Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 02, 2009

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Flag of Poland  , Silesian Voivodeship,
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today we are going to see the 'Black Madonna of Częstochowa' in Poland. The picture is a holy icon of the Virgin Mary, that is both Poland's holiest relic and one of the country's national symbols.

Our drive is mostly on the highways and then a few back roads. We follow the signs to the town and miss a couple of short cuts the GPS wants us to take.  We make it there and it is a busy place.  It is a very holy place for the Polish and a lot of bus tours from Italy and Czech Republic are here.

 July 16th is a special pilgrim day here, I had thought maybe we should wait the 2 days, but no, it would be hectic.  The complex is very large.  It is a walled monestary on the hill. We go to information first and get a map and find out where the painting is

We go into the small church.  There are a lot of people here, some sitting in the pews praying, other on their knees, others on their knees moving towards the front of the church and behind the na´ve.

We work our way to the front, we take the isle behind the na´ve hoping to get a close look at the picture but we cannot find it.  I have a pamphlet with the picture on it and cannot see it.  We go back to the information office.  We are told the picture is covered and it will not be unveiled until 13:30.   We have 10 minutes to go back in and find a spot. 

Time goes by and the church is full, there are a few bells rung.  Then, all of a sudden there is a drum roll!  Then trumpets blare announcing it is time for the unveiling.  The drums and trumpets continue.  Slowly the gold plate rises and you can now see the painting of the Black Madonna.  It seemed so very strange to hear the drum roll and trumpets (it is a recording) in a church.  Maybe in a theatre before a great act or feat is to be done, to me it was different.

The painting is beautiful.  There are several stories about the picture and the 2 slashes or scars on the Madonna’s face.  You can check them out at for yourself.

We tour the treasury where gifts from heads of state and the wealthy have donated beautiful and valuable items to the Madonna.  They also display all the jewelry and items left for the Madonna by common folk.  They are separated into categories, diamond rings, pins and broaches, turquoise jewelry, coral jewelry, pocket watches, filigree gold jewelry, prayer beads and so on.  We also visit other areas of old documents, paintings of previous clergy and old buggy and carriages. 

It is now approaching 3 and we haven’t had lunch yet, so we go back to the car and have lunch and then head on.  There is a place to camp here but we decide to go on to Auschwitz.

The drive here is on a busy highway until the end when traffic thins out.  We pass the museum entrance and find the information office.  He tells us where a campground is and we walk in about 30+ heat to find it. We can find the signs, but no campground, we go back and get the car and drive to it.  We just didn’t walk quite far enough.

It is a beautiful spot, there is a hotel, conference centre and camping area.  The facility is nice and clean.  We have diner and settle in for the night.  Free wi-fi in the reception area so that is where we spend the evening.  Yes, there are mosquitoes here too, not as many as the night before though.  It is still warm and sunny, when we head out to be it has cooled off and we have a great nights sleep.
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