Days 41 & 42 of my cycling journey – June 10-11, 2022
Having to change my cycling route with regard to the “Polish Jura”, which is the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland, I started into a day which was subject to constant dress changes due to the continuous weather changes. Riding 81 km to Krakow, saw me arriving in the late afternoon and as ordered, the weather had cleared up as well and I was arriving in an afternoon characterized by a golden light. Staying also the next day I discovered a small part of this spectacular city.
I woke up the second night in a row with heavy thunderstorms and I saw immediately that the heavy rain had caused flooding of the paths and ways. My tent, however, had been dry. In the evening I had dug with my “toilet shovel” a little drench around the tent floor to allow any rains to flow away from it. That proved to be a very wise move. Since I had been in a pine forest the slugs were not as prevalent as the night before and I had to pick off only a few of these rascals. At this point I was wondering if one could eat them, when cooked to perfection in a hot garlic-herb oil. As already mentioned, I had to replan my route because the time to reach Prague was getting a bit tight, considering the unstable weather over the last days. Instead, I decided finally to visit Oswiecim, after the Krakow visit.
Starting my tour, it was humid and foggy. There were at times some rain showers, but this cleared up later during the day. The humidity, relative high temperatures and the rain showers caused me to change into and out of my raingear several times in the morning period. When its humid, you simply cannot stay in your raingear. The threat of a thunderstorm was constantly present. I passed through some lovely romantic landscapes with limestone rock formations and ruins of castle on the distant mountain tops. Churches and the high reaching spirals were showing through the forests and little villages were populating the scenery. In a way it was like cycling through a romantic film set.
The longer the day lasted, the hotter and more humid it got, but on the plus side the sun was coming out permanently. I reached Krakow in the late afternoon and by then the city was immersed into a magic golden hue which emphasized the beauty of this magic city. Cycling through the town I made it to the campground of Krakow. Having a dinner out, I ate dinner in a restaurant and when I bit into my desert, a cherry pie, the forgotten cherry stone in that pie caused the demise of one of my front teeth. Now I was not only travelling like a bum, perhaps smelling lie a bum, but also looking like a bum. And you know what they say about ducks. When in Berlin in July, I will have to get an appointment with a dentist to give me back my winning smile.
The next day I had reserved for an excursion of the old city of Krakow, the first entry onto the UNESCO World Heritage list. What can I say about Krakow, though? Gorgeousness manifested in an enthralling old city. History is breathable with every step on the ancient cobblestones of its medieval streets. Every corner of the criss-crossing street plan invites you to stop and to admire beauty and to read up on the history stored in them. If I could only know what happened in some of these building during their hundreds of years of history I would be absorbed by the happiness and tragedies happening in them. I realized that visiting Krakow for a day is utterly nonsense, because you cannot even grasp the depth of this city and its history. Even a weekend is not enough, and any potential visitor should really reserve a week to investigate this town to a sensible degree.
Unfortunately, the queues to enter the Wawel Castle were enormous. I could not stand potentially an hour in a queue just to get in. This castle had been the royal castle of Poland for many generations of Polish kings and its origins are going back to the 11th century. It also was the residence of the Governor-General of Poland during Nazi occupation of Poland. The infamous Hans Frank, also called the butcher of Poland, took residence in the castle until fleeing from the approaching Red Army. Sometimes beautiful buildings have rather nasty occupants.
One sight I didn’t want to miss is the “Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik”, the company owned by Oskar Schindler, who saved approximately 1200 Jews from almost certain death. It is a museum nowadays, but otherwise looks quite similar to the old pictures from during WW II. This also set a little bit the scene for my upcoming visit to Auschwitz. How, on one hand, individuals can and will sacrifice their lives and fortunes to do the right thing, while on the other hand many will do morally corrupt and inhuman deeds in order to gain influence and status or stay on the safe side of power.
Going back to my campground I had to think a lot about all these matters and certainly how my upcoming visit to Auschwitz would affect me. I must say, I was a bit worried about this upcoming visit.