Some Like It Hot

Trip Start Jun 29, 2013
Trip End Jul 28, 2013

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Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2 lipiec, 2013
 I got a sunburn today.  And probably heat stroke.  Everybody told us not to pack shorts.  They said that shorts are far too unfashionable for Europe and that it would never be warm enough anyways.  This is how we ended up being the silly Americans sweltering in pants while the rest of the country had the good sense to wear shorts.  For future travelers out there: just pack things that you like.  The weather will not cooperate with whatever you have, and you're unfashionable anyways because you're a tourist. 

I took a walking tour of the old town in Krakow today.  Any time you visit a major city, be sure to google "Free Walking Tour 'Name of City'"  They have them everywhere, and for the most part, they are completely sponsored by no-pressure tips.  I say "for the most part" only because there was a little more pressure to tip on the walking tours we took in Rome.  On the other tours, the guide just passes around a bag and doesn't even look at what you put in.  Tip what you can afford for sure.  If you truly don't enjoy the tour, just walk away when you get bored.  It was free anyways.  If you enjoy it enough to stick around to the end, definitely make sure to tip.

Anyhow, the guide for my tour was a native Krakovian named Jacob.  He spoke enthusiastically about Krakow's and Poland's history with a tone that can only be described as defeatist optimism.  He kept saying things like "Poland joined forces with Lithuania, which at the time was one of the major super powers of the world...until they joined forces with Poland" and "Nobody can lose as many wars as the Polish have, and still be around" and "Communists use vodka to keep poor people from complaining."  Okay, so that last one doesn't even feign optimism, but Jacob did talk about vodka a lot.  Here are some pictures I took on the tour.  Click on each to learn the stories behind them

During the tour, Jacob mentioned that the only thing in the city worth paying for is to see the altar in St. Mary's Church.  He said that the altar is well known for a sculpture of the Virgin Mary's death in which the apostles are holding Mary as she dies and Jesus is holding a smaller version of Mary representing her soul going to heaven. 

My Catholic brain nearly exploded.  I had to see this sculpture in a Catholic Church that supposedly depicted the death of Mary, who, to my knowledge, never died according to Catholic tradition.  Right?  To me the sculpture clearly shows her weakened in her earthly life, but being bodily assumed into heaven.  I really wish there had been a clearer explanation inside the church.  My better Catholic friends will have to help me out here.   

3 lipiec, 2013
Today was our last day in Krakow and we went to the salt mines in Wieliczka.  I recommend that if you decide to visit these salt mines ever, pay the extra price for a group trip on a charter bus.  I thought about taking the train out there ourselves, but we would have never gotten in without the reservation secured for us by the group.  The presidents of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, and Hungary were all spending the afternoon visiting the mine, so it would have been especially difficult to get in.  It didn't cost much extra to guarantee entrance to the mine with an experienced guide and a bus that dropped us off much closer to the entrance than the train would have.  We went with Cracow City Tours.  They also offer other tours, such as to Auschwitz and Czestochowa.  

Check out some of the pictures of the amazing artwork inside the mines.  Almost everything you see is made entirely of salt.  The mine would take almost 4 months to explore completely, so you can see many many more sculptures if you google Wieliczka Salt Mine

After the tour we had a delicious Polish lunch and then went to the Wawel castle for a little bit before heading back to the apartment to finish packing to catch the night train to Prague

And now that we're not in Krakow anymore, I'm sure you're all dying to see the adorable little place we stayed while we were there. scroll all the way to the last picture.  It's my favorite.

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