Auschwitz

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The photo above, cropped from a much larger original, was taken at 10 A.M. on May 8, 2015. Our group was taken through Auschwitz, the largest WW II death camp. We went through the camp mostly in silence, listening to our local guide and looking at the sad, respectful, horrifying portrayal of what one German doctor, who observed two “special actions” there, called, in accurate, appropriate Latin, the anus mundi. Auschwitz is a place that stays in my system. Recording what I saw on camera and keeping to the schedule of movement set by the site officials kept me, mercifully, preoccupied.

We were on a fast-paced tour, headed for two nights in Warsaw following two in Kraków. We were to visit the Jasna Góra Monastery that afternoon on our way to Poland’s modern capital. I took a photo similar to this of a large display table piled with brushes important to the victims: hair brushes, tooth brushes, a shaving brush… In Warsaw I opened a large wardrobe cabinet in our hotel room. On a shelf just below eye level was a hair brush, pale bristles upturned, and the impact of what I’d witnessed came back instantly and un-beckoned. I knew then that the time spent there would remain with me. Continue reading “Auschwitz”

Kraków, Ancient Capital – May 7

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How to Kill a Dragon Named Smok:

The old story is told that Kraków was founded in 350 A.D. by a bloke named Krakus. He had a beautiful daughter, handy if you want dangerous work done. Let’s call her Jo. Worried by Smok, who lived in a cave under Wawel Hill (see model above), Krakus offered Jo’s hand in marriage to any man who could snuff Smok. Many tried, but when they cut off Smok’s head, he grew two more instantly. It was a bloody, dragon-head-filled while before one chappie whom I’ll call Pawel figured out that cutting off one or more heads just made things worse. He poisoned a goat and left it in front of Smok’s cave. Poison worked. Pawel won the damsel, Jo’s dowry and a lifetime supply of Grey Goose.

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We had a lazy morning, since we had opted not to opt for the optional tour of the Salt Mines.There were many stairs down even after the elevator. Going down a ton of stairs is hard for Anita. We still had 9 days left in our trip; not a time to risk your mobility! I opted to stay at the Sheraton with her, tying up some loose ends… where to eat lunch, what museum(s) to see after lunch, and how we might fit in a walk to the 14th C. Kazimierz neighbourhood… until our Salt o’ the Deep Earth group got back. The Salt Mine, and its beautiful acoustic space and sculpture, is a World Heritage Site. Kinda wish I’d gone…

Wawel Hill:

Anyway, when the salts, old and young, returned and had been hosed down with Perrier and rubbed up with aloe cream, we walked up Wawel Hill. Our local expert took us through its cathedral. Most of the royal bodies are kept there, so it is still the most important cathedral in Poland. Continue reading “Kraków, Ancient Capital – May 7”