The Jewish Quarter and Thermal Baths in Budapest

Day 82, Friday, November 15, 2019

We walk through the Old Jewish Quarter this morning.  These murals are on buildings within a block of our apartment. Many of the buildings in this neighbourhood are old and in need of repair but the murals do brighten up the neighbourhood. Bob tells me to look inside this little blue van… It is set up as a little dining room!   It is kind of cute, except I look in the front seat and it is dirty and cluttered with junk.  Not very appetizing,  There are many shops and workshops tucked into the buildings on narrow streets, sometimes even in the basements, like this bike shop.  I think my bike riding daughter will appreciate the sentiment of the sign above this door.
This is probably one of the most colourful doors I have ever seen.The buildings here have very interesting architectural details.
Seems every city we have ever been in has an Astoria Hotel! Loved the room at the top of this white building.  Imagine living there. The Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial was funded by the late American actor Tony Curtis in memory of his Hungarian-born father. The names of 30,000 Holocaust victims are engraved on the leaves of the metal tree.  The tree resembles an upside down menorah and is located on top of the mass graves of thousands of murdered Jews. The tree is located behind The Dohány Street Synagogue which is also known as the Great Synagogue.  It seats 3,000 people and is the largest synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world.  We didn’t have time to go inside because  we want to go to a thermal bath today.One more interesting building on our way back to our apartment.  The top doesn’t seem to belong to the bottom. The Széchenyi Spa Bath in Budapest is the largest one in Europe, with 15 indoor and 3 large outdoor pools.  Its water is supplied by two thermal springs.  Here is the floorpan of this huge complex.Térkép

 We start out in this pool with a fun whirlpool-like circular ‘river’ that pushes you around it very quickly.   This pools for lane swimming, not for us today. We like this pool as it is warmer than the first one.   Inside there are fifteen more pools.  This is one of the warmer ones and the only one that has comfy lounge chairs, so we stay here for a while.  I sit beside Bob, in the corner and do some drawings of the bathers.  Budapest didn’t have any life drawing classes, or at least none that I could find, so this will do instead.   The building is magnificent but it is starting to show its age here and there.  I think it might need a renovation before too long.  This is a great place for people watching, and we do come in all shapes and sizes! By the time we go back outside it is dark, and the steam is rising from the pools.  We were thinking of taking a boat ride on the Danube tonight but we decide to stay and enjoy more time here.There are more people now than when we first arrived, and most of them are much younger than us.  We see a few other grey-haired ‘oldies’ but we are few and far between.  We spent more than five hours enjoying the baths, and we both feel nice and relaxed.

Danube River Taxi and Puppet Show in Budapest.

Day 81, Thursday, November 14, 2019

We take a river taxi this morning and finally get onto the Danube River.  There are all sorts of boats on the river…
including very long barges… river cruise ships,  and whatever this ship is.
Our taxi is quite nice, with tables and chairs on the top deck and a dining room on the main deck with white table cloths.  Not what we expected for a river taxi.  The ride is only four stops in the winter months so we also ride it back to where we started, just to spend a little more time on the river sight-seeing. There is a great view of the Buda Castle…  and an interesting row of houses on the Buda side of the river. We pass right under the Chain Bridge heading back towards the Parliament Building. The workers washing the sides of this river cruise ship waved to me when they saw I was taking pictures. The river was very calm and the sun was still low in the morning sky.  We could just make out the Liberty Statue we visited yesterday on top of the hill in the distance. We return to our stop near the Parliament Buildings and I get a great shot of this enormous building. The Budapest Parliament building is the third largest Parliament building in the world. It has 691 rooms, 20 kilometres of stairs and at 96 meters.  It is the same height as the St. Stephen’s Basilica.  We decided against visiting the interior in favour of spending our time outside.   This is our water taxi.  We saw several others but none of them looked as nice as this one.  I think we were just lucky and happened to catch the best one! The guards in front of the Parliament stand on opposite sides of this big flag pole and then every once in a while they march together round and round the flag pole.  We both think it must be quite tedious. We catch a bus back towards the Indoor Market.  I forgot to get a photo yesterday. We were looking for the ‘For Sale’ Pub, but when we walked in the waitress told us they weren’t open and refused to let me take a photo.  So here is one off of Trip Advisor.  If you have something for sale you write it on a piece of paper and stick it wherever you can.  This started before there was internet and now people pin whatever they want to the walls. There is straw and peanut shells all over the floor and candles on the tables.  Seems like an accident waiting to happen to me!

We walk from the market area back towards our apartment passing a variety of interesting buildings. Some of them were in need of restoration…
and others were well cared for. We stopped to see the University Library.  It is in an old palace, and we wandered about checking out the rooms.  This was the most interesting one, with its balcony, but I didn’t climb up to it.  The stairs were behind the librarian’s desk and I didn’t want to disturb all the people studying. Take a look at this corner…there are big bean bags for reading, or napping! We see flower boxes still in bloom in the middle of November, lots of these grey and black birds (they are Hooded Crows), interesting art work in shop windows, and this sign which translates to One Psalm.  No idea what that means.There are so many gorgeous buildings in this city…
it is easy to take too many building photos! After lunch and a rest we are back on the streets, looking for a puppet theatre.  We pass several buildings with wooden scaffolding, made with big timbers.  There are a lot of buildings that need work, and we see quite a few that are boarded up along one of Budapest’s main streets.
The puppet show is in Hungarian but we know the story and thought it would be a fun things to see.  The theatre was full of school kids who really enjoyed the show.  We did too.  Here are some fo the cast taking a bow at the end of the play… and some of the displays in the lobby. I did some drawing during the play.  These drawings were done in the dark so I couldn’t see what I had drawn until the lights came on.  Can you figure out what the play was?  There is a pretty big clue in my drawings.

I peek into this book store as we walk home after the play. I love book stores that look like this!These photographs were on the wall outside the House of Terror Museum. According ot Wikipedia “It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building.”   We pass this rather odd couple on our walk home, not far from the House of Terror.

Walking Tour of Budapest

Day 78, Monday November 11, 2019

I posted part of today on Remembrance Day, and now I am adding the rest of our day’s activities.  Here is the rest of our November 11 walking tour.

Bob has organized a walking tour of Budapest today.  As we started our walk I noticed lots of people hanging out on this balcony.
We are staying in the Old Jewish Quarter and the roads are very narrow and crowded.  As we leave this area, the roads widen and there are many pedestrian-only roads and big plazas.  This large ornate building is the first large building I see on the main Street near our apartment. We walk towards the nearby Christmas Markets.  There are lots of small wooden ‘cabins’ filled with beautiful crafts.  I loved these dried fruit ornaments, but I am sure that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring these through Canadian Customs. Too bad, they are lovely and smell wonderful.There are several stands with all sorts of candies… beautiful felted hats, that are priced starting at $150.00 CAD.
This our first Christmas tree of the year. This ‘Little Princess’ is the first of many statues we see on the streets of Budapest. Another ferris wheel, but we decide to pass on riding this one.  St. Stephen’s Basilica is in the centre of Budapest. The inside off the church has lots of gilded ornamentation and a beautiful dome.The main attraction in this church is the thousand year old mummified right hand of King Stephen. If you want to see this relic, deposit a coin and a light comes on to view the hand.
These two borzoi dogs looked like they needed a bath and brushing. There are lots of dogs here and they live their lives on pavement.  I kind of feel sorry for them.
The Fat Policeman Statue represents how hearty the Hungarian foods are, and rubbing his tummy is supposed to bring good luck.  There are many ‘good luck’ statues on the streets of Budapest.The Hungarian government erected the ‘Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation’ statue in the middle of the night in July 2014.

A ‘Living Memorial’ was added in front of the statue as a protest against the government’s message that it was only the Nazi’s who committed crimes of genocide, ignoring the wartime Hungarian governments involvement and responsibility for the Nazi’s occupation.

This ‘Living Memorial is a collection of photos and newspaper clippings about the victims of the war and the Hungarian government’s collaboration with the Nazis.

It is believed that this statue is part of the government attempt to ‘revise’ history.  The war may have ended 74 years ago but it is still very much a part of life here in Eastern Europe. Some seed pods from one of the trees near this statue are interesting. There is a statue of Ronald Reagan in this plaza as well because of his efforts to end the Cold War. There are so many ornate buildings here… like the Parliament Building!  It is so big I can’t get it all into one photo.
 Across the river we can see the Buda Castle. Bob takes a moment to sit with the Hungarian poet Attila József… and then we walk onto the Chain Bridge with its guardian lions for a view of Budapest from the river. This is the Pest side of the river, the side our apartment was on… and this is the Buda side. These two cities were united in November 1873, and the name ‘Budapest’ was given to the new capital. I don’t know what this building is but it had delicate golden trim that sparkled in the late afternoon sun. We find a statue of Roskovics Ignác, a famous Hungarian painter, on our walk along the Danube River. Walking through the Christmas Market on our way home I notice this jar of pickled onions!  They made me laugh!

Last Day in Vienna

Day 75, Friday, November 8, 2019

We had a leisurely morning and I did a bit of packing in preparation for checking out tomorrow.  Early afternoon we catch the train and then a FlixBus to Bratislava, Slovakia to pickup our last rental car.

This photo taken from the bus window is a bit blurry.  We noticed that one of the windmills had a fire the last time we were here.  Today the big arms have been removed. It must be difficult repairing these, they are so high off the ground. When we get to the airport we are worried because the Budget Car Rental booth is closed!  Turns out the attendants are out in the parking lot so after a short wait we pick up our car and head back to Vienna.  I noticed this big mural last trip and managed to get a photo this time.  It is dark by the time we get back to Vienna and we spend the rest of the evening cleaning our apartment and packing for our drive to Budapest tomorrow.

Biking Along the Danube

Day44, Tuesday October 8, 2019

Our little apartment has a masonry stove that keeps us toasty warm.  One box of wood keeps us warm for 24 hours. On our way in to Linz we see this ‘green’ apartment.  Lots of gardeners must live here. It took some time to find the bike rental company.  They weren’t easy to locate.  We pass this big mural during our search. I thought these bikes were quite interesting.  They fold up compactly.We start out on our bike trip along the Danube. Bob wants dot take my photo while I was still in one piece! There are some great views along the way… and some wooded trails.  I did quite well until the killer hedge tried to get me…and then there was the vortex railing!  If I got too close it tried to suck me in! Bob left me at a coffee shop to rest and sketch and he went a bit further down the river, crossed a bridge, and then returned on this strange looking ferry.  These flowers are much like the anenomes we grow at home only much larger. We see the long barge steaming down the river. This curious mural is on a building near the café where I waited for Bob.The trees here are so big.  I found out that the average temperature here in January and February is -3 Celcius and -4 Celcius.  So much warmer than our winters, no wonder the trees grow so large.
Our selfie along the Danube. I need a few breaks on the ride home, so a photo is a good excuse for little rest 😉 These river cruise boats remind us of our cruise on the Nile, where the cruise ships were lined up 6 or 7 deep along the shore.  Passengers had to walk through all the ships, sometimes walking across the water on a narrow board between the ships, to get to shore. This wasp was really big! We take our bikes back.  They are in a building which is an incubation centre for start-ups.  Looks like these steps are a place to relax, or even snooze.  We see two souped up go-carts being wheeled into the building. I am happily surprised to discover Gerstäcker, a huge art store, in this building.  After our ride I spend at least an hour exploring and find some new drawing pencils, and two really nice hardcover Hahnemühle Sketchbooks, a 10″ square and a 8.5″ x 12″ rectangular one.  They were really reasonably priced too!  I couldn’t resist even though my suitcase will be a lot heavier.Nearby is  an industrial area called Mural Harbor.  Artists from over 25 nations created more than 100 works of art on warehouse buildings.

It is getting dark and it is raining so we drive around and see what we can from the car before heading home.  There are some pretty impressive works here.  These are all at least 10-12′ tall or larger.  I particularly liked the cat and mice.

When we get home Bob tells me that I rode 24 km. and he rode 38 km.  No wonder I am tired!  Good thing he didn’t tell me how far we were going to ride before we started.

Mucha Museum, Fred and Ginger and St. Nicholas Church, Prague

Day 35, Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prague’s combination of old and new buildings is interesting.  Sometimes the new buildings offer great reflections of the older buildings.
This knitted sculpture ‘Carmen’ is the creation of Eva Blahová, an artist and scenic designer living in Prague. 33 knitters from all over the Czech Republic were involved in this project and they knit over 50 meters of red ruffles to dress an existing sculpture.  It is pretty impressive. Walking towards the “Dancing House’ we pass beautiful Art Nouveau buildings with very grand entrances.
These entrances are on this block of buildings. Although Prague was bombed in World War II it did not suffer the catastrophic damages of Berlin and Dresden.  There are so many beautiful buildings with lots of carved decorations here. The Dancing House, or Fred and Ginger, as it is nicknamed, was built in place of a building that was destroyed during the war.  We think we know which is Fred and which is Ginger.  What do you think? We crossed this bridge and had our picnic lunch in a little park with this view.  Prague has lots of trees and parks. Here ae some more pastel coloured buildings we see on our walk along the river. These statues holding up a balcony are quite wonderful.   I think Bob might have been a locksmith in another life.  He is always noticing interesting locks. We arrive at the most famous Baroque church in Prague, St. Nicholas Church, at Old Town Square. The dome has a diameter of 20 m, with a  height of over 49 m, making it the highest interior in Prague. The church was completed in 1735, replacing a parish church dating back to 1273.  There is so much history everywhere we visit.  Canada is such a young country in comparison.
The ceiling fresco is over 1500 square metres in size and is one of the largest in Europe. We climb to the second floor balcony for some great views of the church.There are interesting things to see everywhere if you keep your eyes open, especially down the side streets.
These painted blocks are a fundraising project for disabled people.  You pay for a brick and then get to paint it.  We didn’t have time today but I see that someone from Canada contributed a brick.
At the Mucha Museum I learn the Alphonse Mucha’s name is pronounced mooka, not moosha as I thought.  We see many of his lithograph works that I am familiar with.  The Four Flowers.. Evening Reverie…
and the Four Arts, which celebrate Dance, Painting, Poetry and Music. I particularly loved being able to get close up to some of Mucha’s drawings.  Woman on a Bear Skin is drawn with a pencil and a white crayon on a brown ground.  It is amazing.  A photo does not even begin to do it justice.  It was also behind non-glare glass which does not photograph the best. Winter Night, or Siberia, may have been Mucha’s response to the terrible suffering of the Russian people after the Bolshevik Revolution.  There was a famine that killed millions of people. It is difficult to see, but in the upper left of the painting there is a pack of wolves.  The peasant woman seems to have resigned herself to her fate.  I was not aware of Mucha’s large oil paintings.  He completed a series of very large canvases called the Slav Epic, a series of 20 enormous canvases that show the ethnic roots of the Czech people.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the Czech National Gallery of Modern Art  to see these paintings as it was under renovation. This short video shows the Mucha Museum and the Slav Epic. This collection of photographs was interesting.  It showed some of Mucha’s models, and the bottom two middle photos are Mucha in his studio and Gaugin playing the piano…without any trousers! Pages of his sketchbooks are on display.  I love seeing artist’s sketchbooks.  It is a way of understanding how they think about their art. Not all the sketches are detailed drawings.  There are some quick gestural studies as well.Another study using pencil and white crayon on brown paper.  Just gorgeous! This is a study for the stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral. Mucha was skilled in many areas of artistic expression. Mucha created this famous poster for the ballet named Princess Hyacinth.  I was happily snapping photos when near the end of our visit a docent told me that photos were not allowed.  I was surprised as we have been able to take photos, without a flash, every where else we have been.  I am very happy she didn’t see me until near the end of our visit! One of many flower stands in the city.  I often see both men and women carrying bouquets of flowers. We saw a toy store so took a peek inside. OMG! it was huge, very noisy and had a full size carousel! This made us think of the Hotel Europa we stayed at in Egypt a few years ago.  It certainly was not grand  and it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all! Walking back along Wenceslas Square I notice that someone has knocked over the horse sculptures we saw earlier.  I like this statue, all covered in sewn leather, with his hands sewn to his head and groin.  Not sure what it is supposed to represent but it does make viewers pause and contemplate.I keep trying to get a photo that shows how strange people look on these long metro escalators. There is an optical illusion that happens and everyone appears to be either leaning forward or backwards, depending they are going up or down the escalators.  Somehow it just doesn’t show that well in a photo.  The camera doesn’t see things the same way as our brain does.  It is very curious and I comment every time we ride these crazy, long, steep fast escalators.This church is in the park right beside the metro stop near our apartment.  We were curious to see inside but it is under renovation and the doors are locked.  We sat and had tea in this park the day after our flight into Prague over a month ago.I wanted to get a photo or two showing how people drink alcohol walking down the street, in the parks, and even on the metro (although they aren’t really supposed to drink on public transit).  We see that in Prague and it was especially prevalent in Berlin.  People walked around with their bottle of beer everywhere.  Not what we are used to seeing at home.

Prague, Czech Republic

Day 32, Thursday,  September 26, 2019

First thing we need to do this afternoon is return our car rental.  Because the rental office is in the train station it didn’t cost us anything for parking.  When I went to take photos of the car before we returned it I realized I had left my memory card in the computer at home!  Good thing we have a backup camera on our phone, but it isn’t as good or handy as my camera.

Bob is doing a great job organizing our days and finding information about what to see and do.  He went out for a walk this morning and discovers that, because we are seniors, we get free transit passes!  We just need to have a passport photo.  It costs us $6 CAD each for our photos and another $1.20 to get the card.  A transit ticket good for one day costs $6.60 so this is a great deal.

We go for a walk to Wenceslas Square and take a few photos.  These horses are part of an art exhibit in the square. The Prague Astronomical Clock, or Prague Orloj, is a medieval astronomical clock.  The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock still operating.  Crowds gather here to watch it strike the hour. We enjoy this street performer and the poor lady volunteer who is terrified by pretty much everything he does, including pouring lighter fluid in a circle on the ground around her!  He never does light it but her reactions made the crowd laugh. We find the Senat, where there is a free concert.  We were expecting classical music but a group of students perform and sing more modern songs, including Hey Jude, These Boots are Made For Walking, Can’t Buy Me Love and Cabaret.  Some of the songs are in Czech and some are sung in English, with a heavy Czech accent!  It started to rain during the performance but we had brought our umbrella so we stayed dry.
I tried to draw but didn’t manage much.

Walking through the gardens after the concert we saw this pretty white peacock, who walked along with us for a bit.

 

East Side Gallery and Mauer Park, Berlin

Day 21, Sunday, September 15, 2019

The 1,316 meter long East Side Gallery is the longest open Art gallery in the world and it is also the longest surviving piece of the Berlin Wall. 118 artists from 21 countries began painting the East Side Gallery immediately after the wall came down and it officially became an open air gallery in 1990.

The sign says: Erection of the Wall, 1961, Fall of the Wall, 1989, Painting of the wall, 1990 and Restoration of the Wall 2009

Walk along the wall with us.

A Trabant, cleverly painted to look like it’s breaking through the wall is a well known image. We see a white Trabant soon after seeing this.  The graffiti n the back-side of the East Side Gallery is interesting too.
We stop for a snack and listen to some music along the banks of the Spree River before continuing our walk along the open air gallery.

Honecker and Brezhnev in a ‘brotherly socialist kiss’ is another famous image.

At the end of the wall we walk across the historic Oberbaum Bridge.Apparently all the hanging shoes are street art.
Next we take one of the old trams to Mauer Park which is the site of a huge flea market and a gathering place for Berliners and tourists alike. There are people everywhere!
The people on the hillside are watching karaoke performances, which happen here every Sunday. There is also an ongoing 3 on 3 Basketball game in the foreground.  Did I mention that there are people everywhere?  Bob figures probably over 20,000 people in the park today and I think we are older than 99% of them! After sampling some of the food trucks wares, we make our way up to the karaoke viewing on the hillside and have fun watching the performers. Some were not the best, but the audience was very supportive and everyone gets a big round of applause.  Here is a video of the first performer we saw.  In a few places I now realize I need to move the camera a bit more slowly when panning, but take a look. This lady was selling some rather interesting pins, and offered to let me take her photo for a small donation, and yes, they were those kind of dicks! This guy from the Dominican Republic got a great round of applause, but more for his dancing than his singing.
Some of our fellow audience members.  One of the performers from Afganistan got lots of people up dancing.The flea market was closing by the time we got around to visiting it. As we passed by this booth I overheard a guy say to his girlfriend “All these glasses and you still can’t see my point of view!”
There were lots of groups of performers. Here is one video and here is another. I can’t figure out how to edit them, so just stop watching when you have seen enough. This sign on an artist’s booth makes me laugh.  Today was a nice change from the sight seeing we have been doing. It was really relaxing, a lot of fun, and great people watching!.

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!

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.