A Day In Krakow

We spent the day in Krakow. The city is beautiful and the architecture is complex and striking. We started walking through the park that surrounds the castle and made our way up to the top where the castle sits overlooking the city. Have I told you how many churches are in this city? Let’s just say, there are a lot of churches. Even within the castle walls, there are many churches in one. One of the churches’ dome is covered in 160 pounds of gold, and this is the original gold. It’s remarkable that it was never pillaged during any of the wars.

We walked through the courtyards and then made our way back to the street heading down into the city. Then it was off to the old city and into the city center where in the square there are a number of cafes and shops, including artist stalls. This weekend is a festival in the city, so there was music and the square was packed! Part of that had to do with the sun being out. After two weeks of clouds and rain, the locals were ready to get out and enjoy the beauty of the day. We saw the trumpeter who came out from the top window of the church in the square playing the same tune that has been played for 100s of years announcing the time. It is not a recording, it is live and is played four times every hour in every direction to announce the time.

After enjoying lunch and some shopping we headed to the Salt Mines. These mines were in operation for over 700 years. We only saw 1% of the mine and its many caverns. The miners created some incredible chapels and sculptures throughout. They were very religious and superstitious and before beginning their day working in the mine, they prayed in the chapels they created throughout. There is even an area, 100 stories down, where they hold weddings and receptions! In the largest Cathedral cavern I tested out the acoustics with singing a Halleluyah rendition. The acoustics didn’t disappoint and I’m glad I didn’t disappoint the many visitors within this chapel space.

We made our way back to the city center and on our own for an evening in the city. We ate in the outdoor cafes of the town square along with thousands of others coming into the city center for the festival.

At 9:00 pm, Jim, Karen, Mia and Steve. M joined me as we walked to the JCC. I didn’t realize how close the Jewish quarter was to our hotel; less than a half a mile away, about a 10 minutes walk. We entered the courtyard of the JCC for 7 at Nite. We were so fortunate to be in town for this event the JCC holds each year, inviting the community to visit the 7 pre-war synagogues that are still very active today. Each synagogue, only within a few blocks of each other, hosted a cultural experience, from lectures, to a movie, to a concert. This is the JCCs way of teaching the community about Judaism and reintroducing the Jewish community to the entire community. And they are very successful. The courtyard was packed as the students from the JCC Hillel led us in Havdalah from the rooftop. I was amazed and inspired by standing in the middle of hundreds of people joining together for Havdalah in the middle of Krakow and reflecting on standing in this same spot where it was so different 80 years ago!

We made our way to The Temple which is next to the JCC for the concert. The line snaked around the courtyard because this was the only venue with a music concert. Ori, the artist was very eclectic with his electronica music. You want to talk about a small world, he uses some of the sample products Shelly and Mark produce through their company, ILIO!

After a while there we made our way through the Jewish quarter to another synagogue showing an animated video of the Exodus. Unfortunately, it was already full and the hour was getting late. As we made our way back to the hotel we saw the cafes were packed and the Jewish quarter was jumping with energy and excitement!

If there is one thing I have learned from Krakow and Warsaw, don’t always listen to only what the news says. Yes, there is anti-Semitism here, but it is not what defines Poland. The entire Krakow community is working to bring back the Jewish community because they know what they lost and they don’t want it to be gone forever. As I said yesterday, every day, someone walks into the JCC because they just learned they are Jewish or they are ready to embrace their Judaism. The volunteers who work for the JCC are almost all non-Jews because they know the importance of bringing back the Jewish community and reuniting the entire Krakow community.

This morning we boarded our bus and are on our way to Prague and the Czech Republic. We are getting closer to our Torah and we feel it pulling us closer.