Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back in Warsaw

We had a very full last day in Krakow. First, we woke up at four in the morning, wide awake, but with no idea what time it was. We laughed when we called the front desk and they told us. We were able to force ourselves to sleep a little longer, and then we set out. We took a tram to the Jewish quarter, and it was very sobering to be there. We walked through a Jewish cemetary, reading the words etched in stone like "This commemorates the 88 members of the Bergman family, killed by Hitler. Earth, don't cover their blood. Dedicated by the two surviving members of the family." The Germans had come in and demolished many of the stones, and used them to pave streets. Many of the fragments were later taken and used to line the walls of the cemetary, sometimes all you could see were a few Hebrew letters, sometimes a beautiful carving. I had a hard time not feeling so angry that something like this could actually happen in living memory. After a while, I realized that everyone who was killed is now at peace, and almost all of those who did the killing have gone on to their own special reward. I came to the conclusion that all I could do at this point is remember and teach my boys to do the same. We saw some incredibly old synagogues, some almost a thousand years old. I admit though, it was a bit of a relief to leave that part of the city and head to the castle. Genocide can be a bit of a downer after a while.
Just outside the old city wall, is a fortified outpost where the knights would wait for oncoming hordes of Tartars or Germans, and anyone who seemed to have a hankering for Krakow. It seems a lot of people did. This outpost had the cool slits in the walls for the archers to shoot through, and the fabled "eye of the needle" that just one guy crouching could fit through. There used to be a moat and everything. Until the last century, the old city was completely surrounded by an ancient wall with 42 guard towers. The city planners decided that these features that had stood for so many centuries had become passe' and were taking up too much room. They demolished all but four towers and a bit of wall, and made a park where they had been. I know. Insane.
Many of the buildings in the old city had exposed stones in the foundations, and we found out that these were from before the invention of bricks. Mind bogglingly old. I wish I had access to the pictures, I don't do it justice.
We took this walking tour for three hours in the freezing rain. I was such a good girl, I never complained. Usually I'm a big baby and wear out quickly and need a nap, but I was determined not to ruin this for Lewis. We stopped half-way through for some hot chocolate, and I got to thaw a bit.
A few words on Polish chocolate, and their desserts in general. We were at a gala banquet, with all unfamiliar but beautiful food laid out before us. I dove for this little chocolate cake, knowing that this at least would not have fish in it. My spoon parted the velvety brown like warm butter. It touched my lips and I knew the answer to world peace. I had a hard time not weeping for either joy or sadness that I would not have this every day of my life. When we stopped for hot chocolate, I ordered a slice of cake to go with is. I decided, why not, it's a little-known fact that there aren't actually any calories here. It looked like ordinary, dry coffee cake. Imagine my delight when I find that it is cheesecake, not anything like American cheesecake, more rich, more thick, a more subtle flavor. I can live many years on the memory of that cake.
We leave the shop, and I am again freezing, wet, tired, and ready to get back to my beloved Warsaw shower. On the train ride back, we experiment with different sleeping positions. It's tough to do without encroaching on others and keeping circulation in your limbs. I managed to sleep a while and achieved a perfect, almost indelible hand print in my face. Lewis was amazed, he could see my fingernails, knuckles, everything, right there on my cheek. We stumbled back into our room, took advantage of that blessed, blessed shower, and sank into sweet oblivion. Then I woke up at four am ready to party.


Kim said...

I'm loving this trip you've gone on. So exciting to read your updates. I was getting chills just reading about your walks in the rain. For awhile in my teenage years I studied a lot about all those horrific events . I was always overcome with the wish to go back in time and do something to alter the all those horrible things that humans actually did to one another. It is sad to dwell on it and I can't imagine how it would feel to actually see it, I think the bleakness of it all would actually give me extra shivers. I love the food descriptions. Can you get some of that cheesecake in your suitcase or is that against customs? Thanks for the comment on my post. You're wonderful. You really are. Oh, and by the way. You look like a hot babe in that coat (Where did you get it? Love it!!) surrounded by all those missionaries and with Lewis's arms lovingly wrapped around you.

Kim said...
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