We just visited three UNESCO World Heritage sites in less than a week! Not bad for a couple of pedal pushers!
The biggest tourist draw in this region of Poland is Krakow. It’s like Wroclaw, but not as colorful. That was our impression at least.
We almost didn’t come here actually. A couple of days ago Sarah tried to convince me that we should just head for the Tatras Mountains and bypass Krakow completely. We had veered too far south into the mountains and were way off course in terms of getting to Krakow. The area of Poland west of Krakow is the most heavily populated and you could definitely feel it on the roads. Even the smallest roads on our detailed map were filled with cars and trucks, so we had been forced south in our attempts to avoid being run over by an 18-wheeler. But, being UNESCO geeks, we decided we could not afford to miss the largest medieval square in all of Europe. So, we pushed on and spent two days sightseeing in the city.
Sarah was really on a roll in Krakow. Comments made by her included the following.
James - “They tore down the medieval city wall and built a park, since the wall wasn’t needed in modern times.”
Sarah - “That must have been before the Germans decided to pay a little visit.”
Sarah - “An onion is considered a fresh vegetable here. That is actually insane.”
We came here by way of Oswiecim, better known by it’s German name of Auschwitz. We didn’t realize that Oswiecim was Auschwitz until we actually arrived there.
“Hey look, this sign says straight ahead to the center. Hey look … that’s a … concentration camp.”
Oswiecim has also easily taken over from the tricycle graveyard as our spookiest camp site ever. The campsite itself was great; new and modern. But it was literally across the street from the former concentration camp. It made for a strange night looking across the street at the imposing buildings and listening to the trains go by.
In the morning, we walked around the grounds of the camp. Unbelievable is the only way to describe it. We have already visited Dachau and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia, but we were both awed by the sheer scale of Auschwitz.
The ride to from Oswiecim to Krakow didn’t have much of interest except for the giant bird’s nest we saw. Sarah keeps telling me there are supposed to be storks all over this region of the world but we haven’t seen one yet.
As Sarah mentioned, we have fallen into quite the food rut here. Yogurt and muesli in the morning followed by bread and cheese for lunch. The bread and cheese bit has been posing some problems for Sarah as she has been setting new records in terms of messy eating. Check out this slovenliness.
It’s so bad, pigeons have started circling her like sharks every time she dines on crusty bread.
After Krakow, we headed south to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I didn’t take any pictures (here are some other peoples’ pictures on Flickr), but Sarah and I both agreed it was pretty amazing. And it better have been too, it cost over US$20 per person to get in!
We are continuing south now and are actually nearing our fourth UNESCO site, the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Tatra National Park. We are maybe 100 kilometers from the park and the hills are already killing us, so here’s to hoping we make it there with our legs in once piece! In addition to the terrain, it feels like the weather is changing too. We’ve noticed a definite chill in the air these last couple of days. Better break out all the cold weather gear we’ve been carrying but have barely used!