Over the long Memorial Day weekend I went to Krakow, Poland and Budapest, Hungary with Miranda (a biking buddy I have here in Naples).
The first day we explored the Krakow city center. It is wonderful. I could have stayed there all year. It is very charming with neat architecture and is quite walk-able. There was a lot to do. There were stalls selling various wares, foods vendors with delicious beer and sausages/potatoes/mushrooms/various meats, and live performers and music was playing all over the place. There were tons of cafés with lots of great pastries, coffee, and sandwiches. Some key sites in Krakow are the Wawel castle, a great high spot to overlook the town and Vistula river, main market square, and St. Mary’s Basilica. I took some time to wander through the Jewish district, the area where Schindler’s list was filmed. The next day I ventured to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was quite interesting. I’d say more interesting than the concentration camp Dachau (outside of Munich). Did you know Auschwitz was the only place that tattooed the Jews who were there? There were even large piles of the remaining items that belonged to the unfortunate people who were sent there. They would shave off all the hair of the females (after they were gassed) to sell as mattress stuffing. There is still a huge room full of hair on display. Other huge piles include used cans of Zyklon B, shoes, glasses, bags, and bowls, and photos were also on display. The original hooks to torture/kill and a hanging area to kill are still in tact there as well. Birkenau was pretty baron in comparison. The gas chambers and most of the housing and other buildings have been reduced to rubble, but there were enough in tact or rebuilt to get a good idea of what it was like.
After returning to Krakow we hopped aboard a night train heading to Budapest, Hungary. We found out once we got there how large and spread out sites in Buda and Pest are (two cities on opposite sides of the the Danube river), so we got hop on-hop off bus tickets and rode all around. Sadly it was a Monday and all the museums were closed, so we took some time at Margaret Island and biked a bit. I like Heroes Square the best in Pest, it has lots of neat statues. By the Hungarian parliament, there are bronzed shoes planted on the cement facing the Danube. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. They were interesting. We also took a river cruise to relax a bit at the end of our long long day. We left to return to Naples the next morning. Also, the salami from Hungary is really good. Overall, Budapest did not have the same charm that Krakow had, but it was nice in its own way.
Also, please enjoy my favorite Polish song that got incredibly stuck in my head whilst in Poland.