Things That I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

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Things That  I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Perched on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Wawel Castle is one of the most important structures in Poland. It was the residence of Polish kings for centuries before being converted into a museum and extensive art gallery in 1930.

The ornately decorated cathedral (no photos please)  and the royal staterooms are good to include in your visit.

The castle represents nearly every European architectural style, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and consists of a number of structures situated around the Italianish main courtyard.

As in other countries, it is good to be the king.

In Wawel Castle, there is an exhibition of one painting. It is an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine.” Only five other cities in the world can boast a painting by da Vinci, so don’t miss it. The painting was bought in 1800 by Adam Czartoryski, a Polish prince. It was moved to Paris in 1836 and returned to the Czartoryski Museum in 1876. Hidden from the Nazis in 1939, the painting was found and formed part of Hitler’s Berlin collection before ending up in Waiwei as the property of Krakow’s Nazi commandant, Hans Frank. With Soviet troops getting close, the painting was rushed back to Germany. American soldiers finally confiscated it and returned it home to Kraków in 1946. The painting has since become one of the city’s most loved treasures.

Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.

Krakow is an old town of young people. The twenty-eight Krakow institutions of higher education have over 200,000 students attending them. The population of Krakow is 760,000 thousand. 

St. Mary’s Trumpet Call can be heard playing hourly from the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – a major symbol of Kraków. The melody always stops short, which symbolizes the legend of a trumpeter who, in 1240, wanted to warn the locals of an approaching enemy, but was killed by an arrow.

Krakow is a city of churches, which is especially visible in its historical center.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city willingly gave themselves into the hands of the Saints, who would protect them and help them with all life problems.

Krakow is one of those European cities that takes pride in having a cold cut produced and branded there -like Parma. Kielbasa Krakowska  or Kielbasa Lisiecka are the products whose taste has been synonymous with Polish sausage.

Another specialty of Krakow is the famous bagel (obwarzanek krakowski). The ring-shaped braid of bread covered with poppy seeds is sold on every corner in the city.

It was baked in Krakow since the Middle Ages and popularized by the Jewish community who emigrated throughout the world. 

MOCAK is a very interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art museum.(art makes you free)

The museum has a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture, all well presented and explained in a spacious modern building.

There were some excellent pieces challenging nationalism, globalization and war.

There are both Polish and International contemporary artists represented.

Many European cities have an Old Town, but Kraków definitely has one of the best.

The medieval architecture is especially fascinating and it’s big enough that you can spend all day walking around it.

Kraków’s Market Square is the largest medieval commercial square in Europe (each of its sides is 200 m long).

It is forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. The locals hate them. (a few hungry pigeons)

There is a lot of weird sculpture in Poland. The big head in Rynek Square is one of them. It is a good meeting point because every tourist can find it. The head is Eros, the God of Love. Why the blindfold? Because love is blind?

The Vistula River, Poland’s longest, runs through Kraków just outside of the Old Town and Jewish District. There are more locals than tourists enjoying it.

The riverfront is long and wide and goes along both sides. It’s lined with a sidewalk, grass, parks, and a few boat restaurants.

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During World War ll, the Nazis occupied beautiful Krakow. Hans Frank looked over the terror from his office on Wawei Hill which is why Krakow was not destroyed.

Krakow is one of the most charming cities. it is hard to believe there was so much death and darkness in such a peaceful place with all those churches. 

I would like to thank Jo Fisher and Aryeh Maidenbaum of Jewish Heritage Travel for putting together such an interesting, well thought out trip through Poland. I have learned so much of the history and complexities of Poland and appreciated the thoughtful intelligent guides and of course, the great hotels.  Hope to travel with you again, some day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

If You See Something, Say Something – Living In America

If You See Something, Say Something – Living  In America

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”Martin Niemoller

I always said that I would be the first one out of Nazi Germany. I would have been gone as soon as I heard the hate rhetoric. Germany elected a monster with a lot of charisma. He told the people what they wanted to hear so how could they resist.

The economic crisis helped Hitler to come into power. He was democratically elected.
I’m not sure that you can blame the German people for that. Hitler did not campaign on the premise of starting a holocaust. He didn’t sound much more radical or antisemitic then any of the other candidates.

The collective crime of the German people was that they supported Hitler and his party even after they had started committing unspeakable crimes and that a sizable fraction of the population supported him in committing those crimes. The difficult thing about Democracy is that majorities are sometimes wrong and you have to decide if and when it is your moral duty to follow the wrong decisions or when to fight them.

I learned about the Holocaust as a little girl living in a refugee community of Holocaust survivors. Of course I would run. Now I am a grownup. I believe in the Democratic process of voting and the person that was supposed to win, won.

There are signs that are troubling. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, which acts as a check on the power of politicians and the government. Trump has already punished news organizations for critical stories by revoking their press credentials to his events and as President-elect continues to threaten them and deny access. I don’t think certain members of the press were particularly impartial during the election but that is one of the freedoms our country is built on.

There are things that were said in the campaign that breed similarity to a dictatorship. He talked about purging the government of all officials appointed by Barack Obama which is what Hitler did two months after getting into office. He is creating a tribe of people based on mutual hate and resentments. He is continuing to hold rallies (as did Hitler and Eva Peron).

I’m withholding my personal opinions and giving him a chance. I have to support the process of a Democratic election because I have seen the governments in Third World countries. I hope he does the good things that he says he will do. I’m reading and learning.  There has been a definite increase in racial harassment and xenophobia since Trump was elected. I understand that if an innocent Muslim or Latino is unsafe here, then I am also unsafe here. My new mantra is taken from homeland security. “If you see something, say something.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Iran Nuclear Arms Deal Or Why It Is Still Unsafe To Visit Iran

The Iran Nuclear Arms Deal or Why It is Still Unsafe To Visit Iran

“The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies.”
Tsutomu Yamaguchi

This is how I feel about the Iran Arms deal. You don’t give nuclear weapons to an unstable country in an unstable part of the world. I don’t care about the political ramifications. I care about the human ones.

Isn’t this the same Iran that when the Ayatollah came into power, he kidnapped the Americans there? Isn’t this the country that thousands of people were forced to evacuate and can never come back? Isn’t this the same Iran that funds terrorists groups? Isn’t this the Iran that is holding American journalist Jason Rezaian and others on trumped-up charges? Will the Mullahs suddenly decide that an international community is the way to go? What happens when a new even more unstable regime takes over? Do they return the weapons to us?

I recently wrote a blog on the ten most dangerous countries not to visit now and there are many more than ten. I was torn based on my research on the tenth one between Iran and North Korea. I ultimately chose North Korea but Iran was a good choice as well. I am confused about why we would give nuclear weapons to a country that is very dangerous for us to go to without the nuclear weapons.

I imagine from a financial point of view it is profitable. If Iran buys nuclear weapons the surrounding countries will need  more weapons to defend themselves. Everyone in the Middle East will be buying more weapons.

We are the self-proclaimed “watchdogs of the world” and giving Iran nuclear weapons is not protecting our world in any way. Is the hope that if we trust them they will behave with integrity? I believe Winston Churchill thought the same about Hitler when he signed the Munich Agreement in 1938 to avoid war. The Munich Agreement has become synonymous with the futility of giving power to totalitarian states.

Hate is irrational and there appears to be a lot of hate in these countries – especially for Jews and Israel. I imagine the Jews who signed a petition in favor of the Nuclear Arms Deal with Iran probably would not have left Nazi Germany in time. Many intelligent wealthy Jews held out hoping that the threat of persecution and death would pass. – that rational, intelligent thought would prevail over the death camps.

Have any of the Jews who signed the petition or people in favor of the Arms Deal with Iran been to the Hiroshima museum in Japan? Every Japanese school child has to go. The motto is No More Hiroshimas. The symbol is the Hiroshima Dome (Genbaku dome), the only building left standing in the area where the bomb exploded. Anyone who has spent time in this museum and listened to the stories and continued health problems would know the only good use for nuclear weapons is to keep people from using them. Ultimately what would be our defense against Nuclear Weapons? Nuclear Weapons.

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Fly safe,
JAZ