Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm pretty much in love with Krakow

We had a fantastic weekend! We went to Krakow and had the best time. It was perfect. It is probably one of the prettiest cities I have seen. Like Prague, it was a city that escaped the war unscathed. This city is so old. The first written recording of this city was in the 900's and it was a thriving city by then. It's cool that nothing was destroyed.

We had a lot of adventures and saw a lot of cool things including a castle, dragon bones, street dancers, cotton candy, a cool salt mine, got contacted by the missionaries, and great food! One of the best parts was when we checked into our hotel, there was a garden patio of their restaurant right next to our door. So, we put Calem down for a nap and got to hang out in the garden and have a peaceful meal all by ourselves. It was the best just to relax and enjoy some great food and not have to worry about anything. Awesome.

Here are some pics of some of the things we saw.
So these are in no order whatsoever. We also have so many pics that it would be impossible to post all the cool places we were, so here are a scattered few.
The streets are awesome! Cobblestone and look at the buildings! It is so pretty here! The Wawel castle is behind us in this pic. I'm pretty sure this is the street Pope John Paul II grew up on. There are a million memorials around this city for him. I guess they love their pope!

This is a big courtyard inside the castle walls. Calem was in heaven with so much space to run around in. I couldn't resist just letting him run. He is the small speck in the sunlight :). The courtyard was huge and it made you feel so small. This pic probably just shows about a third of it.

This is Cloth Hall, although renovations have been made over the years, this marketplace dates back to the medieval times. Inside this hall is about a thousand little vendor shops with all sorts of things from amber jewelry, crystal stemware, wood carvings, to fur clothing. Also we found cotton candy! Maybe it is rodeo time after all!

We took some time to just play on the grass near the river. It is a hillside that has a bike/walk trail at the bottom. Calem was drawn to the bike path and we would snatch him up before he could get hit. Unfortunately, this became a game and we just ran up and down the hill for a couple of hours. We had to switch off because even though we were pooped, Calem wasn't!He was having so much fun!
This was the restaurant we ate at in the evening. Polish food is so good, especially the potato pancakes and the type of gulash they make. YUM!

Here is another pic of the streets. I love it. This is Sunday morning and after deciding to wake up at 3am, Calem is out. Our poor umbrella stroller is on its last leg. It will be a miracle if it lasts till the end of our trip. I sure hope it does 'cause that kid is heavy!

On a side note, Oscar Schindler is from this town, but we missed seeing his factory. Also, there is a woman who is sort of the female version of Schindler and helped so many Jews escape. She also went into their ghettos and treated their diseases and such. She was caught and her legs were broken so badly she could never walk right again. After she was released, she changed her name and went right back saving people. She died this Spring. Also, a few years back she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but its a good thing Al Gore won it that year, because where would we be without global warming? What a crock!

Monday, July 25, 2011


I don't really know what to say about Auschwitz except that it is a truly terrible place. There are buildings and buildings there that were used to house prisoners, perform experiments, and all sorts of gruesome things. I won't get into it because it makes me sick. What is weird is that it is so close to where we are staying. Finding out by our taxi ride, it is only about 40 minutes away. Can you imagine living here during the war and having the holocaust happen pretty much in your backyard? eh. Anyway, here are some pics.

This is the main entrance. Come to find out, the Arbeit Macht Frei sign isn't the original one. The original one was stolen a few years ago. It was later found, cut into a few pieces. It is thought that someone from the Nazi party was interested in it, so some thugs stole it for them. It is still being repaired.

There are rows and rows of these buildings that were used for horrible things. You go inside some of them to see living conditions and things. In a couple, there are things that were stolen from the Jews like glasses, pots and pans, shoes, prosthetic body parts, toys, luggage, etc. There were tens of thousands of things. There was a room that had human hair that was cut off. There was so much of it and it was sickening. The saddest were the little kid shoes and toys. Seriously, I don't understand the mindset that would enable someone to be so cruel.

The public hangings were here. You had to walk by it in order to go to where roll call was held everyday.

This is just a view of the fencing around the camp. There are two electified barbed wire fences here.

To brighten up this post, here is Calem. This is on our bus ride from the main camp to Auschwitz II- Birkenau. He makes me smile.

Auschwitz II - Birkenau. This camp was set up a few years later as an extention. The main camp felt like a prison, this just felt like a death camp...which it was.

These are part of the train tracks that came directly into the camp. The train tracks lead all the way down to the gas rooms and the crematorium. A lot of people were taken right from the train to be gassed.

By the gas chambers and crematorium, there is a big memorial for all those who died here. It is a kind of weird looking memorial. Here Calem is next to part of it.

I guess I don't regret going and seeing what it was like and having the experience, but I wouldn't ever go again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our first attempt and failure at public transportation

Since we got to Gliwice, we have been walking everywhere! There is a mall about 25-30 minutes away that we've been to a couple of times, the kids park is a 20 min walk, we walk everywhere. We'd take the bus but not speaking the language and not wanting to risk a fine has caused us to avoid it. So, on Saturday we decided to take the train to visit Auschwitz. Online, there are a couple of websites that you can see train schedules and therefore plan your day. The website said that the train ride would take 3 hours including a 1 hour layover in Katowice. The website was WRONG!

We thought great, 3 hours there, about 3 hours to tour Auschwitz, and 3 hours back. It was a full day, but no big deal. We headed out to the train station, bought our tickets. They totaled 20 zloty- 7 bucks for the both of us. Calem is still young enough, he doesn't need a ticket. The lady at the ticket counter (no english) says there is in fact the change in Katowice and is nice enough to tell us which line our train is on. The tickets are so confusing. They don't say a time or a line or anything. We board and in the first 2 minutes of the ride a ticket checker started chewing us out because we didn't have a ticket for Calem. Apparently even though there is no cost, you still need a ticket. We just acted dumb (which we are) and he finally gave up.

We get to Katowice about 45 min later and find out that there is only one more train to our destination- 4 hours later. We were stuck. So much for our 9 hour day! We spent those hours walking around the city. We finally boarded the train and we were finally off! Once we get there, we look to see the times the train goes back- and there is none. There are only 2 trains per day, one at 6 am and one at 2:30 pm and we had taken that last train. We thought though that we could probably find a bus back and would go that way. With the worry of getting home on our mind, we visited the grounds. I'll share more of that in a different post.

We only had about 3 hours until the museum closed, so we made it in time to be able to see everything. We wanted to go in a tour, but we were too late for any of that. We did a self tour- saving us about $25-$30. We ran into one of the english speaking tour guides and he said the information desk at the museum could tell us which bus to take, so that kind of put us a little bit at ease.

When the park closed and we went to the information desk about our bus back to Katowice, the lady looked at us with wide eyes and laughed in our faces. Not the reaction you are wanting after a full day. So now what? We had 3 options. 1. Take a bus to Krakow which is 1.5 hours in the opposite direction and hope to get a connecting bus or train to Katowice and then the train to Gliwice (about 5 hours). 2. Stay in the hotel across the street and leave on the 6 am train back home. 3. Suck it up and pay a taxi.

We paid a taxi. 150 zloty later (50 bucks) we were in Katowice waiting for a train back home. Our cabby was pretty nice and was more than happy to drive us all the way back. So by the time we got home it was almost 10 pm. Ugh! What a day! I think Colby is
more than a little apprehensive for our upcoming travel to the different countries.

So much for the Amazing race....

Here are a few pics of Calem's first train ride:

Here he is, our little monkey! Of course sitting still is not an option.
Colby trying to entertain.
Checking out the scene.
Stuffing his face with treats. Treats always work- for a while.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We found a park!!!

Yay! We went on a family walk last night and ran into a park! And it had a playground! Now I don't feel like I have to be so hovering. I have been super paranoid about letting Calem get too far away from me. With a mixture of feeling helpless (no speaking skills and nowhere to turn to) and Calem's internal "street magnet", I have become a hover-er. Now, I can let him run and run and run. Ahhh! It feels good!

So this playset is kinda scary. Not that it's rickety or anything, it's just made for bigger kids. Luckily Calem thinks he's an acrobat and doesn't mind stepping on just rope. I'll have to get a pic, it kinda freaks me out, but he has only fallen once on the plank bridge.The first little while, Calem didn't know what to think of the kids. He is usually VERY social, but just when he starts understanding words, we yank him out of the U.S. and now he is quite confused as to why they are talking so strange. Today- he got over it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another Family Adventure

So.... we are at it again. It seems like every couple of months we get to go somewhere new and experience cool stuff. Graduate school has been awesome (for me especially). Colby has all sorts of opportunities that take us all over and I am loving it. It's hard work but it will be worth it.

In the last year as a family we have been to San Diego, Vancouver, BC, Hawaii, and IF. We've been lucky enough to only have to pay for my flight, so it doesn't hurt our wallet too badly. Now we are in Gliwice, Poland (pronounced like gli-vizza, as in pizza). It will be a 5 week trip so it is by far longer than any other trip we have taken. I am really liking it here even though I can't understand a word and there are very awkward moments.

Gliwice is on the southern border of Poland and very close to the Chech Republic border. Also, Dresden, Germany is only 4 hours away by car. I'm pretty sure I know a little guy that must have been named after that town. :) Anything cool about Gliwice? It is not a tourist town at all. Things seem pretty quiet, although it is a pretty big town (200,000). Streets are very narrow. There is not a highway at all around here, only two lane roads. So driving would be pretty stressful.

Gliwice has a famous wooden radio tower. During WWII, Nazi's staging as Polish people and invaded the radio tower and said hostile stuff about the Nazis, making it look like there was a rebellion against them. So, the Nazis in "defense" took over Poland. Auschwitz is about an hour away.

After the war, it was under communist rule until 1989. I can't believe this was a communist country so little time ago. Things seem really nice here and walking down the streets and looking at the buildings, I wonder what it was like 20 years ago. The people that Colby works with (especially Anna- she's local) lived under communist rule and then she got to see things change. It pretty much blows my mind.

We are living in student housing. It is small. BUT, Calem has his own room and there is a crib in it, so I can't complain too badly. When Anna emailed us and said she had made a reservation here for us, she said the kitchen had a washer in it. I thought cool, that means I can wash clothes, or maybe even a dish washer. NOPE. It must have meant a sink. There is a sink, a hot plate, and a half fridge. We don't have any pots, pans, cooking utinsels or anything like that. Anna was kind enough to bring over eating utinsels. That means we have been eating sandwiches like crazy. And that's about all we have eaten. Oooh except for cereal- I found Nutella filled cereal squares. That has to be the best thing in the entire world.

Wow, this is a long post. I'm guessing it is because the only person I can literally talk to is Colby, who is gone most of the time, and Calem and lets face it, all he says is UH!

Colby and Calem walking on the sidewalk by our home.

This is the student housing behind me.

With no highchair and nowhere to put one, we have gotten good at improvising.