Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 – Day 13 – Trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 – Day 13 – Trip to Wieliczka Salt Mine

This morning after breakfast my driver picked me up to take me to the Wieliczka Salt Mine which is about 10 Kms from Krakow.  Was a pretty drive through the suburbs.  Is hard to think such a place is right next door to suburbia.

 

 

 

 

 

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History. –  About 20 million years ago, Krakow and the surroundings apparently lay at the bottom of a shallow salty sea. The beaches are now gone, but left behind were some enormous salt deposits, shifted hundreds of metres underground by tectonic movements. Though cheap and easily accessible today, salt was an extremely valuable commodity centuries ago due to its ability to preserve food, especially meat. An ancient sign of wealth, salt was used as currency before there was money; Roman soldiers who ably performed their duties were said to be “worth their salt”.

Salt extraction by boiling water from briny surface pools in the regions surrounding Krakow can be traced back to the Middle Neolithic era (3500 BC) but it was the discovery of underground rock salt in the 13th century that led to the rapid development of the area. Underground extraction began in nearby Bochnia in 1252 and in Wieliczka by the 1280s. By the end of the 13th century the Krakow Saltworks was established to manage both mines, with its headquarters in the Wieliczka Castle complex. One of the first companies in Europe the Saltworks brought vast wealth to the Polish crown for the next 500 years.  It’s heyday was the 16th and 17 th centuries when it employed 2000 people, produced more than 30,000 tonnes. And accounted for one third of  the revenue of the state treasury.

Under Austrian occupation (1772-1918) production was further increased by mechanising the mining works with steam and later electric machinery, and the first tourist route was opened. By the 20 th century. However, over- exploitation and neglect of necessary production works had begun to destabilise the mine’s condition and the market value of salt no longer made it a viable enterprise. In 1964 the extraction of rock salt was halted in Wieliczka and in 1996 exploitation of the salt deposit was stopped altogether.

Despite the significant hazards of the day ( flooding, cave- ins, explosive gas). , over the course of 7 centuries 26 access shafts and 180 fore-shafts connecting individual levels had been drilled in Wieliczka. The mysterious underground city located on 9 levels at 64 to 327 metres below ground surface.  A labyrinth containing 2350 chambers connected by corridors measuring a total length of 245 kilometres (155 miles!).  Due to its unique saline microclimate and innovative engineering the mine has been well preserved and is today used for historical, medicinal and tourist purposes.

Now  we start our tour by descending 380 wooden stairs to the first level 64 metres underground.  Of the 9 levels, our tour takes us to the first three which is a maximum of 135 metres with the 3.5 Kms covered during the 3 hours comprising a mere 1% of this underground realm. We begin at the Danilowicza Shaft. While wandering the timber re- in forced tunnels we hear of the history of the site, the techniques used to extract the salt and the lives of the men who worked there.

We continue our way until we reach a medieval winch used for moving massive blocks of salt and can lick the walls.  We visit many ancient chambers and chapels and almost everything around us is made from rock salt, including the tiled floors, chandeliers, sculptures and stringy stalactites that hang down

The highlight of the tour is the magnificent 22000 m3 St Kinga’s Chapel dating from the 17 th century. Known for its amazing acoustic, the chapel features bas-relief wall carvings from the New Testament done by miners that display an astonishing amount of depth and realism.  This was just an amazing room.

 

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After leaving the amazing St Kinga’s Chapel we saw a lake that holds more than 300g of salt per litre and you could see the reflections of the sculptures in the water.  We came to a hall high enough to fly a hot air balloon in and do a Bungy jump. . There was a restaurant down here and some shops where you could view some of the amazing objects that had been made from the salt. It is just so hard to comprehend that this place exists and the further you go down the more out of this world it seems. The mind just boggles.

We continued on into the museum exhibition which comprises an additional 16 chambers over 1.5 Kms packed full of artwork, artefacts and mining equipment and an entire room of sparkling salt crystals.

After seeing the restaurant and conferences rooms, it was time to take the easy way up in a very ancient lift but it was a joy to ride in it after we had descended to the 135 metre level in this wonderful museum.  It is possible to arrange to have balls, conferences banquets and business meetings at the mine.  There is also a health resort underground and because of the specific microclimate of the mine it facilitates treatment of such illnesses as amongst others, the upper respiratory system ailments, asthma and allergies.  This is because the temperature is a steady 14 celsius degrees.

It it is no wonder that the Wieliczka Salt Mine has the distinction of having been included ( along with Krakow’s Old Town) on UNESCO’s first ever World Heritage List back in 1978.

It was now time to return to Krakow and I headed down to the square, wandered around for a short while and then went had a great meal in a restaurant that my guide recommended to me. He was right – was very enjoyable and then headed back to the hotel after a wonderful, wonderful interesting and educational tour to the Mine. Just has to be seen to be believed.

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Monday 16 June 2014 – Day 12 – Trip to Zakopane

Monday, 16 June 2014 – Day 12 – Trip to Zakopane

After breakfast, I was collected by Michael, my guide and Dominic, my driver at 9.00 and we started our way to ZAKOPANE, some 70 Kms from Krakow.  The day was perfect.

The drive was very picturesque and mountainous.  Our first stop was in a little village where we looked at an old house built entirely of wood from one huge tree.  The houses up in this area are built in a lovely style and made of wood and cement. In between there is a substance used and it looks like rope.  This evidently keeps termites away. The houses are warm in winter and cool in summer.  We then wandered a short distance and went into a house where a carver was working.  He is very talented.  On the other side of here was a typical home in older times.

We then continued to where my horse drawn vehicle and driver were waiting and Michael and I had an hour’s ride through the National Park.  It was just beautiful. Followed a steam along and there was quite a lot of logging been done due to high winds felling the pine trees. We passed a monument erected on the spot where Pope John Paul II’s helicopter landed on one of his visit to this area.

On the way back, we stopped at a little store where the lady was making cheese.  Michael purchased some and we had a drink and it tasted like natural yoghurt. He also bought me a little pastry. I had a similar one the night before but it was ver very salty and they served it with cranberry sauce.  We then said goodbye to the driver and headed on to ZAKOPANE. Capital of Polish Mountains. Zakopane has been Poland’s famous resort since the 19th Century.  The characteristic silhouette of Giewont mountain towers above it. It is a town of sport. Justyna Kowalczk (cross country skier) and Kaml Stochastic (ski jumper) as well as other Olympic and world champions have even educated here.  The town is  integral with the Tatra Mountains. (Tatras) and they are a Mecca for Polish skiers. The Tatras are the loftiest and most diverse massif in the Western Carpathians.  Zakopane is the most southerly village with borders with Czechoslavaliant and Slovenia.

Michael and I then took the cable car up the Gubalowka mountain which is 1123 metres high. The panoramic views of the Tatra mountains with some snow on them were just absolutely breathtaking.  Once again the photos don’t do them justice.

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We stopped and had a pizza for lunch taking in the magnificent views.  It was then time to descend in the cable car.

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imageWe wandered through the bustling village of Zakopane where there were many stalls selling lots of wood and sheep products and also ice cream in which Dominic and I had.  Into the car and drove up past two ski slopes and then home via a spectacular way seeing lots of little villages nestled in the valleys below.

Arrived back in Krakow two hours later. Was time to say goodbye to Dominic who was a super driiver and to Michael who was an excellent guide and companion for the day.

I went into my hotel before wandering once more up to the Market for a yummy ravioli meal. The atmosphere is great with several musicians playing – heard the bugler of St Mary’s  Bascilica and just a pleasure to watch the beautiful horses with their feathers on and taking people for rides in the pure white carriages.  A short walk back once more to the hotel.  Very convenient location to the hundreds of eating and drinking venues.

Today was so very relaxing and the views just spectacular. It was a church free day!  but saw plenty along the way.  Now I am trying to catch up on my blog .  Got carried away and next thing it was 4.00 am. Hopefully I will hear my wake up call in the morning.

Sunday, 15 June 2014 – Day 11 – Trip to Ocwiecim (Auschwitz) and Brzezinka ( Birkenau

 

Sunday, 15th June 2014 – Day 11 – Trip to Ocwiecim (Auschwitz) and Brzezinka (Birkenau)

I am wondering how this day will be for me but sadly it is part of history.  After breakfast, I visited the church just near my hotel before my driver came to take me the 70kms.

At 9.00 Robert arrived and we then picked up 6 more passengers and set off for Ocwiecim.  Was quite a pleasant drive through green farmland and pine forests.  When we arrived at Ocwiecim we then joined a bigger tour and our guide.

Throughout the word Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. The forces occupying Poland during the Second World War established the largest Nazi German concentration camp and death camp on the outskirts of the town of Oswiecim. In 1940 The Germans called the town Auschwitz and that is the name by which the camp was known.  Over the next years it was expanded into 3 main camps:  Auschwitz 1 and 2, Birkenau and Auschwitz 3 Monowitz and more than 40 sub camps.  The first people to be brought to Auschwitz as prisoners and murdered here were Poles.  They were followed by Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies and deportees of many other nationalities.

Beginning in 1942, however, Auschwitz became the setting for the most massive murder campaign in history when the Nazis put into operation their plan to destroy the entire Jewish  population of Europe.  The great majority of Jews were deported to Auschwitz – men women and children – and were sent immediately upon arrival to death in the gas chambers of Birkenau.

On 23 October, 1943 there was a revolt by Jewesses brought from the Bergen-Belsen, ( an “exchange camp”  where Jewish hostages were held with the intention of exchanging them for German prisoners of war held overseas)  resisted being herded into the gas chambers. They were thinking these were poor conditions for showering – not knowing this was their point of no return.

We start this very chilling tour by passing under the cynical inscription “Arbit macht frei” (work brings freedom).  Once inside the gate you see building after building – some with the windows boarded up so that the prisoners could not see the executions that may have been taking place.

We were shown the interior of four of the blocks:  block 6 –  The Prisoners’ Life -Starvation, block 5 – Material Proof of Crime, block 4 – Extermination and block 11 – The Death Block. In block 11, St Maksymillian Kolbe who volunteered for death in order to save another prisoner’s life died.

Each block showed horrific stories and artefacts that I am not going to put up here as just too upsetting and depressing.  There were some points of the tour that I started to cry especially where the children were with their mothers being marched off to their deaths. The Nazis were so very cruel as they did not separate the children from the mothers – this did not give them any idea of their true fate – I just wanted to leave.

We came to the “Death Wall” where several thousands of prisoners were shot by the SS during 1941-1943.  The colour of the permanent floral tributes cheered one up for a short time and was a short respite from seeing and hearing more horror stories.

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As we walked along, there were rows of barbed wire fencing. The total length of the fence was  over 2 kil0metres  of barbed wire.  It once was a double row of electrified fencing to prevent prison escapades. There were cases where desperate prisoners unable to bear the camp terror committed suicide “on the wire”.

As we came out of the area of the different blocks, we were shown the residence of the Commandant who lived there with his wife and three or four children.  What I cannot comprehend is the thinking of the wife as when it was time for her to leave her reply was Why as this is paradise.  To think right outside her door theses shocking atrocities were occurring and she and her husband were producing children. How insane was that?

We then drove 3 Kms over to Brzezinka (Birkenau).   This is a massive complex covering approximately 175 hectares (425 acres).  We had quite a walk to the railroad spur where the SS carried out the selection of deported Jews.  It contained over 300 buildings – 45 made of brick and 22 of wood have survived in tact. It was on the territory of Birkenau that the Nazi constructed most of their instruments of mass destruction, namely crematoria with gas chambers, two makeshift gas chambers in specially converted farmhouses, crematorium pyres and pits.  We view the Prisoners’ living quarters as they really were.  You do not want to see these conditions or hear of what they were like. As we walked around, for as far as the eye could see there were miles of barbed wire.

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Between the ruins of Crematoria II and III there stands the International Monument to the Victims of Auschwitz, which was ceremoniously unveiled in April, 1967.  It is dedicated to according to historical investigations between the years of 1940-1945 the Nazis deported at least 1.300,000 people to Auschwitz.  1.100,000 Jews,  140,000-150,000 Poles,  23,000 Roma (gypsies),  15,000 Soviet prisoners of war,  and 25,000 prisoners from other Ethnic Groups.  1.100,000 of these people died in Auschwitz. Approximately 90% of the victims were Jews.  The SS murdered the majority in the gas chambers or systematically starved, or brutally tortured them to death or the inhumane conditions that produced illness by the sanitary conditions and disease.

 

The plaque reads. FOREVER LET THIS PLACE BE A CRY OF DESPAIR AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY, WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED ABOUT ONE AND A HALF MILLION MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN – MAINLY JEWS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF EUROPE

AUSCHWITZ. -BIRKENAU

1940.     –       1945

 

After looking at the memorial, we came to the remains of the gas chamber and crematorium. image

When the Germans realised that the end of the war was near, they attempted to remove the evidence of the atrocities committed here.  They dismantled the gas chambers, crematoria and other buildings, burned documents and evacuated all those prisoners who could walk to the interior of Germany. Those who were not evacuated were liberated by the Red Army on 27 January, 1945.  On 2nd July, 1947, the Polish Parliament established the State Museum of Oswiecim Brzezinka on the sites of the former camps of Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitch Birkenau.  In 1979 these camps were formally recognised by UNESCO by their inclusion on its World Heritage list..  This is done out of respect to the memory of those who suffered so terribly and died here.  It is the symbol of humans’ cruelty to its fellow man in the 20th century. The tour ends by walking back through the gate leaving behind fortified walls, miles of barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers, horrific photographs and cremation ovens.

I have seen one of the most terrifying yet also touching places in the world.  Auschwitz – Birkenau is the site of the most notorious atrocities in the history of humanity. It’s remains have been memorialised in the most amazing way and continues “to serve as a mirror of the human soul and a tool for self- reflection.  I came away thanking God that I am alive and have not been touched by war.  The memories will be forever etched in my mind.

I have just learnt that one of my ex work colleague’s parents were affected by the Polish Uprising and repatriated to Germany.  You are blessed Anne that they survived that terrible time in their lives.

After a dessert I came back for a short rest before going to the Bonerowski Palace around the corner from my hotel to hear Dobrochna Krowka give a recital of Chopin.  She began her musical education when she was 5.  She has many accreditations to her name.  She has taken part in many piano courses and reviews and gives recitals at many festivals.   I enjoyed listening to her.  After that, I then went up to the Square for more food!  Home then and to bed in the wee hours.

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Saturday, 14 June 2014 – Day 10 – Train from Warsaw to Krakow

Saturday 14 June 2014 – Day 10 – Train from Warsaw to Krakow 

Received my wake up call at 7.00 and packed to leave by 7.45 for the Warsaw Train station.       Followed the various signs and hoped I was on the correct platform.  The train arrived and I got on only to discover I was at the opposite end to where my carriage was but at least I was on the train.  Eventually found my seat 22 in the first class carriage 3 (not 9)!   We set off right on time of 8.24.  After a short time, went into the dining carriage and ordered eggs and bacon.  I met Katarinya and her two children.

The countryside was quite green and mainly farmland.  This was the occupation of my ancestors.  The journey of 3 hours passed quite quickly and we arrived in Krackow 10 minutes earlier than prescribed time of 11.27.  I could not see my driver and after up and down, round and round we eventually found each other. Robert then drove me to my accommodation at the Hotel Polski in Pod Bialym Orlem – very convenient to the town square.

I freshened up before, Ewa my guide was to pick me up at 2.00.  It had just started to sprinkle but we headed off.  We had a short stop near the Barbican at the Florian Gate imageand then walked down to Bazykika Mariacka ( St Mary’s Church).  13-15C.  Gothic style. The facade of the Basilica is ornamented by two splendid towers. The  taller of these is 81 metres and the shorter, 69 metres.   When I entered the basilica, my breath was just taken away by the absolute splendour of the interior.  I have not been to Rome so cannot compare.  There are several altars but it is the Viet Stoss ( artist) that dominates the interior.  It is the largest altar of its kind in Europe, having been created in the years 1477-1489. It’s size is 11×13 m.  The altar was carved in oak and linden woods.  The wings can be closed like a cabinet.  Words are hard to describe.  Just magnificent craftsmanship.  There is also a beautiful stone figure of Jesus on the Cross hanging from above (Veit Stoss).  After taking in the many different scenes we left the Basilica. Truly magnificent and the photos don’t do it justice.

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Before we started our walk, we heard the bugler play briefly.  He can be heard every hour on the hour. We then started walking towards WAWEL HILL which is a limestone height and is a complex of historic buildings – includes the Gothic Renaissance Castle, the Gothic Cathedral (no photos allowed) and defensive ramparts.  We stopped at a spot to take photos of the river and south side of Krakow and then had a nice cake and coffee.

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Our next stop was to go inside the Cathedral – a basilica with numerous works of art, eg tombstone, royal epitaphs and sacrophaguses of Polish kings and queens.  Then we wandered along a picturesque tree lined avenue that had the history of Pope John Paul II.  He was born Karol Wojtyla in 1920 in Wadwice And studied at universities in Krakow and Rome.  He became Archbishop of Krakow in 1964, elevated to Cardinal in 1967  and was elected Pope in 1978 as the first non- Italian for 400 years.  in the time that he was Pope, he made no fewer than 104 foreign pilgrimages.  He was the spiritual mainstay for his fellow countrymen and women in their years of struggle with the communist system, as well as in the subsequent years of transformation in post 1990 Poland.  On 1st May 2011 the Pontiff was beatified and on 29 April 2014 was canonised as a Saint.  He was a man who was loved and admired by millions and this is very evident by the memorabilia that is seen throughout Poland.  We then went into the grounds of the University.  It is the oldest university in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe. Was founded by King Casimire in 1364 and this year it was the 650th anniversary.  It is not used as a university now.

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My tour with Ewa ended back at The Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny).  She was an excellent guide and very knowledgeable.  I had a look in the Cloth Hall which is a double row of old wooden stalls in which folk art objects and souvenirs are sold.  It was built in the middle of the 19th century.  It was then time for me to have a nice meal at a nearby outdoor restaurant – the Vintage and then my short walk back to my hotel and off to bed.  Another terrific enjoyable and cultural information.

 

 

Thursday, 12 June 2014 – Day 8 – Flight from Nice-Zurich-Warsaw

Thursday 12 June 2014 – Day 8 Flight from Nice to Zurich to Warsaw Quite warm at 8.00.   36 degrees. Had breakfast and then waited for taxi at 1115 to take me to the airport. (Yesterday there was a taxi strike) The taxi man was complaining that it was too hot.  Wandered around the airport until it was time to board Swiss Air Flight 569.  Left at 4.00.  The view was very picturesque flying over the snow capped Alps.  The countryside then changed and was very flat.  On our flight we were served a nice cream and a chocolate.  Arrived in Zurich.  So I have been to Switzerland! It was then time to board my next flight.  Boarded Helvetic Flight 1352 at 5.00 for 5.15 departure but was delayed for about half an hour.  Finally took off. Served a meat roll.

We arrived at 7.30 – collected my case and was met by my driver. We had a short walk to the car as the usual parking spot had been cordoned off due to a bomb shutdown. Had a 20 minute drive along a lovely tree lined avenue and through some of the centre of Warsaw. Arrived at the Boutique Bed and Breakfast accommodation at about 815 to the tune of a pianist playing Chopin. I am in the Blue Room.  Quite tired so showered and went to bed reasonably early.

Friday, 13 June 2014 – Day 9 – Day in Warsaw

Friday, 13 June 2014 – Day 9 – Sightseeing in Warsaw -Capital of Poland (Polska)

Wake up call at 7.00 and down to breakfast – what a variety to choose from – breads, meats, cheeses, boiled eggs, cereals, apples, watermelon and delicious strawberries. I then got picked up by my driver and taken to meet up with some other tourists and our guide for a city tour of Warsaw – one of the youngest European capitals.  On 1 September 1939, the first Nazi bombs fell on the city.  The Germans decided to arrange a Jewish district in October 1940. 450,000 people were crowded behind a 3 metre wall. Transports of Jews bound for death camps left from here regularly. In the spring of 1943, an armed uprising broke out in the ghetto, but it was put down with bloodshed, the whole population was murdered and the houses were levelled to the ground. The Warsaw Uprising broke out on 1 August 1944.  The heroic struggle of Warsaw insurgents and civilians ended in failure. The inhabitants were displaced from the city and Warsaw was to be annihilated . The Germans blew up and razed to the ground one district after another. They smashed historic relics and monuments of Polish culture leaving but a sea of rubble.

After the War, Warsaw started to revive quickly. A totally destroyed city was rebuilt in a few years.  Historic buildings in the Old Town, Krakowski Przedmiescie and Nowy Swiat streets were carefully reconstructed. The Royal Castle was rebuilt. The city is constantly expanding as is evident by the skyscrapers and other magnificent  buildings in the City.

Now on with our tour. We drove down several streets and passed many buildings and monuments which were pointed out to us.

Our first stop was at the beautiful LAZIENKI Royal Park. Here is the Monument to Frederic Chopin. The 1st bronze sculpture was put up in 1926. During the last war, it was cut up into pieces by the Germans and sent to metal works. It was reconstructed and returned to its original site amid flower beds in 1958. Chopin died at the age of 38 from tuberculosis. As you walk around the park, there are benches that can be touched and you hear the music of Chopin.  We then drove around the other side of the 62 hectare park to view the Royal LAZIENKI Palace On the opposite side of the road is The Monument of King John IiiII Sobieski. It was unveiled September 1788, on the 105th anniversary of his victory over the Turks at Vienna.

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Our next stop was at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews which was opened on 19 April, 2013, marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Ghetto Heroes Monument was erected at the site of the fiercest fighting.We then drove to the Old Town Market Square.  Many people enjoying the sunny day – many cafés with their tables and chairs set up under umbrellas.  This was where our guide said goodbye if we chose to stay here for however long people wanted to.

I set off – lots of little lanes, lots and lots of churches and little cafés.  Initially, the whole Old Town was surrounded by an earthen rampart. At the end of the 14th century defence walls with gates and bastions were built. Although they were partly dismantled in the 18th and 19th centuries, large portions can still be seen, including the fine Barbican, built in 1548 to close the town from the north.  Outside the Barbican, the New Town begins. I passed by the baroque Church of the Holy Sacrament built in 1688-92. It’s construction is said to be connected with the vows Queen Marie-Casimire took before her husband John IiiII Sobieski’s departure for his campaign against the Turks.  Also saw the Church of the Visitation of the Holy Virgin Mary, the oldest church in the New Town. I called I nto St Jacek’ Church of the Dominican Order which was built in the years 160-1638.  I decided to have lunch in a lovely little restaurant called Feta na Freta Street.  After lunch, I decided to retrace my steps back towards the Old Town Market Square.

My next stop was to visit Maria Sklodowskiej-Curie Museum.  This was very interesting and showed the life story of Marie Curie Who was born on 7 November 1867 in Warsaw. In 1891 when she was 24 she left for Paris to take up studies at the Science Faculty of the Sorbonne.  In 1895 she married Pierre Curie a famous French physicist and settled down in France. Their research of uranium ore radiation led to the discovery in 1898 of two radioactive elements: polonium (named after Maria’s homeland) and radium.  Maria was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.  On 19 April 1906, Pierre was killed in a traffic accident. Maria continued her research and in 1911 was again awarded a Nobel Prize – this time in the field of chemistry. She is the only scientist who has been awarded the Nobel Prize twice and in two different areas. One of the ways in which Poland honoured this great scientist was the creation of Sklodowska-Curie’s biographic museum on the 100th anniversary of her birthday in 1967. The museum is located in the place in which Maria was born in an 18 th century house of 16 Freta Street where I am now. In 1995, in recognition of the Curies’ achievements, their remains were placed in the Paris Pantheon. Maria is the only woman so honoured for her merits and the only person buried there who had not been born in France. A truly remarkable person.

My next stop was at the Royal Castle. During WWII it was destroyed by the Germans. Carefully reconstructed, it is now the pride of Varsovians.  Sat and watched some interesting movies of the destruction of Warsaw.  I met a lovely couple, Vivienne and Serg who invited me to join them for a coffee and we sat for quite some time chatting.  We then set off on our separate ways.

 

Warsaw has so many churches – too many to list – but on my way did call into some and one had Mass in progress so stayed for some time –  but was hard for me to know which ones I was in as the names were in Polish.  My main one was to visit the Holy Cross Church. There is a sculpture of Christ carrying the cross at the top of the stairs. Inside the church rests the urn with the hearts  of Frederic Chopin, brought back from France as the composer had wished and the writer and Nobel Prize winner Wladyslaw Reymont.

This walk  – The Royal Way – now brought me back to almost where my hotel was.  Found a 24 hour restaurant and had a nice steak meal before going back to the hotel.  Had a well earned shower and into bed after a wonderful cultural experience. And yes, Warsaw has many many churches which are all just so lovely inside.

Saturday, 1st June 2013 – Day 11 – Gdynia, Poland

Saturday, 1 June 2013 – Day 11

day 11map gdyniap2 polandp3 polandToday was quite exciting for me to be stepping on Polish soil. Even if it is for a short visit. I chose to go on the Tri-City Tour – 425A1 – 4 3/4 hours. The land between the western shore of the Bay of Gdansk and a belt of forest-covered hills is traditionally known as the “Tri-City” area. It is dominated by the cities of Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk.

Had breakfast and then it was time to board the coach. We drove  through the streets of Gdynia and then we disembarked at Stagiewna Street and walked across the bridge over the Motlawa River – we were now in the Old Port of Gdansk. We then walked to the Green Gate which is an entry for pedestrians into the Old Town.  Here we had some free time to just browse about, talk to some locals and bought some little souvenirs and postcards.

1060We then got on our coach again and drove past the Old Town Hall, St Catherine’s Church and the Solidarity Monument commemorating the deaths of shipyard workers shot in 1970 during the communist regime before passing those same Gdansk shipyards – known at the time as Lenin shipyards.

We then drove onto the resort town of Soport. Here is the longest wooden pier in Europe.

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I had a paddle in the sea here!!!!

It was then time to be driven back to the ship.

This was only a very brief stop in Poland due arriving late into port, but at least I have been and hope one day to return and do a more extensive trip as the people we met were very friendly and helpful.

We were due to sail at 1300.  Back on board the ship, then went and had some lunch. then went and watched one of the chefs carve out a beautiful swan and it was then taken down to the restaurant.