Robin's Adventures

Central and Eastern Europe
An Adventure Steeped in History

Robin's Ornament

After meeting the owner of the ornament factory, as well as one of the artists, we learned about the process of how ornaments are made. Then Robin had an opportunity to paint her own ornament. It was a fun and relaxing way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Polish Vodka

Steve chose not to paint an ornament, so the owner of the factory found something else he might enjoy. He tasted the Polish vodka, but I noticed that he did not accept a second glass. I think the Polish chocolate was more to his liking.

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle, which is an art museum and home to the royal jewels of Poland, was built in the mid 14th century. The castle, which has multiple buildings around a central courtyard, had been the residence of many Polish kings.

More Wawel Castle

The royal apartments are located in a three story Renaissance style building with wonderful frescoes on the walls. The drain pipes hanging off the roof were shaped like dragons.

There were also foundations from earlier buildings that were on display in the gardens. In addition, there was a statue of a fire breathing dragon as a tribute to the Wawel dragon.

According to legend, there was a dragon that plagued local villagers and the king promised to wed his daughter to the man who defeated the dragon. One man stuffed a lamb with sulfur for the dragon to eat. This made the dragon so thirsty that he consumed massive amounts of water until he finally exploded.

Inside the Castle Walls

Wawel Cathedral, built in the 14th century, has been both a coronation site and a burial site for Polish monarchs. Pope John Paul II said his first mass at Wawel Cathedral.

The Jewish Quarter

There is a small Jewish community in the Kazimierz district of Krakow. There are several synagogues, some kosher restaurants, and an old Jewish cemetery.

We also saw a section of the ghetto wall that was still standing from WWII.

In addition, we came across the Empty Chairs Memorial which consists of 33 bronze chairs spread out across a plaza and another 37 spread out across town, mostly at bus and tram stops. The chairs represent the possessions of the Jews that were strewn about in the street as they were forced to leave their homes and move into the ghetto.

Jewish History Museum

The Jewish History Museum is housed in "The Old Synagogue" which was built in the 15th century and served as an orthodox temple until World War II.

Among the artifacts in the museum were a knife used in the ritual killing of kosher meat and a knife that was used for circumcision. Presumably, the two are not interchangeable.

Remuh Synagogue

Remuh Synagogue, built in 1553, is one of two synagogues in Krakow that is still active. Next door to the synagogue is an old Jewish cemetery that is currently inactive.

During WWII, many of the gravestones were taken from the cemetery to be used as paving stones in the camps. Following the war, many of the stones were restored to their rightful place in the graveyard.

Schindler's Factory

Schindler's enamel factory, which also made ammunition during World War II, is currently set up as an interactive museum which depicts life in Krakow between 1939 and 1945.

Part of the exhibit displays Schindler's office. The windows on the front of the office display photos of some of Schindler's 1,200 Jewish workers whose lives were saved during the holocaust.

Museum at Schindler's Factory

The museum at Schindler's factory shows, through a series of moving interactive exhibits, how life changed in Krakow during the war years.

The focus of the museum, which was on everyday life under German occupation as well as the fate of the Jews, was vividly displayed through the use of photos, film clips, music, period artifacts, and multimedia displays. It truly felt like we were walking down the streets and looking over our shoulder for Nazis.

Some of the photos shown here contain ration coupons, notices hung throughout the city by the Nazis with their occupation rules, and some street signs that show the changes as Polish streets were renamed in German.