I’m going to try something new for the foreseeable future. I have over 100 entries in my travel blog that I published between 2005 and 2013. I’ve recently taken those down because I want to edit some of that writing for the memoir I’m working on. I’ll republish some of those posts here, on Tuesdays. At some point, I may also start adding new posts for travels that didn’t make it to my travel blog. I don’t have a plan for choosing which one to post each week.
I travelled in my twenties, and even a few times as a graduate student. In 2007, I spent five weeks backpacking around Central Europe, visiting the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria. This post, to kick off my #TravelTuesday series, is from Krakow, where I spent almost a week in late October 2007.
My visit to Krakow started with a beautiful train journey from Warsaw. It was raining when I left there, but as the train headed south, the sky cleared and the countryside was stunning. The autumn colours were amazing—mostly golds, but some reds too. We passed through hills dotted with farms and tiny villages. The sun was low enough that it added extra gold to the countryside. If I could paint, I would paint the scenes I saw from the train: pillars of white bark crowned with golden leaves and standing on a russet carpet; bright yellow leaves against a stormy sky; a churchyard bursting with tombstones; rows of vegetables waiting to be harvested.
Krakow was busy compared to Warsaw. rent from Warsaw. When I visited the Main Market Square in Krakow (the largest in Europe), I don’t know which was more overwhelming—the tourists, or the pigeons. I kept hearing a strange sound; if I closed my eyes, it reminded me of the sound of breathing underwater. It wasn’t until I got around to the other side of the Cloth Hall that I found the source of the strange sound: an art installation that involved piping the water over loudspeakers into the square, and people standing still for 30 minutes before being replaced by someone else. I could have taken part in it, but the cynic in me thought it was too bizarre.
It snowed my first night in Krakow—the excited Aussies in the hostel shouted out at 3am that it was snowing, and apparently several people had a snowball fight in the street at that hour. The next morning, there were a couple of centimetres of snow on everything, but it melted before the end of the day. It created a pleasant effect at the Royal Palace at Wawel Castle, to hear the water falling from the dragon’s mouths to the stones of the courtyard.
At Wawel Cathedral, inside the castle grounds, I climbed the worn wooden stairs of the Sigismund Tower to see the 487-year-old, 10,980 kg Sigismund Bell. The stairs were narrow, winding between and under the structural beams of the tower. I got stuck climbing up behind a slow lady who left a trail of garlic odour behind her.
I had the chance to go to a photo exhibit of Jewish life in Krakow before WWII. It is incredible that the photos even survived the war, and it was a superb exhibit, although it is so hard to come to terms with the number of lives that ended during the Holocaust—what contributions to the world never got to be made because those lives ended prematurely?