Our second packed day in Kraków we started off with something a bit lighter than the before at Auschwitz. We began our day by walking to the Kazimierz, or Jewish, neighborhood of Kraków while our guide Konrad was pointing out different locations that the movie Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg was filmed. For me, this was incredibly interesting because I had recently watched the film again before coming to Europe this summer and I was able to clearly recognize the different places he was pointing out to us during the tour. For example, we went to one place in Kazimierz that looked just like a regular alleyway with a restaurant in it but, it was the filming site for an important part of the film where the Jewish citizens are trying to escape and hide before the German SS officers can get to them and take them away or kill them.
After viewing some of the filming locations for Schindler’s List we went to the New Square of Kazimierz where there was a charming little flea market that was just getting started for a quiet Tuesday afternoon. In that New Square there was also apparently the best place in Kraków (or Poland depending on who you’re asking) for zapiekanka in Nowa Square. I did not get to try it but hopefully I can get some by the end of the trip. One Polish delicacy that I did get to try were pierogis during our lunch break. They were absolutely delicious and reasonably priced which makes me wish I could pay Polish prices in all of Europe, especially Scandinavia. I was warned that the food here would not be as great as the other countries we have been to but, I think it’s all about making the most of what is available to you.
During our walking tour we also got to see two synagogues in Kazimierz. One was the only synagogue that is still being used in the neighborhood and the other was the oldest synagogue in Kraków that is no longer active but serves as a museum now. Both were very interesting and gave us a peek into what was involved in the life of Polish jew living in Kraków throughout the years including a wonderful picture gallery of the Jewish culture during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
The hardest part of the day was visiting the former Kraków Ghetto across the river. It was easy to tell when you entered the ghetto because of the breathtaking and thought provoking display of chairs in the square to represent all of the generations of lost families in the ghetto. There was only one section of the wall that separated the ghetto from the rest of Kraków near a children’s playground but otherwise, the former ghetto was open to the rest of the city. It was hard to try and imagine that the streets we were walking upon were once covered in bodies of the victims of the holocaust as the result of human ignorance and maliciousness. In the ghetto we also got to visit the factory in which Oskar Schindler employed all of the Jewish people who he was able to save through his generosity and kindness. The factory is no longer in use and most of the original is not there anymore, but there is a wonderful museum in the former factory with a permanent exhibit on the Nazi Occupation of Kraków from 1939-1945. The exhibit was very interactive and included many photos of Kraków during the occupation that included rooms with different atmospheres that really helped facilitate a more physical and emotional connection to the plight of the Jewish Poles living in Kraków during the time. It was put together and designed extremely well so that I was completely absorbed in the exhibit the whole time. Overall, today was a great chance to understand what really went down in the city of Kraków that terminated an sizable portion of the population that left the city to only have 200~ jewish inhabitants today.