It was not an easy morning.
I woke before 5:00. I’d slept in my clothes (throwback to my St. Teresa’s Days) and skipped the makeup. I figured I’d be crying it off, anyway. So, I was out of bed and on the road in under 5 minutes.
I quickly realized that I had underestimated the walk to the train station. A tram pulled up and I hopped on for a few stops til it started going the wrong direction. Still not even close, I ran as much as I could in flats and walked briskly when I couldn’t. I missed it by to minutes.
The next train wasn’t til 7:14 I fully realize the irony of being upset that I missed my train to Auschwitz. Looking on the bright side, I went to get some breakfast. It’s probably best not to spend a day in Auschwitz on an empty stomach… again, the irony is terrible.
I had a chocolate croissant for breakfast. I also tried to hydrate. I grabbed a huge bottle of water from the fridge. Now, I can’t read polish, but I was pretty sure “natura” meant natural, or flat. I should have read the fine print. As it fizzed when I opened it, I realized that the very small word at the bottom of the label said “gazowana,” and I had grabbed the carbonated water. No matter how much I drink of that stuff, I still feel thirsty.
I made my way back to the train station really early. I wasn’t going to risk missing my train again. On my way back into the station, I took a side door that was so heavy I almost couldn’t get it open. It slammed shut before I was all the way through it, smashing my foot.
I bought my ticket first, just in case the lines got long. Then, I went to the bathroom to clean the blood off my ankle. There was no one there to collect money, so I just went in. Then, suddenly, Madame Peepee shows up behind me yelling in Polish. I try to calmly explain that I don’t want to use her toilets or her towels, I just wanted to pour water over my foot. She kept screaming. I showed her the blood. She grabbed me by the arm (I haven’t even entered the bathroom) and shoves me towards the exit. I move toward the trash can (that is outside) and she keeps screaming and pushes me. At this point I’m screaming too. I’m tired, I’m cold, and I just want to rinse my wound. I left.
I poured water over my foot in the middle of the waiting area. I know it was rude to dump water all over the floor, but I was really upset and didn’t see any other options. No one stopped me. I spent the next 30 minutes contemplating revenge: paying her the 4 pkl and going into a stall, then stuffing all the toilet paper down at once and flooding the bathroom. Pooping on the floor. Of course I didn’t act on it. But as someone who works around so many nasty things, you’d think she’d scream a little less.
I got onto my train, settled in, and dozed off. Before I knew it, the guy across from me was very kindly waking me up and telling me we were there. I jumped off the train with almost everyone else. I couldn’t believe that the two hour ride had gone so quickly. I must have really been asleep. I glanced at my watch, and realized that it had only been 15 minutes. I read “Krakow Business Park” on the station sign, alarmedly asked the man who had woken me if we were at Auschwitz, and confirmed that indeed we were not as the train pulled away from the platform.
This is really my fault, not his. I should have been paying attention. He looked at the timetables with me and told me when the next train to Auschwitz was: in two hours. I assure him that it’s fine. After all, he was doing a kind deed to wake me. But I wonder what business he thought I had in a business park, with my dress and my generally disheveled appearance. Not wanting him to feel badly, I waited til he and everyone else were off the platform. Then, I burst into tears.
After I had indulged my emotional frustration for a few moments, my rational brain started working on solutions. Clearly, I couldn’t stand here on the platform for two hours. I was tired, cold, bleeding, now 4 hours late, and stuck with 1.5 liters of fizzy water minus what was in my shoe.
It was time to take a step back and relax. Fortunately, there was some weird coffee bar cafeteria thing in the first office building. They didn’t have wifi, but they had the second-best tool for problem solving: cappuccinos.
After the caffeine started to work its magic and my brain started working fully, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to go to Auschwitz today. It wasn’t even 8:00 in the morning yet. I could go back to Krakow, start over and pretend none of this ever happened. Tomorrow, I’d be sure to make the 5:40 train.
And that’s exactly what I did. I took a tram back to my hostel, changed out of my Auschwitz clothes (they specifically mention how you dress on their website, so I’m saving this outfit for my real visit), and put on makeup. This is when most people were waking up, anyway. I could still have my full day in Krakow.
So, my new day.
I joined the 11:00 walking tour of the Jewish district. It was fantastic. Right off the bat, I met a really nice Canadian lady named Irene. We chatted a bit throughout the tour. She was in Warsaw to visit her grandmother, and now is doing a bit of travel around Poland on her own. She told me that, in WWII, her great grandmother hid Jews in her home. What an amazing heritage.
The tourguide was named Jakob, and he was really great. I really enjoyed his accent. He was clearly very passionate about this history and his area. He told us that he had written his thesis on the Jewish district. We saw the old synagogues, streets, and several places that were used in the movie Schindler’s list. Later on, we saw the ghetto where these events actually occurred, and Schindler’s real factory. It was a really interesting, full three hours. He knew so much about the history, and about the interesting legends and anecdotes.
The tour ended a little late at 2:30 in the afternoon. I’m never one to complain about extra information or extra time. The only trouble is that I wanted I make it back to the main square in time for a bicycle tour at 3:00.
On the way to the tram, an Australian bloke named Matt struck up a conversation. He was headed back the same way, to catch the second walking tour at 3:30. Matt is the spitting image of one of my old friends in Kansas City. Right down to the mannerisms. It was a little strange.
I decided to do the second walking tour as well, instead of the bikes. The biking tour was put on by a different company, and it covered the Jewish district (which I’d just seen) in addition to the old town and city center. The walking tour was just of the old town and city, so I wouldn’t repeat anything, plus it gave me time for lunch.
Matt and I (a part of me always wants to call him Sean) looked for the Peirogie place I’d been to yesterday but didn’t find it. We ended up in a kebab shop instead. It was a quick stop, then back to the tour.
Irene had stayed at Schindler’s factory after the last tour to see the museum there, but suddenly appeared with the new tour group. apparently the museum was closed. We were joined by Matt’s friend Corey, who had missed the first tour, and the four of us hung around each other for the next three hours in the old town.
Krakow has a pretty interesting history. It’s a much more ancient city than I expected. Our new tour guide was almost as good as the last. It’s hard for me to judge because I’m much more interested in Jewish history than I am in polish history. however, he did make a Star Wars reference and use the word “bombastic,” so he is alright in my book.
John Paul II is a local hero in Poland. Not to mention that 98% of their population is catholic. I didn’t know anywhere in the world was still 98% Catholic. There have been statues and photos of him everywhere in the city, including the salt mine, but today we saw the Pope’s Window. This is where he would stay when he visited Krakow, and he would lean out the window to have conversations with people. He is such an amazingly cool guy. I know they’re a little biased here in Poland, but I am learning so much about him and loving it. I liked him before, but even more so now.
The church by the pope’s window was doing something funny tonight. A glass car, like a popemobile, showed up right after we did. Apparently, a very famous painting from that church is about to make a tour all throughout Europe. They’re transporting it in a portable shrine in this glass vehicle.
I know it’s not the best environment for a delicate painting, and it’s more religious based than art based, but I really like the idea of bringing art to the people like this. I think it’s a great way to share art. In the creative community, there is a constant discussion about the role of galleries and museums. There are lots of community art projects, and I’m sure everyone is familiar with at least one in their area. But how about loading the Mona Lisa into this thing, you know? It’s such a bizarre thing, but I like it.
The tour ended at the Wawel dragon. My three new friends and I got a recommendation from the guide for a pierogie restaurant and set off to find it. We were starving. The wait was well worth it. Funnily, this place is exactly across the street from where I had been yesterday and couldn’t find at lunch. I liked it better, though. You had the option of having your pierogies browned, instead of just boiled, and you could mix/match different kinds. Everything was excellent. Afterwards, we split a bunch of different sweet pierogies for dessert. It was another excellent decision.
Today was a brilliant, beautiful day. Krakow was a little cold and cloudy, but I had a great time exploring it. I am worried about rain. It would be dismal tomorrow, since I’m planning to spend most of the morning outdoors. I didn’t make it to bed quite as early tonight, but I plan to be out the door much earlier. I’m going to take any chances with this train tomorrow. It’s a new day, and I’m doing it my way. If all works out like I hope, then I think that the debacle this morning will have been for the best. I met some wonderful friends.