Communism in Paradise

Our 1st thoughts when we think of Poland is of hard times under Communism and the atrocities during WW2. We weren’t sure if this is what we wanted to do on our holiday but there was some fascination to see what Poland looks like in 2013. So we changed our plans to fit in Krakow, the 2nd largest city in Poland and one of its prettiest.

We arrived and found one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, Main Square. It is the largest medieval town square in Europe and is surrounded by a church and a palace. Interestingly, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the square was named Adolf Hitler Platz.

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Krakow was a city where Jews and Catholics lived without fear for generations. That all changed with the Nazi invasion in WWII. We headed out on the Jewish tour of Krakow to find out more about Jewish existence in this city. In the 1930’s, the Jewish community in Krakow constituted about 25% of the city’s population. Today the number of Jews in Krakow is around 700.

We headed out from the main square to Kazimierz, the heart of Judaism in Krakow. This part of the city is very significant in terms of Jewish culture, with many stories taking place here and the only Jewish synagogue in this location. It is also significant as many scenes of the film Schindlers List were filmed in this location.

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After the tour, we headed out on the Communism tour. This tour was more relevant to us as Communism is more current. We hopped into an old van called a Nysa, made in Poland from 1968 until 1992. It had a maximum of 70hp and a top speed of 95km/h. It uses 25ltrs/100km but luckily for us this one we were in was running on gas to save on money. The joke during Communist time was that you leave your money with the car salesman and he says your car will be delivered in 12 years’ time. The same joke was also used for getting a telephone line installed in your home.

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The tour guide took us to Nowa Huta, a district of Krakow which was created by the communists to attract people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to live and work in and to grow the Communist brand. New communist style apartment blocks were built. A huge steel mill was created for workers.

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The following church is famous in Krakow as it was built and stood in place during the Communist era. Pope John Paul was instrumental in this church being built. It is in the shape of Noah’s ark and symbolises that Noah saved the species of animals and the church will save the believers from communism. The walls are made from a river bed of rocks that people would bring back from holidays.

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The Krakow cloth hall is one of the famous landmarks in Krakow. It was once an international centre for trade and is now used as a stall for traders to sell all different types of goods.

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We also visited Wawel Castle, built during the reign of Casimir III the Great in the 14th century. For many years it was the residence of Polish royalty but is now more of a museum.

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One of the best things to do in Poland is to eat & drink. Pierogi’s are dumplings which are either bakes, fried or steamed. They have delicious fillings such as cheese & potato or meat. The best thing to end the meal with is vodka.

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Na zdrowie Poland. Until next time.

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