After a day off, Jen and I hit the road via car this time (so we could shop) for more sightseeing, people watching…and also fantastic food and drink.
We left Germany in the afternoon and drove across the border to Poland. Our first stop: Boleslawiec, Poland. What’s in Boleslawiec you say? Truckloads of beautiful pottery. If you know me well, you know I will happily shop for a kitchen item over a piece of clothing any day. Typically, the older the better.
We rolled into town in the early evening and as we drove through the small downtown it felt as if I had stepped back into a long gone communist era with tall gray concrete buildings, a few shocking orange hues and buses spewing thick black smoke that smelled as if they hadn’t had a tune up since the early 70s. It had a particular brand of charm that I could appreciate. Once we emerged on the outskirts of town we drove a few more minutes and then turned down what felt like a dirt road to one of Jen’s favorite getaways – the Blue Beetroot hotel. After all these years, she knows me pretty well, and as soon as we pulled through the gate I started gushing over the charming old building surrounded by local family homes. We checked in and headed downstairs to dinner where I had one of my favorite potato dishes, a fabulous vegetable salad, bread and wine. At home I am not a huge bread eater, but if you have been to Europe you know it is not the same thing. Everything is freshly baked daily and each roll or baguette has a different flavor and aroma. I think I have happily eaten more bread in the last month than all last year, and no I haven’t gained any weight. While at our table, the owner came over with a map and roughly ten pages of pottery stores and factories (factories are cheaper). There are even buses that go between Germany and this town specifically to take excited shoppers store to store.
We woke up the next morning, had a huge breakfast and drove over to pottery row. By the fifth store, the trunk was fairly full, then we headed to the final shops that were further out, where I lost my mind and went on a pottery spree (sorry Pocky), that should be arriving at my house any day now.
One of the final places on the list was the Borowski glass studio. It’s a fantasy world of glass creations that have to be seen in order to understand how unique and spectacular they are, it isn’t just pricy vases. You can find some pieces in the U.S., but they aren’t cheap. Luckily for my budget I bought less glass than pottery. We found a traditional Polish restaurant for lunch and we thought I’d be able to find cabbage and potato piroshki’s, but unlike the traditional Russian piroshki’s, the polish add cheese. I ended up with a large plate of boiled potatoes with dill and four different types of pickled cabbage. Now, that many not sound like a great lunch, but I was totally happy and ready for our afternoon drive to Kraków.
We arrived in Kraków in the evening and found our hostel. Then we found a local Chinese restaurant, and walked back to the hostel for some sleep. In the morning we got up early and walked over to the massive Grand Square. Our intention was to see Kraków in the morning, drive the 70 kilometers to Auschwitz, then two more hours to Brno in the Czech Republic for the night. It sounded like a good idea at the time. When we arrived at the Grand Square, it became clear that we would not be able to see enough on foot in our limited timeframe. So, we hired a golf cart tour driver to show us the basilica of the Virgin Mary, the University, other amazing churches, architecture, the old Jewish section and whatever else he could fit in. It was going well until the police stopped us for rolling through a small square and our law student driver started quoting laws to them in Polish, while Jen and I sat quietly behind him…
I thought I was prepared to visit Auschwitz, but there were aspects of it that were hard to deal with. One of the first areas we visited was the crematorium and there are signs asking people to remain quiet in respect of all the people who were murdered, after that we viewed maybe four other areas where they murdered people including the wall where they shot people. The buildings where doctors experimented on people were clearly marked. There were also photos of women and children walking to their death. On one hand it is a part of history, but I can’t say I am glad those photos exist. It was a weird feeling and it made me angry to think that someone wanted to take photos of people walking to their death. We went into most of the buildings open to the public. Hallways were lined with photos of prisoners. But the building that bothered me the most had rooms separated in categories of peoples shoes, luggage, pots, eye glasses, along with combs and other accessories from floor to ceiling. The section that made me nauseous was full of small children’s shoes.
After, Jen and I were exhausted. I drove us to Brno and we arrived very late at our pension, too late to see any of the city. We still had two more hours of driving to Prague (Praha) in the morning and decided to go leave without seeing Brno. We spent a full day walking around Prague on what turned out to be a very hot day. The city, architecture, and bridges are beautiful. Prague was full of great food, drink, sights and of course shopping.
That night, we drove back to Germany and I spent the next day gearing up for my trip to Croatia.