The Reichstag Building Dome, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Checkpoint Charlie

Day 19,  Friday, September 13, 2019

Our day starts back at the Brandenburg gate. The gate is a popular gathering point for tourists. This fellow was dressed interestingly, turns out he is Austria’s Mr. Fetish 2019! We walk to the Reichstag Building which houses the German Parliament. We are required to show passports and go through security screening before we are allowed into the building.  After riding an elevator with 30 other people we arrive at the dome. Can you find us in the reflections?Admission to the dome is free, but we needed to register for tickets three days in advance. 6,000 people visit here every day. We walk up a 230 meter ramp and our audioguide provides a lot of interesting information about the dome, the German parliament and what we see outside the dome.
A view of the 368 meter high TV tower we walked by yesterday. It is the tallest tower in the European Union.The greenish domes beside it belong to the Berlin Cathedral, which is Berlin’s largest church. Looking down from the ramp.  The 360 mirrors on this column reflect light down into the parliamentary chambers below the dome. A view of the Sony Building where the giant giraffe was located. The yellow building is the Berlin Philharmonic which is said to have one of the best orchestras in the world. At the top of the dome is a 10 meter diameter opening which provides fresh air.  Rain falls through it into the cone and is recycled. The warmth of the stale air rising in the dome is recovered by this cone and used to heat the building, along with 300 square metres of solar panels. The dome is 40 metres wide and opening at the top is 54 metres off the ground. It is very impressive. The sky is getting very dark outside and the wind has picked up.  I think we might get wet! If you look at the square in front of the lady in black pants in this picture you might be able to make out the members of Parliament sitting below the dome. They look like little whitish spots.

Here is a close up.

This photo of a photo shows what the Parliamentary chamber looks like lit by mirrors in the dome above. You can also see the emblem of the German government on the wall. Interestingly it is an eagle, which is the same as the national emblem of the United States.A view towards the Brandenburg gate and the Jewish Memorial which is the grey area beside the white building. Walking down from the top of the dome, we are on a ramp which is in-between the up ramp.  You can see people walking in different directions, some going up, some going down.
It is cold and wet when we get outside. The inscription reads “The German People” We pass this building under construction. The inside is completely gutted.  A new modern interior will be built but the exterior will be preserved. We see other buildings undergoing this process. We walk to one of the nearby train stations to find a place to eat a late lunch and we are pleasantly surprised to find the sun is shining when we come back outside. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a 19,000 square metre site covered with 2,711 grey concrete slabs, or stelae ranging in height from 8″ to 15′. It is situated on part of  the former Berlin Wall Death Strip. There are 54 x 87 rows of these 7′ x 3′ long stelae, and the ground between rows is uneven and undulating.  There is an information centre with displays and a list of names of 3,000,000 of the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust but we did not go inside.  This is a sombre place, but something seems missing. The walls of names of the Holocaust victims that we saw at Auschwitz had a stronger impact on me than this memorial site. Walking towards Checkpoint Charlie we pass some of the many electric scooters that are scattered around the city. People ride these in on sidewalks and in traffic, sometimes two people on a single scooter!  Seems kind of dangerous to me and the busses honk their horns at them all the time! A photo on a street display showing the Berlin Wall and the Death Strip near the Reichstag Building . We stop for a rest at Checkpoint Charlie Beach!  Where Bob tries a very strange hotdog, filled with mashed potato and lettuce. He said it wasn’t very good.
A photo on the street of Checkpoint Charlie during a military standoff with the Soviets in 1961. This checkpoint grew in stature over the years. This photo is from 1989.We come across pieces of the Berlin Wall in several locations along our route today. Checkpoint Charlie from the Soviet side, looking to the American side… and from the American side looking toward the Soviet side. After all the heavy stuff we saw today we have to laugh as this vehicle full of very loud beer drinking young men goes down the street!  It is powered by the peddling of the drinkers onboard. A interesting building on our way to the metro station. This interesting link shows 14 Cold War images and how these locations have changed today. Near home we come across this demonstration against far right extremists. We have seen several of these protests and they are always accompanied by a heavy police presence, no matter how small the rally.  Actually, we found that there is a heavy police presence everywhere is Berlin. This is one of the tiniest cars I have ever seen. it only holds one passenger.

Our Own Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Berlin

Day 18, Thursday, September 12, 2019

First stop today is Potsdamer Platz which is an area that used to be the Dead Zone when the Berlin Wall was in place. After the wall came down these three skyscrapers were built and became the focal point for this new area.
There are some pieces of the Berlin Wall here and for some strange reason they are plastered with wads of chewing gum left by visitors. Notice behind the wall is the Canadian Embassy.
The display was very informative. Bob knows a lot more about the history of Berlin than I do so I found these panels quite interesting. This one shows the Dead Zone, which was the unoccupied area around the Berlin Wall, and the developed area now.
The cobbled line Bob is standing on is where the Berlin Wall used to be located. We walk to the Sony centre and find this interesting building that has part of an old hotel interior enclosed in glass as part of its exterior wall. Wow! This LEGO giraffe is the biggest giraffe I have ever seen… and Bob found a pretty huge Angry Bird! We make our own Hop-On Hop-Off tour by catching the #100 bus. First stop is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was destroyed by the bombing in WWII and is now an anti-war memorial to peace and reconciliation. This is what the church used to look like.The little bit of the interior that remains is covered in beautiful mosaics… even the floor is completely decorated with mosaic tiles.  It must have been an incredibly beautiful church.Outside we see this memorial for the victims of a terrorist attack on December 19, 2016 on the steps of the Memorial Church,  A stolen truck was driven into the crowd at the Christmas Market and twelve people were killed and seventy were seriously injured. The names of the deceased are engraved on the steps and the bronze crack represents the fracture the attack inflicted on society.  It is like a scar and shows that healing and everyday life are possible, but we should not ignore or forget the scars we bear and what caused them.  We walk inside the Memorial Church and I am quite overcome.  Something about this space moved me to tears. It is unlike anything I have seen before. This Christ figure was beautiful. There is a concert here tonight and we sit for a while listening to the two organists practicing for tonight’s performance. You can see them in this photo.  To listen to the organ music click this link. The walls are made of 22,200 panes of stained glass and each pane is made of many individual glass pieces. The floor is covered in circles of many colours and sizes. It made me think that all those little pieces of glass and all the circles on the floor could represent people who have died and are memorialized in this church.The outside walls show how each piece of glass is embedded in mortar within each individual pane. The outside of this church gives no hint of the vibrant colours inside. We walk down the broad boulevard between the lanes of traffic. Here is a view looking back towards the bombed church.

We were looking for the KaDeWa department store. With over 60,000 square metres of selling space, it is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London. We make our way up to the sixth floor and find a whole floor of yummy things to eat. Too bad there are no gluten, dairy and egg free options for me.

We have noticed that European men like colourful socks. Here is what fashionable girls are wearing in Berlin.  We continue our tour on a double decker bus.  This is the first time we have sat up front on the top of one of these busses. !t does give a different viewpoint. Bob notices something strange about this stop sign. We drive through the centre of a huge park and around this monument. The Victory Column with Victoria, the Goddess of Victory in the centre of the Tiergarten park is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks.We drive past the spot where the old book market was yesterday. Bob did a bit of research and discovered that this is the University where Eisnstein and the Brothers Grimm taught and where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles studied . It was also the site of the burning of thousands of books by the Nazis in 1933. Next stop is Alexanderplatz, a large public square and popular gathering place in Berlin. We find a bench for a tea break and witness a little drama unfolding behind us. It took eleven police officers over half an hour to move this fellow in handcuffs from beside the fence to the police wagon. There was lots of interviewing of bystanders and note taking but we don’t have a clue what it is all about. This is the view in front of us.I wanted to go to the top of the Berlin TV Tower but it cost €16 which is almost $24 each. That seemed a bit too much. The Neptune Fountain is is very ornate.

We manage to get on a bus going in the wrong direction on our way home, so we hop off and decide to take the subway instead. It is faster and easier to figure out than the bus system.

Berlin, Germany

Day 15, Monday, September 9

I am still not feeling well and spend the day in bed resting and watching a Netflix series. Bob binge watches a series on Netflix, reads and rests too. Guess we both needed a quiet day.

 

Day 16, Tuesday, September 10

Another quiet day, but I do manage a couple blog posts and we go out for much needed groceries.

Our Berlin bnb is on the fifth floor, without an elevator!  Every window we look out of we only see trees. It feels a bit like we are living in a treehouse. This is the view from our living room window. Day 17, Wednesday, September 11, 2019

We want to go to central Berlin, but first we need to figure out the public transportation system.  Finally figure out that there is a 7 day pass that gives unlimited travel on all the busses, metros and trains. There are beautiful big trees in our neighbourhood but I have no idea what kind they are. We also notice that the leaves have begun to fall so I guess summer is really over.

We caught the wrong train so we end up at the main train station, which is huge and modern looking. There is a big food court here where we have something to eat before we start exploring.The Parliament building has a huge dome on the top that requires a reservation to climb. We book a Friday tour and then find a nice park to sit and have tea and cookies.  I am moving a bit slow today so lots of rests are in order.

This is the Brandenburg Gate. It was built in 1791, and was modelled after the Acropolis in Athens. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated before the Brandenburg Gate as the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.  Since the end of the Cold War, the Gate has come to represent German unity and freedom.       We think these protestors were in support of the Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong.
This huge wall garden was a colourful surprise. We walk to the Gendarmenmarkt which is an 18th century square used for gatherings and events. On either side there are two identical churches. The one in the photo is the German Cathedral, the Deutscher Dom. It was heavily bombed in the second World War and has been restored as a museum with displays on the parliamentary democracy of Germany.  Bob noticed this reflection in the door to the German Church of the identical French Church across the square. We went in for a look and somehow got separated. The place is a bit of a maze and I felt like I was never going to find Bob or my way out!  That did it for me… I went and waited outside and Bob had a look around. This photo he took shows some of the old building and the reconstructed concrete parts, and one of the crazy stairways that I got lost on!

A quick peek into the Konzerthaus where the Berlin Philharmonic plays. For some reason the lighting turned green when I took the photo. We both thought the seating looked rather uncomfortable. This is the French Cathedral directly opposite the German one. It was closed for renovation so no idea what was in there.There was outdoor market of old books, postcards and papers in front of the building below. There were some rather interesting erotic postcards from the early 1900’s!  We did better this time and found the right metro line to get home. 

 

 

Slawenburg Raddusch, A Nordic Fort In Germany

Day 14, Sunday, September 8, 2019

We were both tired last night so we left our packing and cleaning until this morning. By noon we are on our way to Berlin. We stop at truck stop just before the Polish border to get lunch at a KFC and spend what Polish money we have left.  I have never seen so many trucks in one place! There are nine rows of trucks like this parked here. There are lots and lots of trucks on Polish highways! We pass by lots of trees that appear to be grown for timber. Their lower branches have been trimmed so that the trunks grow straight.Not far into Germany we stop at Slawenburg Raddusch, which is a reconstruction of a fort built by Slavic people in the 9th and 10th Centuries. It is surrounded by a moat for added protection.

There were about 40 of these forts in this area. They were used to store food supplies and act as places of refuge during attacks.

We find this huge fellow on our walk to the fort.  A 10 m wide wall was built in a circle.  Long oak beams were alternately stacked in a criss-crossed direction and the spaces between the logs were filled with earth and stones. The almost circular inner surface with a diameter of 36 m. originally contained a few small houses and four wells. This well is 40 feet deep. In the wells were found: ceramic fragments, knives, lance tips, whetstones, sledgehammers, bone skates, wooden mallets, spades and a rare, valuable brass bowl. The walls of this reconstructed fort use concrete, so the interior of the walls is  a museum where the artifacts found in this area are on display. We climb to the top of the wall which offers a great view of the surrounding landscape.  In the 1980s, this area was strip mined for coal.  Before the giant excavators ate their way through the landscape, archeologists found that the Slavs were not the first settlers in this place. Under the wall, Germanic remains from the 5th / 6th century were found. The earliest findings, however, date back to 2200 -800 B.C. Unfortunately the strip mining destroyed most of the archaeological remains in the area along with 50 villages that were here before the mining started. Imagine displacing all those people to mine coal! This model shows what the original fort would have looked like… and how it was constructed. The dirt used to fill the walls came from around the base of the fort and created the moat. The “Götze von Raddusch”, an idol from 926 A.D.,made from an oak split-beam with a head-like finish and a perforation in the chest area was found  in the excavation of the youngest well. This was a rare find. I thought these straight pins for sewing were pretty amazing, considering they are so ancient. Here is a view of part of the museum with its large display of pottery,,, and burial pits, where cremated remains were placed along burial gifts for the deceased. I was intrigued by the shapes of some of the pottery. All the pottery was made by hand without the aid of a potter’s wheel. I wonder what these pots were used for? The tour was great. We rented an audio guide for €1.5 and it was very well done. We got so much more out of the display because it. We managed to finish our visit through the museum just as it was closing at 6:00 pm. We see lots of wind-farms on our way to Berlin. We arrive in Berlin as it is getting dark and check into our home for the next two weeks.

 

The Largest Wooden Church in Europe and Książ Castle, Poland

Day 13, Saturday September 7, 2019

I realized that I forgot to put a link to our apartment in Wroclaw so here it is for those of you who are curious about the apartments we are staying in. Yesterday I started not feeling very well with a bit of a sore throat and a very tight chest. We had planned on going to the zoo today but it is cool and raining so we decide to take little road trip instead. I didn’thave the energy to walk around a zoo in the rain today. The smaller highways are often lined with trees which I think are very picturesque.

First stop is…

A Unesco World Heritage site, the Lutheran Church of Peace in Swidnica was built in the mid-17th century and can hold up to 7,500 people. It was built without any nails.

“The Church of Peace was founded by virtue of the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Before the war, the townsfolk of Świdnica were free to follow Luther’s ideas and Lutheran services were held in the town. When the war broke out, the Protestants were deprived of the right to have their own faith and their own churches.

However under the Peace of Westphalia, the Catholic emperor Ferdinand III of Habsburg was obliged by the Swedish to allow the Protestants… to build one so-called Church of Peace in each duchy.

The consent of the Habsburgs had many severe restrictions – the Protestants could only build their place of worship outside the town walls, it could not have any towers nor a belfry, and it could only be built from non-durable materials like wood, sand, straw, or clay. The building could not look like a church and the construction works could not last longer than a year.

Against all odds, the Protestants at the time displayed extraordinary resourcefulness. Even the poorest of the community brought something to the table, if only one wooden board. All social classes were involved in the construction process – the nobility, the burghers and the peasants.

The hard work paid off, as construction was completed on time and in 1657 the first service was held in the Church of Peace in Świdnica.” ~tourspoland.comWe walked into this church and we were amazed at the size and ornateness of the interior. This photo is looking towards the altar. The walls and ceilings are decorated with painted panels added after the construction of the church was completed in 1657. The back wall with the organ. A view of one of the sides of the church with it’s two tiers of balconies. The spaces between the wall timbers were filled with clay and wattle. The pulpit is extremely ornate. A view of part of the painted ceiling. I loved the old pews with their carved backs and worn seats.There is a cemetery surrounding the church. As we walked back to our car we passed this interesting door. Makes me curious about who lives here. Next stop on our day trip is the Książ Castle, the third largest castle in Poland which dates from the 13th century.  One of the the views from inside the castle.  The entrance buildings and front grounds of the castle. An old photo showing the castle atop an impressive rock cliff. It has been destroyed and rebuilt and expanded various times and in different styles (from Gothic to Baroque and neo-Classical). The latest family to reside there, was the Hochberg family, one of the richest and most influential families in Prussia. In the 14th century they transformed the original defensive castle into one of the most beautiful residences in this part of  Europe. The Hochbergs lived there for many generations, until 1941, when it was confiscated by the Nazis. Bob caught my reflection in this old mirror.
The Black Courtyard is decorated with the coats of arms of the castles many owners. We walked through many halls, some simple… and some very ornate. I suppose a castle with over 400 rooms needs lots of hallways and stairs, and we did climb lots of stairs. Another view out one of the castle windows of the Chestnut Terrace with four large chestnut trees. As always, we must remember to look up. So many of the ceilings are ornately decorated. There was an exhibit of blown glass in some of the rooms and another view down one of the many hallways.
We weren’t able to see the Last Supper when we were in Italy two years ago (we didn’t know you had to buy tickets far in advance) but there is a Da Vinci exhibit here in the castle with a replica. Not as good as the real thing but interesting none the less. There were replicas of many of Da Vinci’s paintings, including the Mona Lisa, and models of some of his inventions. Looking out one of the windows we get an idea of some of the renovations and reconstruction that has taken place over the centuries. It is quite a convoluted building. One of the restored and decorated rooms. The Nazis stripped the castle of its furnishings and paintings and it is just now being restored. A photo showing a much more elaborately decorated room than we see today. The Maximilian Room has been restored to its former glory. There is a balcony on either side, one for the prince’s apartments and one for the princess’s apartments, that overlook this elegant room. And what castle would be complete without a Japanese influenced room. They were very popular. “The castle became an important part of the Riese Project, for the Nazis. It was an elaborate plan to create an underground military industrial complex complete with tunnels, roads, rail links and subterranean arms factories. The castle itself is said to have been prepared as the new headquarters for Hitler. For this purpose, thousands of prisoners, many from concentration camps like Auschwitz, were used as slave labour. Towards the end of the war, with the Red Army approaching fast, the Nazis destroyed much of the complex. The destruction continued when the Red Army ousted the Nazis. The Nazis’ exact plans with the castle remain a mystery. Were they building a secret weapon? Did Hitler plan to use the castle as a personal bunker? Little is also known of the fate of the prisoners who built the underground complex, though one can only guess.” ~ Velvet Escape.com. It is thought that valuable works of art and other treasures may still be hidden underground in these tunnels. This a model of the underground tunnels. It is possible to tour the tunnels but we did not have time, or the energy to do that today,  As we finish the tour of the castle, we are led out to the gardens and terraces surrounding the castle. The grounds are beautifully maintained.An interesting view of the castle.
We have no idea what all these small arched nooks with their iron grates are. As we walk back to our car we pass a pond with blooming water lilies. 

Old Town in Wroclaw, Poland

Day 11, Thursday September 5, 2019.

Today is a much needed quiet day. For some reason I only slept a few hours last night so I stay home and rest and do a bit of blogging. Bob goes for a walk and scouts out the route to the Old Town for tomorrow. Here is our view from the apartment, with our white car in the parking lot. Bob is in there too, but you can barely see his head as he walks along the street behind the hedge. 

 

Day 12, Friday, September 6, 2019

On our walk to Wroclaw’s Old Town we cross one of its canals. It looks so peaceful here.

Soon we are approaching the old part of town. There are many places where we see the old and the new side by side. These two buildings were across from each other.
Here’s how big items get delivered!

Wroclaw Town Square, another huge square with beautiful buildings. These date back to the 1600’s!

The flower market.Wroclaw has an ever growing populations of gnomes.  In fact, our guidebook states “the little buggers are currently rumoured to be running rampant to the score of over 300 making it literally impossible for us to try to keep track of them!”  I think they are delightful and I am happy to make their acquaintance .

A view of the glass panel fountain … and more tenement houses in the town square. The interior of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church which dates from 1330. We climb 147 steps up to the walkway between the two towers. In times past women suspected of being witches were forced to cross this walkway (there were no railings then) and if they made it across safely they were branded as a witch. If they fell to their death, then they were innocent of the crime of being a witch! You certainly didn’t want to be accused of witchcraft!  I am very glad there are railings now and I meet another couple of gnomes. We have great views of the city from up here. Here is a view of the walkway, way up there between the two towers.There were steeples on these at one time, not sure if they were destroyed during the war? More ornate colourful buildings.
I wish I knew the recipe for the bubble mixture this guy was using! He made hundreds of bubbles at a time with his string between two sticks.  Kids had such fun chasing all the bubbles.We found quite a few more of these little fellows, on doorsteps, or tucked into corners.

There was some sort of celebration happening with lots of women wearing fancy outfits and some very interesting hats.

The two little houses in the corner called Hansel and Gretel are the only two houses left of streets that used to surround a cemetery. The cemetery closed in 1773.  I wonder where the graves went?The interior of St. Elizabeth church dates to the 14th century. It was severely damaged during the second world war and then by a fire in 1976.

So it’s stained glass windows are modern. This one is quite unique.

More colourful houses on a side street…
and more busy gnomes.

We stop at a sidewalk restaurant for lunch and now we are ‘those people’ who take pictures of their meals! My salmon with a balsamic reduction was delicious.  It was one of the best restaurant meals I have had and Bob enjoyed his sausage and potato pancakes with spinach .

At the university we visit an ornate lecture room… and an interesting collection of artifacts.  This is a chart for determining eye colour.

I love all the old wooden cabinets with all their drawers. The Music Hall is under restoration but we are allowed a peak inside. We. climb another 203 steps up the Math tower, which has displays along the way.  

These are beautiful old compasses, some dating back to the 1600’s.The top of the Math Tower…
and the views. Notice the very modern looking tower among the old.

Bob standing on the Meridian line which runs through this University,  This meridian line demarcates the 51st parallel which runs right through the Math Tower as well. I just love all the reflections of the old buildings in the glass walls of the modern new buildings! Churches here are either very ornate…or look like this. The late afternoon sun was shining through the windows casting everything in a lovely olden glow.

We stop for tea and cookies in this little garden with its Baroque well. Then we visit the market and buy some fruit. Food prices are very reasonable here. More reflections. We catch a trolley bus home. We haven’t seem many paved streets or sidewalks here. Most of the streets and sidewalks here are cobbled in one fashion or another. All the uneven footing is hard on the feet and ankles. We walked 16,700 steps today and climbed the equivalent of 31 floors!

Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec, Poland

Day 10, Wednesday September 4, 2019

We were too tired to even think about cleaning our bnb apartment and packing last night after the full day at Auschwitz so we did all that this morning. This meant a later start than usual but we are on our way to Wroclaw by 11:30. There was a lot of traffic, but there are lots of treed areas and parks along the way. I am happy Bob is driving and not me. My job is being the navigator, with the help of Google maps.

It is a half hour drive to the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec, through the countryside and several small villages.This abbey was founded 975 years ago. It fell into ruin and was abandoned for 123 years. In 1939 it was transferred to 11 monks who began its restoration. This was hampered by WWII but today much of the abbey has been restored. There is still work to do and plans to have everything finished for the millennium celebration in 2044, when the abbey will be 1000 years old.The interior of the church shines with gilded statues and ornamentation. Notice the pulpit is in the shape of a boat.  We stop for dessert at a little outdoor cafe on the abbey grounds, some homemade pie, sherbet and Benedictine Brandy for Bob. This was our view. We enjoyed relaxing in this peaceful spot for a while, and the dessert was yummy. I think the structure on the right is a well but Bob thinks it is a wine press. We never did find out who was right. Back on the highway on our way to Wroclaw. We passed these domes before on our way to Krakow. They are connected by glass tunnels. No idea what it is, but it certainly looks interesting. Fields here are often bordered by a row of trees. I love their silhouettes against the sky. I snapped this as we drove by. We finally arrive at our apartment just as it gets dark and we are happy that it has a designated parking spot as there is absolutely no parking anywhere on the street.

 

 

Schindler’s Factory Museum, Krakow, Poland

Day 8, Monday, September 2, 2019

We should have pre-booked tickets for Schindler’s Factory Museum today and for Auschwitz tomorrow. There is a chance of getting last minute tickets at both of these sites so we are up early for our 45 minute walk to Schindler’s Factory today.  We arrive shortly after it opens at 8:30 and we are relieved to get tickets. It’s an interesting walk. Here is some street art we see on the way.

I never watched the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ because movies about terrible factual events  haunt me. We visited Dachau years ago when we travelled to Europe one summer with our young daughter. I still remember that day and I know that today and tomorrow will be difficult, but it is something that is important to do. This is one of the signs we read after entering the museum. Jewish people were hung along the train tracks for all to see.
Walking through this dark exhibit about the wall around the ghetto. It was thought that starving the Jewish people was an effective way to weaken and destroy the morale of the Jewish population, especially the young people.

Some of the exhibits as we walk through the museum. This shows the crowded conditions inside a home in the ghetto. The corridors are covered in articles and photographs. There is so much to see and read. More exhibits, this one of everyday life in Nazi occupied Krakow. …notice the armband that Jewish people had to wear so they could be identified as Jews. One of the camps.
A hiding place in the cellar of a house in Krakow. Even though it meant death for anyone found helping a Jew, by hiding them or even offering food or assistance of any kind. many of the Polish people did exactly that.  Oskar Schindler was one of these people. He really wasn’t a man of great character, he lied, cheated and stole what he could, but he was instrumental in saving the lives of 1200 Jews. He also treated the Jews working at his factory better than in any other factory or work camp. There are videos of survivors talking about their experiences during this time.  Some of the people that were saved by Oskar Schindler. Two of the survivors became doctors and one became a Supreme Court judge. Everything in this museum is difficult to watch and listen to, but we need to know and remember what happened. I have heard it said that we need to do this so history will never be repeated, but I wonder. There is so much hatred and racism in the world today that I can no longer believe that something like this will never happen again. It is frightening wondering what the future will bring. We stop for tea at the Modern Art Museum cafe. It gives us a chance to recover form the heavy content of the Schindler Museum.  On the way out I notice this vending machine. Notice the name of the drink it dispenses. I try out the cement bicycles… and Bob checks out an installation in a town square.  Interesting artwork in one of the shops we pass. We cross this pedestrian bridge over the river and we cannot decide how these sculpture stay right upright. They appear to be balancing on cables with no support wires yet somehow manage to stay right side up. We just can’t figure it out. Here is an interesting way to keep an old building while erecting a new modern one!  We stop in at a basilica near the old town which has a very impressive altar. I wonder if it is real gold on all these altars? OK, just did a bit of research and it appears that real gold foil is used. I always peak into open doorways. They are often not very attractive doors but they sometimes open on beautiful interior courtyards and gardens. A typical street side restaurant on our walk back to our apartment. More street art on the way home.

The sky is getting darker just as we enter the main old town square. This church has one of the most impressive altars in all of Poland but there is a service happening so we are not allowed in. There are lots of horse drawn carriages for hire. I was tempted but it really felt like the rain was coming. These are enormous, about a foot high and cost between $14 and $20 each! This guy tried to challenge Bob to a fight, but no luck, so… He tried to win me over!  An interesting sculpture of Jan Matejko who was a 19th-century painter native to Kraków.  He is renowned for his large oil-on-canvas paintings of historical events in Poland.  This street leads towards the train station with its huge attached shopping mall. One more church on the street just before the train station. It was dark inside except for the light shining on the altar. A typical building in Krakow old town… Juxtaposed with the interior of the train station shopping areas. It is huge, three floors with hundreds of very modern shops.

We pick up a few groceries for supper and head home, in the rain. It has been a long day, We walked 21,262 steps!  No wonder we are both tired.

Olomouc, Czech Republic on the way to Krakow, Poland

Day 5, Friday, August 30, 2019

We are driving to Krakow today and stop to visit Olomouc on the way. We find parking easily, which is always nice, and walk to the town square. One of the first buildings we pass has this charming little still life on a window sill. I wonder who put it there and how many people passing by notice and appreciate the effort?

We are amazed at how huge the town square is. There aren’t very many people around but we imagine that in the peak tourist months it is probably much busierBob gets a couple pastries at the first bakery and we sit on a bench to eat them and watch the people walking by. It is hot again today, 29°.  I have heard that European flours are often tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities, so I have a couple bites. 
Doesn’t everyone want to ride on a turtle? I almost went right over backwards when I climbed on!
The Holy Trinity Column dominates the town square. “The column is dominated by gilded copper sculptures of the Holy Trinity accompanied by the archangel Gabriel on the top and the assumption of the Virgin beneath it. The base of the column, in three levels, is surrounded by 18 more stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs.” ~wikipedia. It even has a small chapel in the base. 

I said I want a flower column like this in my yard! We wonder what this shop sells? These figures were made out of straw. It was closed so we couldn’t go in to find out. We climb another bell tower in the Church of St. Michael just off the square. There wasn’t any place to see outside and get a view over the city, which was too bad. The same church had steps to a crypt so we went to explore,.. and we found this little shrine and a small pool of water. These ladies caught my eye.  St. Wenceslas Cathedral was originally built in 1131 and was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century. The facade was renovated in 1999-2008. It is very impressive. Of course the interior is just as impressive. We visit Archdiocese Museum which is much more interesting than I had anticipated. It is only $3 Cad each and we probably spent a couple hours exploring. Each room was closed off by a door which was opened by an ‘older’ woman who then made sure that we saw every exhibit that was discussed on our audio guides. They opened and closed doors behind us, which was actually very helpful as it wasn’t easy to figure out which doors we were supposed to go through. I love the statues and paintings of the Virgin Mary. There is something very appealing about the way the artists depicted their faces. More fountains in the town square as we make our way back to our car. This bar catches my eye. I am sure I know this name and look it up. Sure enough, it is the name of a show on Netflix about a gang in England in the early 1900’s.When we cross the border into Poland we are surprised that there is no indication that we were leaving one country and entering another.  One of the interesting things about travelling is how different things are from home. Sometimes the differences are challenging and sometimes the differences make me smile. This is what I saw in the first bathroom I entered in Poland.

Bridges on the highway into Poland are certainly different.We were frustrated when our SIM card stops working once we cross the border. We were told it would work in all the countries we were visiting. We finally find a MacDonalds so we can contact our bnb host, who is waiting to hear from us. It is late when we finally make it to our new apartment, which wasn’t very easy to find in the dark, but we are here, and tomorrow will be a rest day for us.

Telč, Czech Republic UNESCO Site

Day 3, Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On the way from Prague to Brno we stop at Telč, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The drive took longer than anticipated due to the heavy traffic and road construction. We have never seen so many trucks on the highway anywhere else. Luckily the trucks stay in the right lane, because at one point we passed 85 trucks that were stuck in traffic and not moving at all! One of the many small towns we pass on the road to Telč.

The countryside is beautiful and not so different from home.The town square at Telč is a visual feast. Every house is painted differently, each one vying to outdo its neighbours in beauty. The well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses from the 14th century have high gables and arcades on the ground level which provide sheltered walkways and display areas for the ground floor shops. It also hides any modern signs and advertising from view on the square

There are two fountains in the centre of this large rectangular square with benches for relaxing, which we take advantage of. It was a great spot to enjoy some goodies from the local bakery and enjoy the sunshine. At the far end of the square we see the bell tower so of course we go see if is possible to climb to the top for a view of the town.The first 50 stone stairs are very narrow… but soon we are climbing another 100 steps on old wooden timber steps up to the bells. This bell is named Marie and she was cast in 1550 and weighs 950 kg! A bit more climbing and we are looking down on the two bells, Jacub and Marie, before climbing to the viewing platform at the top. The view from the top was wonderful. Telč is a very pretty town.

Next we take a tour of the underground tunnels and cellars of Telč. All the houses have underground cellars that were connected by tunnels. They were used to store food and supplies and as a place to hide if the town was attacked. There are 11 km of tunnels but only about 150 meters that we are allowed to visit. That is just fine as we have to bend at the waist and crouch to walk through the dark tunnels with only a flashlight to find our way. This crucifix was at the end of one dark tunnel . We were the only people on the tour who actually went and explored all the tunnels. Everyone else stayed in the larger rooms that were used for some displays and a short video about Telč. Back above ground we walked through the grounds of the palace. We didn’t have time to take a tour of the inside, but Bob got a chance to try wielding a sword. They are very heavy! We also met some interesting creatures. This ten year old python and… his 4 year old albino friend. This beautiful ironwork was on one of the doors of the palace. We visited our first (and certainly not our last) church, the Church of St. James the Greater which dates from 1273, but has been rebuilt many times since then.This panorama gives an idea of just how many houses line just one side of the square. They are all in a row, not in a curve as they appear in the photo. These houses continue on from the right side of the photo above. It is hot, 28° and we finally feel like it is summer. It was a cool wet summer at home so this is a nice change. 

A quick photo from the car on the way to Brno. There are lots of very brightly painted  houses here, and yellow and bright green houses are very common. I have no idea what this is supposed to be but it is certainly unusual. I wonder if someone lives here? We finally arrive in Brno, find our apartment but can’t figure out how to get into the building! Finally we message our host who comes down to meet us. It is a beautiful bnb apartment, the foyer alone is bigger than our whole place was in Prague!