Monday, December 6, 2010

Polska with Jill & Gina

We booked an overnight train with a sleeping car and headed to Poland. Our trip had us two days in Warsaw and then two days in Krakow. If I had to sum up this trip in one word it would be COLD. You would think since I am from the midwest I am used to the snow and cold but this was probably the coldest I have ever experienced.

I have never been in a sleeping car so I didn't know what to expect. When we got to our car we all just stood there and laughed. It was so tiny the three of us could barely all stand in the car at the same time. In retrospect, I guess I assumed it would have been a little bigger or at least had a small sitting area. Chalk it up to another fun adventure!

Some snacks for the trip
Our two bedroom apartment in Warsaw was right in Old Town Market Place and very spacious.
Old Town Market Place is the oldest part of Old Town Warsaw. This area was blow up by the German Army after the Warsaw Uprising and then restored to its prewar appearance after World War II.
The start of cold, snowy weather!
The Royal Castle was the official residence of the Polish monarchs. Like the Old Town Market Square and most of Warsaw, this castle was destroyed after the Warsaw Uprising. It was rebuilt between 1971-1988.
The throne room
Assembly Room
Ceiling in the Assembly Room
Statue of Chronos
Kings bedroom and his bed is so tiny.
Castle Square
Old Town Square side streets
St. Anne's Church
Went up the bell tower of St. Anne's to get an aerial view of the city.

The Warsaw Uprising was action against the Nazi occupation that lasted 63 days and costed 18,000 Polish Army solider lives and over 250,000 civilians. Around 85% of Warsaw was destroyed. This Uprising Monument was built in 1989.
The Pawiak was an infamous political prison built in 1835 and during the World War II German occupation it was part of the Warsaw concentration camp. Shortly before the Warsaw Uprising, 2,000 men and 400 women were sent to concentration camps outside the city. It was then blown up by the Nazi's. Since 1990 it serves as a museum.
Barbican and some remnants of the city's defensive wall. It is considered the gateway between the Old Town and New Town.
Found this great restaurant called Zapiecek. We wanted pierogies and stuffed cabbage (Golbaki) so that is what we got.
Enjoying some complimentary drinks from our server.
Our last night we decided to visit the Culture and Science Museum. This building was a gift from the Soviet Union and the tallest building in Poland.
View from the top of the museum.

After two wonderful days in Warsaw, we got on the train and headed to Krakow. It gets dark around 3pm now, and colder, so we knew sightseeing was going to be a challenge when we arrived. After settling into our apartment, we headed out to the Main Market Square.

Like most cities, the Christmas markets were open.
Cloth Hall, the world's oldest shopping center. It was once a major center of international trade.
Got out of the freezing cold to enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee.
Main Market Square during the day
Another view of the Cloth Hall
St. Florian's Gate
The Barbican that leads you into Old Town
This was the coldest day we had and it was also the day we took the Auschwitz-Birkenau Tour. Freezing but putting on a smile as we wait for our tour bus.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. Four million people suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis between 1940 - 1945. The actual train records who were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau have never been found but it is estimated 1.3 million were sent here and 1.1 million people died. Auschwitz I, shown below, consisted of 22 brick barrack buildings.
During its three years of operation, Birkenau (known as Auschwitz II) was the largest of more than 40 camps and sub-camps that made up the Auschwitz complex. The majority, about 90%, of the victims of Auschwitz Concentration Camp died in Birkenau
Their barracks, much different than in Auschwitz I.
International monument located between the two largest gas chambers in Birkenau
For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children mainly jews from various countries around Europe.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940-1945
The next day, we got on our train to head back to Vienna. The train ride is almost 8 hours but with some unfortunate weather, it took us 12 1/2 hours. Thankfully there was a dining car on the train where we spent 8 hours and drank all their wine!

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