We leave early to catch our flight to Krakow. Fortunately, cheap flights to many European destinations depart nearby Eindhoven airport so we don’t have to travel far. We clear airport security and wait for our flight. It’s nothing spectacular. Just another airport and another excited wait for the next country.
One of the reasons we wanted to come to Europe in the winter, and northern Europe in particular, was to see snow. Paul has never seen snow before and I’ve only really experienced late season snow at ski fields. Yes, just as white sandy beaches are exotic to some people and normal for us, so too is snow exotic to us and normal for others. So it was with great excitement that we stepped onto the tarmac in Krakow to walk through thin patches of white on a -3’C morning.
Our excitement only grew throughout the day as we walked around and played in the dry fluffy patches of snow we found on the ground everywhere in the city. I am sure the locals thought we were mad. But we’re not people who curb our excitement too often.
Krakow itself is a magnificent city and a wonderful place to be introduced to Poland. Personally, I’d only ever heard negative things about this former communist country in Europe’s East. Sentiments that rang in my ears included:
- “Watch out because everything gets stolen there.”
- “Bring an extra blanket because they probably don’t have good heating in the hotels and apartments.”
- “The roads are so bad in Poland.”
- “The shops won’t have many things to buy there.”
- “No one will speak English.”
- “It’s still Eastern Europe you know.”
What we’ve found instead is an amazing modern society that has overcome unimaginable hardships to rebuild and thrive. Not one of the warnings we received has come true. If anything, Poland reminds me of South Korea. At the end of WW2 most of the country had been razed to the ground. Historic buildings and monuments dating back to the tenth century were totally destroyed and the country occupied by the Soviets. But since the fall of communism in 1990, the Poles have made it their mission to rebuild their historic structures and embrace all that is modern.
As we walk around Krakow on our first day all wide eyed and bushy tailed our eyes take in this totally amazing history without knowing any of the stories we have yet to learn. To us this is just part of an old castle, fantastic in its own right and beautiful with its border of snow.
We also don’t yet know that this monument was totally dismantled by the Third Reich when they occupied Krakow. It was part of the Third Reich’s attempt to destroy Poland, wipe out the Poles and create a German Krakow. All we see is the fine detail in the sculpting and the story of glory that it tells.
Our eyes are still taking everything in at face value. Seeing the beauty of it all without yet appreciating the absolute wonder that lies beneath. That will soon come though … we have 15 days in Poland so have time to learn.