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  • Day244

    Well I wrote a big long entry for today, but my computer crashed when I tried posting it and I don't feel like typing it all out again. We drove left Kosice and visited our first wooden church at Hervartov, where we had to ring the caretaker to let us in.

    Spent a couple of hours checking out the medieval town of Bardejov in Slovakia, since it's quite well preserved. Nice square with cathedral, town hall, walls and other buildings. Filmed a video here.

    Pressed on north-east to see the other wooden churches in the area which we did without much fuss but didn't go inside. There's three separate listings of wooden churches, one in Slovakia, one in Poland, and another of Poland/Ukraine combined. All are slightly different!

    Finally we drove north across the border into Poland, where the mountains gave way to rolling farming country like France or the UK. Our Airbnb was in a very isolated spot, thankfully we had dinner provided for us. Staying alone in an 8-bed B&B, though the hosts are in a separate building next door.

    Poland is country number 41 for me, 40 for Shandos, and 21 for Schnitzel!
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  • Day245

    Lots of wooden churches and tserkvas today, exploring the area. It's honestly hard to keep them all separate in my head, but we definitely went to six different ones, three churches and three tserkvas. Fair bit of driving and in & out of the car. Bakery food for lunch from a small town I think, hard to remember now!

    Nice day, but everything kind of blended into one!

  • Day38

    St Peter and Paul church.
    In the old town the bells ring on the hour and a trumpet plays but gets cut short in remembrance of a boy who was playing the tune to warn of invaders but got killed by an arrow.
    The home of dumplings!
    Time for a pub crawl with a black out theme. We all wear black with glitter and glow sticks. Found some jinga to play

  • Day40

    Today we visited two Auschwitz camps.
    Over 1 million people died here.
    They were sorted from getting off the trains. The right column went to the working camps. The left column went straight to the gas chambers, mostly women, children and elderly.
    They have piles of their belongings that didn't end up getting destroyed. They have a room full of the hair that was shaved off the people before they were killed and cremated.
    Just the share extent of what happened here is hard to comprehend that it managed to happen without much resistance due to the propaganda and lies.
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  • Day246

    Finally time to leave the middle of nowhere and head for civilisation again. Just one more church nearby to check out, which we did, then headed north towards Krakow. We weren't able to check in here until 4pm, so we decided to knock off one of our "Krakow" heritage sites.

    This was about 20km west of Krakow, a huge monastery and calvary complex known as Kalwaria Zebryzdowska. A calvary is similar to the sacred mountains we'd seen in Italy, where pilgrims can follow paths up mountains, with multiple shrines spaced along the way to represent various stages of the Passion and so on.

    This is one of the largest such sites in the world, and has two separate 8km calvary routes, one for the life of Jesus and another for the life of Mary. And what's interesting as well is that they're laid out exactly in the same proportions as the old city of Jerusalem (or at least as it appears in the New Testament anyway). So the distance and directly from say the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion hill are precise matches.

    Fascinating concept! So after a quick McDonalds lunch on the road, we wandered around a little bit looking at the various shrines and doing our filming. It was a bit too cold for a full 8km walk, and Schnitzel wasn't enjoying the muddy ground either, so we cut things a bit short and headed for Krakow.

    Pleased to find that our apartment is great - stylish modern furnishings, parking space, convenient location, decent internet connection and a low price. Loads of space two, there's a second bedroom we aren't using, plus a loungeroom, dining room, kitchen and a foyer type area. Nice.

    As night fell we headed out in search of dinner. We're staying on the edge of the Jewish Quarter, which was once home to the city's thriving Jewish community (sadly deported to a ghetto outside of town during the German occupation and then later sent to the gas chambers at nearby Auschwitz) but is now home to the city's coolest restaurants and bars. Lots of food truck parks as well, where a few semi-permanent food trucks would set up shop in a vacant lot.

    Eventually settled on a Mexican food truck for a tasty burrito, while Shandos had a felafel wrap from a Israeli vegetarian truck. Looking forward to exploring the city tomorrow!
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  • Day156

    I didn’t think it’d get this cold in Autumn but it’s colder here than NZ in the middle of winter!!! Nevertheless, I can easily say that I love Wrocław, cold and all! Karina and I travelled here from Dresden and checked into a hostel close to the city centre. My first impression was of the Main Square at 11pm and although it had a few characters that made me raise an eyebrow, it was simply beautiful. The lights hit the old city buildings perfectly and the square took several turns to a bigger square which made it quite interesting! I had my first Zapikanka from a convenience store and it was quite tasty. The next day Karina and I joined a free walking tour of the Old Town and Jewish Quarter. It was super interesting to hear about how Poland had been held by five different governments - Polish, Germans, Russians, Czechs and Austrians - and it’s not until you come to Poland that you realise how long they’ve had to fight for Independence, outside of WWII. In Wrocław specifically, the City is known as the city of Dwarfs - I had no idea why until it was explained that the dwarf is a symbol of anti-communism and it was really fun walking through the city spotting these little statues all over the place. I enjoyed some of Karina’s favorite traditional Polish cuisine including Periogi (similar to dumplings), bigos (hunters stew), kopytka (potato/gnocchi like dumplings) and white borscht soup (sour but creamy soup - not a fan). The best part of Poland which I didn’t know are their sweets and treats are amazing!! Perfect for my sweet tooth but not my waistline unfortunately... Fresh triangular doughnuts filled with every flavor you can think of line the streets and even the most controlled individual couldn’t say no. I devoured a raspberry flavoured one and it was just as good as you could imagine! They also have mouthwatering chocolates - wafers, fudges and caramel nut bars in particular. I’ve stocked up on a small collection to bring back to NZ, but no guarantees they’ll last the return trip. Another thing I loved about Wrocław was the florist shops that are open 24/7 and apparently they get great business throughout the night, particularly from men buying their wives and girlfriends flowers after a big night out. I wasn’t sure what to think of Wrocław or Poland before I arrived but I can say this is one of my favourite cities (yes I have about 100 favourite cities now) but it’s definitely worth remembering and has so much to offer!Read more

  • Day249

    After a day off it was back to the world heritage sites! Today's stop was the royal salt mines at the town of Wieliczka, about 20 minutes south-east of Krakow. We left home around 9 under rainy skies, hoping to make today a half-day. After arriving, parking, sorting out Schnitzel in the car and so on, we just missed the 10am tour, so had to wait for the 10:30am tour in English.

    Surprising number of people around, lots of Poles but also other nationalities as well - I wouldn't have expected a salt mine to attract so many people!

    The tour itself was great; about 3 hours worth of wandering around the mines in semi-darkness. Lots of high-quality salt was mined here, and at one point in the 16th century the mine's output was around 30% of the Polish kingdom's GDP! It was founded in the 13th century and still in operation, though salt production these days was done by boiling salt water leaking into the mine, rather than actual mining per se.

    Lots of sculptures down here surprisingly, and an enormous cavern room that still gets used for concerts, church services, weddings and so on. Not sure I'd want to get married 100m underground in a mine, but apparently some people do!

    Back to the surface where we had a quick lunch in the attached cafe (sausages and Polish dumplings), then drove back to Krakow. It hadn't quite been a half-day as it was approaching 3pm when we got home, but close enough. More work in the afternoon and evening! I also ducked out to buy new jeans from H&M at a nearby shopping mall, and a hair cut since I was long overdue - my last one had been in Strasbourg, so mid-August!
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  • Day250

    Harrowing day today. Auschwitz is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Poland, and is very difficult to visit without a pre-arranged tour. So we'd booked a tour a few days earlier. Our bus picked us up just near our apartment, a typical minivan with around 12 seats. 90 minutes ride out to the town.

    These days the town is known as Oswiecim (Auschwitz is actually the Germanic version of the name) and surprisingly large. First stop was Auschwitz-1, original main camp and the site of an old Polish army barracks. This is where the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign is located. We spent the next 2 hours walking around the camp, following the guide. It's very regimented, where basically everyone does the same tour in the same order in roughly 5-minute increments.

    The tour went through the history of the place, the first occupants (Polish dissidents and resistance leaders), and slowly moved through the deportation and incarceration of Polish Jews, but also Jews from all over Europe. It's hard to stomach the stories of not only mass killings, but the profiteering that went along with it. Many people were tricked into paying their train fares to the camp, gold teeth were extracted from corpses and melted down, long hair was shaved off and re-used in pillows, linens etc. People were told to bring their tools and valuables with them, which were of course immediately stolen. Awful stuff. One room had an enormous display with piles of plaited human hair that was quite hard to look at.

    After a couple of hours, we had a quick break and then headed to Auschwitz-2 - the camp known as Birkenau. "Auschwitz" itself was actually a complex of over 40 separate camps, though only these two have remained - Birkenau being far larger. An entire village was razed to make way for it, and it held 80,000 people at one point. This was where the mass killings were taken to their logistical extreme - the train lines into the camp terminated right next to the gas chambers.

    People were disembarked, separated into those who could and couldn't work. If you could work, you were marched off to the prison, if you couldn't it was straight into the gas chambers. Two of the five gas chamber/crematorium buildings still remain, though both are in ruins as the SS blew them up at the end of the war in an attempt to hide their crimes. I've seen them before at the other concentration camp I've visited (Mauthausen in Austria), but it's still an awful sight.

    This tour was quite a bit shorter, as it seemed much less of the camp was open for viewing. We were still herded around on a strict schedule, though there was a huge group of what I assume were Israeli teenagers on a school tour wandering around and behaving extremely poorly. Nothing egregious, just typical teenager shit that doesn't belong in a memorial. Anyway.

    Back to the bus where we drove the 90 minutes back to Krakow, suitably chastened. Chilled out for a while at home before heading out for dinner. Visited an Israeli restaurant nearby that we'd seen a few times and had good reviews - very tasty. Great hummus and our chicken tagine was excellent. Nice way to finish off our time in Krakow!
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  • Day252

    Settled into our apartment no problems last night, and got up ready to face the day. Our apartment is absolutely beautiful by the way, the most modern and fanciest place we've stayed in by quite some distance. Great finishings, nice modern touches etc. Almost like being back in our home in Crows Nest - it even has some exposed bricks!

    First stop today was Wroclaw's only UNESCO site, the Centennial Hall. This is a large multi-purpose hall that was finished in 1913. Remembering that this area of Poland is slightly Germanic and was at the time part of the German empire, the building was built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat by the Prussians at the Battle of Leipzig. It was also one of the first major buildings in the world to use reinforced concrete.

    We wandered around outside, checking it out from each angle. There's a large park on one side with an enormous "multimedia" fountain which has lights, angled jets, mist sprays, music and so on. It was playing Ride of the Valkyries as we walked past which seemed rather appropriate.

    Had hoped to go inside and check it out, since it's still actively used for things like sporting events, concerts etc. As it turned out, it was actively being used today for a careers fair for Polish uni students, so we did what normal people would do and registered for the fair to get in! The girl seemed rather startled when she mis-heard my date of birth as 1991 and I corrected her to 1981! How many years of working experience do you have? Uh, about 20 I guess. Oh, so more than five? Yes :)

    Lots of people inside, both students and recruiters alike. We probably stuck out like sore thumbs but whatever! Got our filming done and headed back outside.

    Dropped the car off at the apartment again and walked the 10 or so minutes into the old town. It was almost completely destroyed at the end of WW2 so it's not as old or picturesque as Krakow, but still quite nice. Lots of brightly painted buildings and ornately decorated ones too. Enormous central square with a Renaissance-era town hall.

    One cool little touch are these small bronze gnome statues scattered around the city. They're all interesting, some a little cheeky. Originally from the Polish resistance movement in the 1980s, the trend has been kept alive and the city adds more every year. Managed to find a few on our wander around!

    Had some lunch at a Thai restaurant where we reviewed other tourist options for Wroclaw. It seemed like if we weren't going to check out the main few cathedrals, the other highlights were the Centennial Hall and the main square, both of which we'd accomplished before lunch!

    So we wandered around a few more side-streets, enjoyed a couple of other squares and some street art, then headed home where we relaxed and did work for the rest of the day.

    Headed out in the evening to a semi-trendy bar with good food and drinks; seemed quite popular with the after-work crowd.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Poland, Polen, Poland, Pole, ፖላንድ, Polonia, Polaland, بولندا, ܦܘܠܢܕ, Polşa, Польшча, Полша, Poloɲi, পোল্যান্ড, པོ་ལནྜ།, Poljska, Polònia, Polsko, Pòlskô, Пол҄ьска, Польша, Gwlad Pwyl, Polonya, Poland nutome, Πολωνία, Polio, Poola, اتریش, Poloñ, Puola, Pólland, Pologne, Polonie, Poalen, An Pholainn, A Phòlainn, Polóña, પોલેંડ, Yn Pholynn, Polan, פולין, पोलैंड, Pólska, Lengyelország, Լեհաստան, Polandia, ポーランド共和国, polskas, პოლონეთი, Polandi, Poleni, ប៉ូលូញ, ಪೋಲ್ಯಾಂಡ್, 폴란드, پۆڵەندا, Poloni, ໂປແລນ, Lenkija, Mpoloni, Polija, Pôlôna, Полска, പോളണ്ട്, पोलंड, Polonja, ပိုလန်, Poran, Pulonnia, Pholandi, पोल्याण्ड, Polongne, Polonha, Pol'šu, ପୋଲାଣ୍ଡ, Польшæ, Polska, پولنډ, Polónia, Pulunya, Pologna, Polonye, Полония, Pulonia, Pölôni, පෝලන්තය, Poľsko, Booland, Пољска, போலந்து, పోలాండ్, Лаҳистон, โปแลนด์, لەھىستان, Польща, پولینڈ, Polsha, Ba Lan, Pooln, Polän, פוילן, Orílẹ́ède Polandi, 波兰, i-Poland

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