July 20, 2014

Road Trip--Poland

[Arg! I'm falling farther and farther behind!! Now I have even MORE to blog about, but I haven't even finished our spring road trip update!]

We reluctantly said goodbye to the Czech Republic after our too-short stay and made our way to Krakow, Poland, where we had an apartment in the city for 3 nights. Our first night consisted of figuring out how to get ourselves parked by the apartment building and ordering pizza from their hotel restaurant to devour in our rooms.

As our apartment was really a collection of bedrooms--no kitchen or furniture other than beds--we decided to eat at their restaurant for breakfast the next morning. It was a bit more pricey than we would have liked, but we weren't in any position to argue...when you're hungry, you're hungry! Our agenda for this day: the famous ancient salt mines in Wieliczka. The tour was long (nearly 3 hours) but very interesting. Particularly astonishing is the huge underground chapel carved out of the salt! The mine never used slave laborers (to clear up a common misconception!) and brought in considerable wealth to the area. We scarfed down an amazing lunch at a tavern right outside the exit of our tour...we were so glad to sit down and enjoy our food after such a long time down in the mines!

Tobin, Kenna, and Lucan rest on the carved salt floor while listening to our tour guide tell us about the cathedral.

The reliefs really were quite amazing!

Resting after our tour finished

Mmmmm! Lunch was YUMMY! (OK, yes, some of the kids chose familiar pizza, but Lucan loved his Polish pancakes, and Charis, Ted, and I thoroughly enjoyed whatever ethnic dishes we got--I have since forgotten the name of what I ordered. Sigh.)
After resting in the apartment during the afternoon, we decided to head out to explore the Old Towne square. It was a beautiful evening, and the square was lovely. Sadly, [some of] the children clamored for familiar food, so we stopped at Burger King to soothe young palates. Charis and I enjoyed a yummy [and quite late] dinner at our hotel restaurant, sharing a Greek salad and potato pancakes.

Day 2 in Poland had us investigating some WWII history. In the morning we went to Schindler's Factory, which may have been a bit "boring" to the younger kids, anyway, but Charis, Tobin, and Arden were definitely old enough to get quite a bit out of the tour. We watched a film at the beginning that was maybe a half hour long and gave a great overview of who Oskar Schindler was and the role he played in helping so many Jews have a decent working environment and protection during a very precarious time. Walking through the museum was a poignant and thoughtful experience. As we approached the end, however, my heart began hammering when a museum official indicated that I needed to follow her. She spoke no English, but it was clear I was to go with her, so, pushing Seanin in the stroller and calling out for Charis to tell Ted that I had to go, we scrambled to keep up with the woman who led Charis and me to an elevator. As it turns out, she was "kindly" helping us to avoid the stairs that the others ended up taking to get to the end of the exhibit...I wish she would have been able to tell us that, because I felt rather gypped at not being able to finish the end of the tour! Ah, well.

Schindler's desk and office area
In the afternoon, Ted and I settled the kids in the apartment, where the younger boys napped and the older kids watched DVDs on the laptop so that Ted and I could slip away and drive to Auschwitz (taking Seanin with us to make things a bit easier). It took us about an hour just to get TO the infamous concentration camp, so we felt rather pressed for time...even though we normally wouldn't hesitate to depend on Charis for babysitting services, being in a foreign country is an altogether different situation! She had one of our cell phones so we could text each other the whole time, but still...it was unsettling in more ways than one...

Our DIY tour involved purchasing a guide book before joining the throngs of people heading into the camp area for the post 3pm self-guided tour opportunity. (From 10am - 3pm you can only go in with tour guides.) It was sobering to actually walk in such a place. Appropriately, it rained during part of the time we were there. One can only imagine how dreadful life was in those times, particularly during harsh weather. I can't even put into words how I feel about the capability humans have to inflict unspeakable cruelty on others...

After an emotionally exhausting day, we decided that pizza in the apartment would be a great option. Ted did take the older kids out for ice cream since they had gamely stayed cooped up for the afternoon, but we were ready to turn in fairly early since the next day was a travel day.

Thinking that it would be a fairly easy jaunt to get to Hungary, our next destination, the next morning we opted to pack everything up and leave it in the apartment, ready to pack into the Suburban upon our return, then head to Old Town square one more time since we felt we didn't get enough time to enjoy the downtown area...plus we wanted to shop a bit!

We found some delightful hand-carved games and treasures at this stand.

Ted with all 7 of the kids!

Beautiful green belt in the city

I love traveling with my family!!
What a great way to end our time in Poland! Three days probably wasn't nearly enough, but we are so grateful for the opportunity to spend even that amount of time here...with our big family, we didn't think we'd even be able to make it this far from southern Italy. God is good!