stepped on themselves.
Seems like even at school you are traveling lots.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Malone said...

don't know if/when you should say anything to your travel mate. sometimes when people are in different environments with people they know, it throws them off and they have a hard time reconciling. could just be a passing phase. maybe she was out of sort. play it by ear. if she's still behaving wierdly toward you after a week, then you may want to sniff out the situation. ... but i'm just guessing.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Virginia Gal said...

Kate - Thanks, I am really trying to do as much as I can while here but it just feels like time is flowing so fast, like sand!

slawek - thank you for clarifying the history of Krakow and the Polish royal family...sadly I didn't read up on the history of Poland as well as I should have before going. As far as the Jewish question, there is no doubt that Poland was a bastion of liberalness when it came to religious tolerance yet at the same time there are eyewitness accounts of anti-antisemitism and collusion with the Nazi's in Poland as well as pogoms (sp) etc during the Nazi era. I'll be honest I always find with those from former Communist countries, when one suggests that some people in their country helped Hitler they always get very defensive, why is that?

Mommantor - you make me smile, always putting a nice spin on things : )

Pax - tak for taking care of the issue! Lots and lots of pictures on their way!

Tony - yes maybe you are right, I am wondering if she is maybe suffering from depression??

Joe - yes I guess where there is a will (desire to travel) there is a way.

Molly - Thanks, I am throwing her a surprise birthday and hopefully she will be her normal self again.

3:06 AM  
Blogger slawek said...

Hello Virginia and all the rest,
Well, I'm not an expert, but maybe I'll try to answer in my way. As I said, Poland and the Central Eastern Europe were a home for a probably second in the world (the American was 1st) Jewish community in the world. Very few people in the West realise that before 1939 1/3 of the inhabitants of Warsaw were Jewish! Theye were living in a huge quarter in the northern part of today's downtown of Warsaw. And Warsaw was the second 'Jewish' city in the world just after the New York.Not to mention Lublin, which was even named "The Jerusalem of the North'.
What's the point? Jews were a 'major minority', so to say, so there was much more people (Poles and others; Poland of 1918-1939 was a deeply multinational state), who were getting into interactions with Jews - in a positive or negative way.Proportionally there was much more people who liked, disliked or didn't care about the Jews than in the West. As there was so many Jews, there was also many people willing to help them and many others willing to betray them and pass into the hands of Nazis. I don't mention here a complexed political situation of the 1930's in Poland, when some right wing and nationalist politics has got into power.
Also: there was much more Jews, much more people, who helped them, and much more people who were cooperating with Nazis. And now people from the West are perceiving this in a narrow-minded way and they see only those, who were helping Nazis, And on this basis they want to claim that the antisemitism was a prevailing attitude in the Eastern Europe. They see the speck in our eye but they don't see thelog in their eye.
A certain, though quite marginal, role in this process is played by the people of Jewish originm who managed to leave Poland before or after the 1939 and had earlier some traumatic experiences with xenophobia in Poland. They are often keen to generalize their perception of Poles through the prism of their bad experiences; they claim that "all Poles hate Jews" and "they were all gladly helping in Holocaust", which is simply not true. Example? A year ago, after some antisemitic incidents in the Western Europe the European Council of Jews has announced that Poland is the safest and the most friendly country for Jews in Europe!

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Cracovian said...

I like your story ,I didn't realise that sorrow flows through Cracow. is it what foreign visitors can feel while visiting?

2:11 PM  

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