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Ghost Train to Krakow

overcast 9 °C

As we ride the rails from Warsaw to Krakow we think of the cavalcade of tortured souls whose spirits must still haunt these tracks. For this is the railway of death used by the Nazis to feed the insatiable incinerators at Auschwitz. Forcibly stripped of all possessions and dignity then herded as animals onto cattle trucks, millions of Polish Jews took this same route with a one-way ticket to hell during WWII. Over the years rusted rails have been replaced and stations smartened up, but no amount of cosmetics can obscure the ugly history to which this railway line bore witness under Nazi rule. But no gas chamber and incinerator awaits us. We alight from our train with all our possessions, find our very comfortable hotel and venture into Krakow's medieval city centre...
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Krakow's Cloth Hall dominates the largest market square in Europe The 13th century market hall was rebuilt in 1555 and today it is home to an extensive collection of tourist knick-knacks, trinkets and bric-a-brac. If you need a stuffed angel or a picture of Pope John Paul II stencilled onto a toilet roll holder, this is the place for you...
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Pope, (now Saint) John Paul II was the Bishop of Krakow before becoming Pope and he is everywhere in this city, especially in the cathedral that forms part of the castle...
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We had vowed to stop posting pictures of ancient buildings, especially as we have at least ten more great European cities to visit on this trip, but Krakow has such a wealth of stunning architecture that it cannot be glossed over...
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However, Krakow is much older than its buildings. It began life as a stone age settlement and has changed hands in battle so many times that it it surprising any medieval buildings survive. Ghengis Khan's Mongols, the Hapsburgs, the Swedes, the Russians and the Nazis, are just a few of the invaders who have pulled this city and this country apart since the Dark Ages, yet it has survived gloriously. A good way to tour the city is by one of the many beautiful carriages...
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Today's invaders are numerous though friendly and, despite the lateness of the season, the city is alive with tourists. In the evening the magnificent Market Square looks splendid in the flickering lights from the outdoor cafes...
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Poland is relatively inexpensive for most foreigners, (although you can always find someone willing to fleece you if you try), and from what we have seen it has much to offer. But time marches on and so must we – southward ever southward – next stop Bratislava in Slovakia.

Posted by Hawkson 10:57 Archived in Poland

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Comments

Love the picture of the horses and carriage. Magnificent harnesses, horses in step and old vs young in the drivers' seat. I can just make out the cell phone.

by R and B

Like the way you do not lose sight of the historical background when you describe what you are seeing. Enjoy the beautiful buildings. People are still sitting outside even as the weather closes in on us.

by Sue Fitzwilson

The walls of the train station at Krakow could list the names of all the people who were taken to Auschwitz. This would take a few years to gather and might be impossible to include all but it would be a reminder that lives cannot be wiped out and forgotten forever.

by Janet Vickers

Gorgeous city! I loved listening to top notch classical movement around every corner.

by Joyce

I just came back fro Krakow this morning, and I missed you. It was raining but enjoyed walking in the city.

by Yoshiharu Yonekura

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