Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 21 May 2018

Krakow

Krakow's buildings managed to avoid the bombing and destruction of WWII. However it was thoroughly looted, it's intelligentsia were imprisoned or killed and 65,000 of it's 68,000 Jewish citizens were liquidated.


Got to love Polish food. Curious to see what the scales say back in Florida.


A happy tourist?


The old town is a 10 minutes walk from our apartment. The main train station is five minutes.


We take tours of Auschwitz, the salt mines and a walking tour of the Jewish areas. This footbridge takes us to the ghetto where the Jews were concentrated before "transport".


The square in the Ghetto area has 65 chairs, one for each 1,000 people who were liquidated.


The castle area of Krakow in old town is worth a look.



Sunday, 20 May 2018

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka salt mine is located near Krakow. It was in continuous operation for 700 years until 2007 when the price of salt and mine flooding caused a cessation in operation. The tour requires several miles of walking and descends about 500 feet on various stairs (some are carved in rock salt. Fortunately, there is an elevator to the surface at the end of the visit.


The miners constructed numerous chapels as the mining operations moved along nearly 300 kilometres of tunnels and caverns. The picture below is a carving in rock salt of the Last Supper


The Polish pope, John Paul also has a statue carved from rock salt.


This statue of the Madonna is nearly pure salt and is therefore translucent.


Over the centuries, elaborate structures have been installed to support the mine walls and ceilings.


The mnine has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.


The Germans set up an ammunition factory in the mine using Jewish slave labor, but the Russian advance caused it to be abandoned before production began.


Some of the chambers shown to the public are large and elaborate.


The chandeliers in the mine use thousands of rock salt crystals.


There is an underground hotel, cinema and restaurant.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Auschwitz-Birkenau

On August 15, 1912 the Titanic sank more than 12,000 feet. It took 70 years to find the wreck. The ocean floor near the wreck had many pairs of shoes. The owners of the shoes were gone, but it was clear that the shoes had been on someones feet when the ship sank. Marine organisms quickly consumed flesh and acidic levels on the ocean floor dissolved bone quickly. The shoes remained.


At the time the loss of 1,000 lives was a sensation, It was caused by poor design, poor planning, hubris and arrogance. Nearly 7,000 times that  number were killed deliberately 30 years later by incredible human evil. Birkenau was built 3 kilometres from Auschwitz because the older camp could not gas and cremate sufficient victims.


The Germans collected shoes, hairbrushes, gold teeth, suitcases, glasses and even the hair of their victims. The picture above shows a few of the shoes that remained when the SS guards fled a week ahead of the advancing Russian Army.


The "Work Make Free" gate at the entrance to Auschwitz.


It took about 20 minutes for 2,000 victims to choke to death, but the time required to clean the gas chambers and cremate the bodies meant they could only process 2,000 each 24 hours.


Existential philosophers say that the nature of man is plastic. You can be an SS Camp guard or you can be Mother Theresa....It's up to you...This place reminds most visitors that it might be better to listen to ones better angels.


German doctors chose those healthy enough to be worked to death (about 25%) right here. The rest went directly to the gas chambers. Children were not selected as workers. The doctors performed sterilisation experiments on many women. They hoped to enable a doctor to sterilise 100 or more women a day. This would ensure that the population of conquered countries did not breed so that there would be more room for the Master Race.


This is one of the most of the most popular tour in Krakow. They now get over 2,000,000 visitors a year...almost as many as they got from 1942 to 1945...

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Torun, Poland


We're getting good at figuring out how to get from point A to point B on the Polish rail system (with usually a change at point C). Tomorrow we head for Krakow and hope to book a tour to Auschwitz. We see three trains that will do the job at 8:13, 8:43 and 11:14....about 5 to 6 hours travel time...

I have some recommendations about paying for things on your foreign travels:

1. Money from ATMs is relatively expensive. I get 3.15 Polish zlotnys to the US dollar from my credit union after a bad exchange rate and ATM fees.

2. Using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees (such as Capital One) gives a better result. I get 3.30 zlotnys when the purchase is specified to be in dollars and 3.54 zlotnys when I ask the waiter to make the charge in the local currency. There is sort of a hidden exchange rate charge when you pay in dollars.

3. The difference between 3.15 and 3.54 is 12.3%



Torun is a lovely old walled city that was somehow spared the ravages of WWII. It is considered one of the most beautiful European cities....population about 200,000...1.5 million visitors a year...


Lunch.,,,Polish food...Yum...


We're returning May 26th instead of June 5th. Nothing against Poland but we are walking 6-10 miles a day and Mrs. Phred's plantars wart is not happy.  I hate to see her limp.


This is the Torun city jail. We see a strange character yelling someone's name for a long time and finally figure out that he must know someone inside.

We stop at the "Whiskey and Coffee" for a panini and coffee....It's listed as one of the top 10 on Trip Adviser....


The arches below are an interesting way to keep the walls of the adjoining buildings from collapsing.


Mrs. Phred takes a panoramic shot of the old city walls.


Copernicus was born here and thought that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around. If you were in the room with Copernicus, you wouldn't be the smartest guy in the room.


Teutonic Knights moved in here in 1231 and started making the fortifications.


The Vistula river is just outside the city walls.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Szczecin, Poland

Szczecin is not really a tourist destination. We take a bus here from Swinoujscie for $4.50 each in real money. It's an hour and a half ride. Food, lodging and transportation seem very cheap in Poland compared to the U.S....More about the BIG MAC index later...it explains foreign currency imbalances in an easily digested manner...


We can see the church above from our window. It came though the war intact. The population of Szczecin shrank from 150,000 mostly Germans to 5,000 when the Russians rolled in. Later it was repopulated by Poles from western regions.


A streetcar named Pragnienie (that's "desire" in Polish).


The picture above shows what our street looked like before it was bombed by Americans and shelled by Russians....Notice the same church in the top picture....


The new Philharmonic Hall opened in 2014.



We have dinner at the Browar Polski...


We have a White Russian, a Pepsi, Polish sour soup, borscht with sausage, vegetables, Pork stuffed with horseradish, a pork cutlet and tip for the equivalent of $35.



The restaurant is huge. This is one wing down in the cellar of a brick building. It's easy to imagine hundreds of German SS troops drinking beer around the tables...


Lunch at The Vincent. The waiter wonders why two Americans would come here. We ask ourselves the same thing. On to Torun in a five hour train ride tomorrow...tickets were $18 each.


If you were still wondering about the BIG MAC index, click this link....