Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Poland - the south

Katowice station
Our first stop in the south of Poland was Katowice. Unfortunately for us, it seemed that the entire city was being dug up, having heavy machinery, detours and barriers in all directions.

After managing to find a car park, we had a little roam around finding some attractive old buildings alongside fairly modern architecture.

Katowice building
We had a wee shop around and Leigh bought a pair of shoes, after which we headed out looking for our preferred campsite.

We were delighted that it was easy to find and of a really good standard – wifi, clean toilets, and hot showers! It even had a restaurant where we decided to treat ourselves to a hearty Polish meal!

Leigh was desperate for red meat (iron), so we both ordered steak. Unfortunately, while Leigh’s was called rump steak, it appeared as some kind of reconstituted meat – tasty but not the ‘real’ thing! Marg kindly shared some of her delicious sirloin steak with her!

Auschwitz fence
After Katowice, we drove across smaller roads and through little villages and hamlets to get to the town of Oświęcim which proved to be an attractive little place with a town square surrounded by pretty buildings.

Oświęcim is also the home of Auschwitz and Birkenau WWII concentration camps. Visiting the camps, we found that all visitors had to join a guided tour.

Beds-3 levels-Birkenau
 Our English speaking group was split into three separate groups and we were led around Auschwitz then Birkenau.

We had a passionate young woman as a guide who shared a huge amount of information with us about the evil that was perpetrated in these camps by the Nazis.

We were left wondering how anyone actually managed to survive this hell on earth; and how it was possible that people could have actually inflicted such tortures on others.

Auschwitz suitcases
It was a sobering and daunting 3 ½ hours seeing where all this happened. No matter how much you read about it, you never really understand the horror of the thing. Seeing the hundreds of suitcases, tons of shaved human hair, photos taken at the time, and other such things helped us to appreciate the value of living in New Zealand in today’s times. This is a place we will never forget.

Leigh, Pieskowa Skała rock
We had a slightly restless sleep that night before setting off in a circuitous route across country towards the east. En-route, we passed through the Ojców National Park which is part of the Polish Jura Chain (Jurassic rock).

We saw many interesting limestone formations, castles perched on the top of them, and a myriad of walking and cycling tracks that were being well used by tourists.

We climbed up to view Pieskowa Skała Castle, which was erected in the first half of the fourteenth century, and the huge limestone rocks near it. We found it to be a very attractive area to wander through.

Arriving in Krakow, we easily found our rather attractive and well cared for campsite. It was free to use the washing machines there so we threw in a load which blew out in the gentle breeze and was almost dry by evening – a real bonus especially as the weather had been very cool until now.

Marg, Wawel
Royal Castle-Krakow
The weather seemed to be so much warmer here and although a little cool in the morning it was nothing like the mornings we had experienced over the last week. As it is spring here, there seems to be a constant hum of weed eaters and lawn mowers as the long winter grass gets its spring cut.

We headed off into Krakow centre by bus the next morning. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the stop for the old city and ended up in the suburbs on the other side of town. Interesting but not useful!

Catching a tram back we decided to get off at Wawel Hill which is a very important part of Polish history - there have been fortifications here since prehistoric times.

We had an enjoyable time wandering around the Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral before following attractive cobbled streets to reach the main Krakow Market Square (the Rynek).

Marg, the Barbican-Krakow
There are so many beautiful buildings including cathedrals, churches and palaces that there was lots to see. It was a very easy city to walk around.

We soon reached the end of the old city which is bordered by the old defensive walls and the impressive Barbican just outside the Florian’s Gate entrance to the old city.  We stayed a while in Krakow and had a lovely break.

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