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A day at "Jew-rassic" Park

POLAND | Saturday, 27 August 2016 | Views [567]

Our hotel is located in the infamous Kazimierz district of Krakow. King Kazimierz invited persecuted Jews from other parts of central Europe to Poland and promised a tolerant cosmopolitan. Although still bound to many feudal restrictions (couldn’t own land) the Jews enjoyed many freedoms. For example, the King outlawed the theft of Jewish children (for conversion) and punished it by death. Additionally, because the King directly taxed the Jews, and utilized them as bankers and accountants; they became very important members of the Krakow society.


Anxious to learn more about the history, both good and bad, we sought out a “Free walking tour” of the Kazimierz and Krakow Ghetto area. Calen, our guide, was excellent. He is a Polish historian, living and studying in Krakow; understandably he had some amazing stories about the city.


Although we knew a lot about the area (from educational videos), we listed intently and followed along. We stopped at the old and new synagogues, community centre, squares and bridges. Calen talked a lot about Schindler's List, the scenes of the movie and how it has revitalized the district which he referred to as “Poland's Jewish Disney Land” or “Jew-rassic Park” after Steve Spielberg’s Jurassic Park; quite funny.


The tour took us unto the Krakow Ghetto and Calen explained the Hero's Square where more than 2000 Jews, mostly elderly and disabled, were killed on the spot. The square has empty chairs as monuments to the dead.


Although the tour did not go directly into Ghetto A or B, he explained their purpose of segregating the healthy workers from the sick of incapable. Also, he told us about the Pharmacy under the Eagle where a Polish pharmacist aided the Ghetto inhabitants; providing them a safe meeting place and smuggling them items.


The tour ended at the Schindler's Factory which had the iconic front gate. We purchased tickets and opted for the self guided tour. A combination of being tired and hungry made us seem to just wander the museum. Although it was interesting, it kinda had an old attic feeling and a lot of stuff just seemed staged. We overheard a tour guide explaining that nothing was an original artifact and no part of the factory actually still exists. We were all a bit disappointed but happy to have seen the site.


We made our way back to our district and enjoyed a cold beer on a patio. It was very hot so we all ate a light late lunch. We met an Ontario girl that had a husky with her. She had just moved to area.


We were all tired and cranky; after going to the grocery store we went back to the apartment and Mom and Dad watched a movie. Tim and I decided to go for a walk in town, have a beer and call it a night.


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