#2, Berlin/Poland, June 25, 1989
At breakfast one morning we spoke to a woman who had escaped the communists and now lives in West Germany, but was back here for a visit. Then the five of us went to see the Wang Stave Church. This was a Norwegian 14th century stave (wooden) church that was disassembled in Norway and rebuilt here in the 1800s by a rich count. It was very misty and rainy which somehow fit the general ambience of this weird church in its out-of-place setting in the Polish mountains. I wonder exactly why this count wanted a Norwegian stave church in his homeland.
Dinner was a pork cutlet, potatoes and cucumbers. We’re being served a lot of pork and potatoes. Many items on the restaurant menus are not available. About this time I finished reading Michener’s “Poland.” Later in the day we went for a walk around the town.
The mist cleared and we had beautiful sunshine the next day when we took the chairlift to the top of the Reisengeberg Mountains. We had a view of the surrounds as we ate a sweet on the top. However, the pollution in Poland is sad—the trees on these mountains are quite stunted. Our Berlin friends felt very sad when comparing Poland to West Germany, as Poland definitely suffers from pollution and poverty.
We continued driving, looking for the castle at Wallbrych, which we couldn’t find. I photographed a stork’s nest and a deer with fawn in a field. We arrived in a pretty walled town called Pachow, which only had one hotel, which was full. The proprietor called another in nearby Klodz, which had rooms for us.
We had dinner in the hotel but later that evening, since Gisela and Wolfgang were planning to return to Berlin the next day as they found Poland too depressing, we did the Polish thing and drank quite a bit of vodka. It was a celebratory evening with our good friends.
Here we had one of our best meals—roast goose, salad, soup, beans, fries, and for dessert, the pancakes with jam and cream, with coffee. The cost—about $15 American for all three of us! BUT! I exchanged some money for a higher rate than usual and so my dinner ended up costing me about $1.25! We stopped to shop at a handicrafts store where I bought a couple of carved wooden dolls.
Again the next day was foggy. We had intended to take a scenic route to Krakow, which has many castles along the way, but since it was so foggy we took a double lane highway. We stopped at one town where girls were celebrating their First Communion.
When we arrived in Krakow we discovered that many of the hotels were full, but we finally found the Saski in a perfect location near the plaza. The Rynek Glowny is the largest medieval town square in all of Europe. It has some very old buildings—the 16th century Cloth Hall has a ground floor craft market and an upstairs painting gallery.
St. Mary’s Church has a bugle call that plays every hour, echoing the warning call of medieval times. In the middle of the bugle call, it is cut off abruptly to recall the 13th century when supposedly an arrow from an invading army struck the bugler in the throat.
We visited Jagiellonian University, which is the second oldest in the world after one in Padua, Italy. Copernicus was a student here in 1491-95, and Pope John Paul attended this university, also. They honor Copernicus with a wooden model of his idea of the solar system, which was a revolutionary idea at the time. I bought a sweatshirt that had ‘Jagiellonian University’ emblazoned on it.
In the evening, after a big dinner at the Staropolska, we, three, caught the last two numbers of an American group called ‘The Meistersingers’ who were performing in St. Mary’s Church. We also looked at the outstanding altarpiece by Wit Stwosz of Nuremberg.
On our last day in Krakow, we went out on the Market Square early to watch the many flower sellers start their day. After breakfast we went to Wawel Castle where we saw the Cathedral, and the Castle Museum with its 136 Belgian tapestries from 1571. Many of them were of Bible stories such as Adam and Eve and Noah and the Ark. That evening we again went to St. Mary’s Church to hear an organ concert, along with a 13-piece orchestra and a chorus performing Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria.’
The next day we left Krakow, getting very lost as we drove out of town, but finally we found our highway to Prague. We spent an hour revisiting landmarks in Prague, which is a beautiful city, although also suffering from being behind the Iron Curtain. Judy and Jim stayed in Prague but unfortunately I had to leave that afternoon for home.
Poland certainly proved to be an ‘Iron Curtain’ country, with signs that it hasn’t fully recovered yet from World War II. We did manage the ‘unleaded gas situation’ just fine. The distances between the nine gas stations were not so great that we couldn’t make it on one tank of gas. The people were very nice to us, but they were pretty poor. Still it was a worthwhile country to visit.