Thursday, August 15, 2019

NORTHERN HIGHLIGHT TOUR - KRAKOW-POLAND

When we visited Krakow, I immediately loved this city. It had a special charm. Unfortunately a part of the photos I have taken have disappeared. I only can show you a few one. But still it gives you an idea of the city.

Krakow had been the capital of Poland (today it is Warsaw) but still is the capital of the historical region.  With just under 800,000 inhabitants  and 327 km ² area it is the second largest city in Poland and visited annually by about 9 million tourists.

It is a student city. Just under a third of Krakow residents are students. The former capital is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland. Unlike most Polish cities, Krakow was not destroyed during the Second World War and therefore has one of the most complete buildings from the Romanesque to the Art Nouveau of Europe with particularly many architectural monuments from the Gothic and Renaissance.

In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, became Pope John Paul II—the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

The hotel we stayed in, was my favourite of all hotels I have slept in during the tour !



It was an old hotel but very modern inside, it had kept the old furniture in the public places and there were little crocheted table clothes everywhere. It looked so homely. Our room was very huge and very comfortable.





This was the view I had looking out of the window. Just opposite the street was a cat café !



As a cat lover this was of course something for me. When I had finished my sightseeing tour and had walked around enough, I had a coffee here with a delicious piece of cake. The cats wandered around and the huge ginger cat kept me company.



Walking through the beautiful city park



I arrived at the Barbican – a fortified outpost once connected to the city walls. It is a historic gateway leading into the Old Town. A very impressive building.



Inside Barbican



When the pope visited his home town in 1979 he stayed in the Bishop's Palace which is the second largest palace in Kraków and has been the residence of Kraków's bishops since it was first built in the 14th century. Today the Palace is most famous for having been the residence of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla from 1958 to 1978, before he became Pope John Paul II. During his visits to Kraków as Pope he would often make evening appearances in the 'Papal Window' to address the crowds





In honor of the pope





The market place



I stopped on this huge place and sat outside in a restaurant while watching the colorful carosses, I had a plate of Pierogi. Pierogi are dumplings that are most often filled with "ruskie" ("ruskie" meaning "Ruthenian" - with curd cheese and potato), meat, cabbage, mushroom, They are delicious and I can only recommend !

Here you will find everything you should know if you intend to visit Krakow. I think I should go back there and visit the city more. From what I have seen it was one of my favourite cities.



Saturday, August 10, 2019

AUSCHWITZ AN AMUSEMENT PARK ?



When I saw that our tour also included a visit to Auschwitz my heart sank ! Long forgotten memories suddenly came up again. As a child and adolescent, I had seen and heard so much of it and attended an exhibition with the school, as there was no Auschwitz Museum back then. I remembered people coming back from there as skeletons,  but as a kid I did not understand anything, that came later when we visited this exhibition. It was terrible. I was in such a shock that I got a high fever and had nightmares, I saw skeletons with huge eyes standing in each corner of my room. So I told our guide that I would wait in the bus or next to the bus along with others who did not want to go either.

To my surprise our guide told me that there was a nice restaurant where I could eat something and wait or walk around in the park ! A restaurant and a park ??  I had imagined an ugly dark place only with these barracks around and nothing else. I didn't know that 70 years later it had been transformed completely and was now a "Museum" which should teach the world that "such an horror should never happen again".

I think that all over the world, it's known that Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Shoah. Over 1.1 million men, women and children were killed here under atrocious circumstances.

And now ???

Auschwitz is the biggest tourist attraction in Poland, with over a million visitors each year, but whereas a typical museum pays tribute to beauty or knowledge, this one is all about hatred and intolerance and what it can lead to. And still a lot of people didn't get it.

Auschwitz has also become a big business. The entrance fee is around 30 Euros. More expensive with a guide. Imagine a family of only 4 persons, not everybody can afford this horror show.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see a nice parking place with huge trees around, and I wondered if the trees had seen what happened here over 74 years ago, when the allies finally discovered this place.




A parking like for every attraction park





a lot of buses from everywhere



I saw a barack from far and felt cold



People chatting and laughing, sitting on benches. Children ran around, it was amazing that there was not a playground !



Memorials of all countries in the world stood there, nobody was very interested.



Some people were interested in the commemorative plaques



I watched the entrance. People of all ages were there, old and young couples, even little children !



Outside a map of the concentration camp



and this nice restaurant, where I had a coffee, I couldn't eat. Here it was rather empty but then it filled up with people coming out of the camp. Most of them where smiling or even laughing I only saw one old lady who cried.



That's all I could see from outside and honestly for me it was enough !

I talked to a lady who was probably as old as me and she told me that her mother had been here and survived by miracle. She was so sad of what she saw here ! Even showers to refresh the tourists.



At least one Israeli tourist complained about the mist-spraying showers,  that “they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum said it has installed sets of “showers” at the entrance  which are meant to cool off tourists from the summer heat !! Business is business !

One of my group told me what she has seen inside. People taking selfies in front of the gas chambers ! Laughing at the hairs which lay there and found that they were good to make wiggs !



Having fun out of the windows, riding on a cross, balancing on the rails of the train who took the victims to the camp, having fun with the shower or make the "Heil Hitler" sign ! The worst was the mini skirt ! Although I haven't seen a "souvenir shop" it must have been outside.

As I had no pictures of what the lady had told me I just googled "Tourist behaviour in Auschwitz" and this was the result.

I was disgusted, I was shocked, no wonder that there are still the same attrocities going on ! Nobody has learned anything ! The only thing perhaps, how to make money ! I wonder where all this money goes ??  



Linking to SOCS Linda.G.Hill

Thursday, August 08, 2019

NORTHERN HIGHLIGHT TOUR - PRAGUE - CZECHOSLOVAKIA

 



approaching Prague



We checked into this huge box hotel, named Hotel Krystal, I don't know why, and for the first time in my life I slept on the 10th floor !! The view would have been nice if the hotel would have been located near Prague !



View out of our window on the outskirts of Prague



Our bus stopped at the river for a parking place and we had a first look on the Charles Bridge. There also were a lot of ducks and a strange animal which came towards us, some of us believed it was a rat, but we weren't sure and even our guide didn't know. Then it returned into the water and swam away.

In Prague it was pouring ! Therefore I didn't see very much from Prague this afternoon on the first day, but umbrellas,  when our bus took us to Prague ! The local guide in Prague didn't walk but was jogging so we jogged after him wet like cats I didn't even have time to take a picture, which anyway in the rain wasn't possible. My mood sank ! I quickly bought an umbrella which didn't help very much !

Then of course I didn't see the guide anymore but our guide had a yellow umbrella, so I ran after the next yellow umbrella, which was the wrong one. Fortunately I found the group again the guides had to stop at a traffic light.



Finally we reached the Town Hall Tower" where we stood beneath and waited for the Astronomical Clock to get into action. Each hour in only 45 seconds 12 apostles parade past the windows above the clock, nodding to the crowd. Death rings a bell and inverts his hourglass.



There was such crowd watching with umbrellas and wet clothes that it really wasn't a pleasure. It's certainly not a place to go in July when many countries have their school holidays. Anyway I saw the tower, but can't remember the apostels !







Walking through the city center we saw  a French market, with French products only. No time to stop but we had the whole day off the next day to come back  if we wanted to.



It was a shame that on these old buildings "street artists" had left their traces !




At a moment we arrived at the Charles Bridge a Gothic stone bridge that connects the Old Town and Lesser Town. It was actually called the Stone Bridge during its first several centuries. Its construction was commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and began in 1357.

A total of Baroque statues began to be placed along either side of Charles Bridge in the 17th century. Now many of them are copies and the originals can be seen in the Lapidarium museum. The most popular statue is probably the one of St. John of Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV by being thrown into the Vltava from the bridge. The plaque on the statue has been polished to a shine by countless people having touched it over the centuries. Touching the statue is supposed to bring good luck and ensure your return to Prague.



The shiny plaque. Apparently it brings luck to touch it.






From the bridge you had a beautiful view over the river.

Our next stop was the Prague Castle a castle complex built in the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world,[ occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet), at about 570 metres (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 metres (430 feet) wide.



Of course we only could see a small part of it and not the inside either.



I had a look into the castle and at the many statues surrounding the court.




To my surprise there was a guard change at the Palace, like for a King or Queen, but this was only the President, and I had never seen a President's guard change ! Shouldn't be in a Republic ! But of course it's good for the Tourist industry. The King of Belgium has no guards anymore, he didn't want that they were standing still freezing in the winter and melting in the summer.





The view over Prague was very nice a pity that the sky was so grey.



We also went into the St Vitus Cathedral Built over a time span of almost 600 years, St Vitus is one of the most richly endowed cathedrals in central Europe. It is pivotal to the religious and cultural life of the Czech Republic, housing treasures that range from the 14th-century mosaic of the Last Judgement and the tombs of St Wenceslas and Charles IV, to the baroque silver tomb of St John of Nepomuk, the ornate Chapel of St Wenceslas and art nouveau stained glass by Alfons Mucha.



When we crossed this square I thought it was a Christmas market, but the little houses were souvenir or food shops.  Probably during Christmas time, they just change the decoration.

The next day we were free and could explore the city alone.











I walked a bit through the old city and the bridge



and a bit along the shopping boulevard which looked very modern



watched the police arresting two street acrobates



and finally found in a park this memorial commemorating the Second World War.

Our stay in Prague ended with a cruise on the river Vltava (Moldau)



It was a very pleasant cruise and we could see a lot along the riversides and a lot of ships !



There was a buffet dressed for us and to my surprise I was served a non alcohol beer the same brand they serve in Egypt and which I had never found anywhere else !



Our cruise boat.

All in all it was Prague which I liked the less from all the big cities I have seen on this tour. Maybe because everybody had told me what a beautiful city it was and I had expected too much. Or it is just a city you have to stay much longer then just 2 days.

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are my four cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.

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