A 16-day adventure by skip's retirement travel
  • Day16


    September 11, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Czestochowa is a city in southern Poland known for the Monastery of Jasna Gora (which means Bright Mountain in Polish). This is the home of the world famous Black Madonna (see the 1st picture), making this monastery and the shrine, in particular, an important pilgrimage site for millions every year. No one really knows the origin of this piece. One legend says the evangelist, Luke, painted it on the top of Mary's table. Helena, mother of Constantine, found it on one of her searches for the true cross. She brought it back to Constantinople. From there it made its way to this monastery in 1384, where it has been since.
    The rest of the pictures are of the monastery. The 2nd picture is a side chapel off the main sanctuary dedicated to the monastic order of the monastery: the order of St. Paul, the first Hermit. The first monks came from Hungary in 1382. The symbols and coat of arms of the order are visible. The 3rd picture is of the nave of the basilica or main church.
    The 4th picture is of the Knights Chamber where royalty would visit and important meetings were held . In the upper arches are paintings of these memorable events.
    The 5th picture is of the main entrance to the monastery.
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  • Day15

    Klezmer in Kazimierz

    September 10, 2021 in Poland ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    Klezmer is a musical form developing among the Ashkenazi Jews in this part of Europe. As I understand it, klezmer is a Yiddish word for this style of music, and the word has roots in the Hebrew words for tools and melody.
    This is a brief snippet from the music played for us in this traditional Jewish musical style in this historic Jewish neighborhood in a part of the world known for klezmer.
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  • Day15

    Schindler in Krakow

    September 10, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    If the 1st picture looks familiar, it probably means you saw Schindler's List because Steven Spielberg shot scenes for the movie in this location. Most of the movie was made in Krakow as this is where Oskar Schindler came to make his fortune during world war 2. And it is here where he protected his Jewish labor force from the Holocaust.
    His former factory still more or less exists, but it is now used for museums. The 2nd picture is of the entry to the factory as it was portrayed in the movie. The 3rd picture looks out a window over the roofs of some of his buildings. The 4th picture looks along one wall of his buildings as it is today. The 5th picture is of part of the wall of pictures of the people who worked in his factory and who he protected. And the 6th picture is his desk and office.
    The museum traces the life of Jewish Krakow from just before the war through deportations, creating the ghetto and liquidation of the ghetto, while pointing out the impact Oskar Schindler had on saving his employees through it all.
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  • Day15

    Kazimierz, Krakow

    September 10, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Kazimierz was founded as an independent city in the 14th century and remained so until the beginning of the 19th century when it was incorporated into Krakow. The old Jewish quarter was here and until world war 2, the Jewish and Christian communities lived side by side and intermingled.
    This post focuses on the Jewish quarter. Before the war, there were 65,000 Jewish citizens in Krakow served by 7 synagogues. Today, only 1 is fully active with regular worship and only about 200 members.
    The first picture is in the main square of the Jewish quarter. At the far end of the photo is the oldest synagogue in Krakow. It is now a museum. The 2nd picture is in a small Orthodox synagogue that serves the small Jewish community in Krakow today. This is a famous place of pilgrimage, especially for the Orthodox worldwide as this is the synagogue of Rabbi Moses Isserles aka Remu.
    The 3rd picture is in a reform synagogue that is used on occasion for worship. The 4th picture is of a street just off the main square. The building at the left is another old synagogue that is currently empty and unused. The 5th picture is of an old school that became the building used by the Nazis for labor assignments.
    The last picture is not in the Jewish quarter. This is the main square of the ghetto created by the Nazis to separate the Jewish community from the rest of Krakow. It was ultimately liquidated, making Schindler's effort even more significant (see another post).
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  • Day14

    St Mary's Basilica, Krakow

    September 9, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    St. Mary's is the large brick gothic church on the main square of Krakow. It was built in the 14th century on foundations dating to the 13th century. St. Mary's is most famous for the extraordinary wooden altarpiece carved by Viet Stoss.
    The 1st picture is of the church from the main square. The tower to the left is 80 meters tall, and it is from here that the bugle call is played live every hour, 24/7. The call is famous as it stops suddenly, according to legend, to commemorate a bugler who was shot through the throat with an arrow while alerting the city to a mongol attack in the 13th century.
    The famous altarpiece is the 2nd picture. This triptych stands 11 meters tall and is opened and closed every day. I won't try to describe all the scenes except to say they all relate to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The 3rd picture is a wider look at the chancel to give a better sense of the scope and beauty of the church.
    The 4th picture is a detail of a portion of the chancel which is painted with this repeating motif of angels. It is said that the faces of the angels are the faces of the painters 4 daughters.
    The last picture was taken from the same spot as the 2nd and 3rd pictures but in the opposite direction. Here you can see the rest of the nave.
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  • Day14


    September 9, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Krakow is Poland's 2nd largest city; it is the cultural center of the country; and it was the royal capital for hundreds of years. Even after the capital was moved to Warsaw, the coronation of kings occured in the cathedral in castle (see another post).
    The 1st post looks across a portion of the main square in Krakow which I'm told was the largest such square in all of medieval Europe. The building is the market hall in the center of the square, and the 2nd picture looks down the length of the interior of the market hall. The 3rd picture is another portion of the main square. It is said to be 200 meters long on each side.
    The 4th picture looks along one of the main streets off the square.
    One of the symbols of Krakow is the dragon. This stature of the dragon is in a park on the shore of the Vistula River at the base of Wawel Hill (see another post). This dragon does really breathe fire. I just wasn't quick enough with the camera to catch it.
    The last picture is in the courtyard of the oldest building of Jagiellonian University, the oldest in Krakow and one of the oldest in Europe, dating to 1364. Not surprisingly, two famous alumni are Copernicus and Pope John Paul II.
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  • Day14

    Wawel Hill, Krakow

    September 9, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    This is the hill where the royal castle is located. The castle dates to the 10th century, but the current buildings date to the 14th century. It claims the title of the 1st UNESCO world heritage site.
    The 1st picture looks up to the castle from the street level, while the 2nd looks across the outer courtyard to the castle and cathedral. The cathedral is at the left center and is clearer in the 3rd picture.
    The 4th picture is inside the inner courtyard of the castle. The 5th picture is the view from the hill overlooking the city.
    The last picture is not of a king. It is a monument to a national hero and freedom fighter named Thaddeus Kosciusko. If that name sounds familiar to US folks, it should. He was one of Washington's generals during our revolution.
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  • Day14

    Pod Aniotami, Krakow

    September 9, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Pierogi making! The 1st 2 pictures are of pierogi making. The chef made the dough and the stuffings. We rolled and cut the dough and stuffed the pierogis. The chef cooked them, and we ate them for lunch. Yes, they were good.
    The rest of the pictures look at the building housing the restaurant called Pod Aniotami. The building dates to the 13th century and was originally a goldsmith's shop and home. The 3rd picture is of an original 15th century fountain on the ground floor.
    The remaining pictures are in what is now the basement but was the ground floor in the 13th century. The last picture was taken from the stairs to give a sense of how deep the cellar is and, conversely, how much the ground level has risen over the centuries.
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    Dale and I are big pierogi lovers. When we were dating in Cleveland, he would take me to a Polish tavern for pierogis and beer--the pierogis always made by the ladies at the nearby Polish Catholic Church. Have a few for us!

  • Day13


    September 8, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    The claim to fame in Wiezliczka is it's 13th century salt mine. They are no longer mining salt here, but the site is still active with tourism and a health resort that trades on the highly mineralized water.
    I have been in a number of salt mines around the world (see other posts from previous trips). So I decided not to post again similar exhibits. I decided to take a panorama of the largest carved room, the chapel of Saint Kinga. All of the work is by local craftsmen, the most famous item is the copy of the Davinci Last Supper carved in salt on one of the walls. You should be able to pick it out. And, yes, the chandeliers are made of salt.
    This is still a working church with mass every Sunday.
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  • Day12

    Tatras Mountains Entertainment

    September 7, 2021 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    These guys play at the restaurant where we had dinner, and they are really good. If these were Irish songs, It could have been Aidan's. (Bristol, RI, for those who don't know the reference.)
    The music is of the tradition of the Goral or mountain people native to this region.Read more