lviv to krakow.
Our last night in Lviv was a late one, complete with a meal in an underground bunker, celebrating the spirit of the Ukrainian resistance army and culture. It was a tightly packed, smokey cellar, with war memorabilia hanging, lanterns glowing, and rowdy, folk singers stomping their feet, and clapping their hands. We ate out of metal bowls, drank piping hot tea which you couldn’t bring to your lips, and nearly suffocated. Chain smokers are like a plague upon Lviv, and there are no restrictions whatsoever. Smoke here, smoke there, smoke two, smoke five. Gross!
We walked into the clammy, wet night, breathing in the clean(ish) air. The air in Lviv is laced with the pungent smell of sewers, and the damp air only intensified the smell.
I got sick shortly after my salad. The kind of sick where you need toilet paper, quickly, and I didn’t have any, and I wanted to cry because I felt like I hadn’t slept in 4 days (which I hadn’t) and it was a pretty lame, I must say. At the train station, instead of being excited about not being able to read any signs or have a clue about what platform we needed to be on, I was rather peeved and still feeling sick. The sickness lasted into the night. The train wasn’t bad, but it was noisy and filled with interruptions from border guards and rowdy Ukrainian teens.
However, upon arrival to Krakow, things changed for the better. We stayed in Kazmeiriz, the Jewish district, a beautiful, and culturally rich area of town. There are synagoues, and a rare Jewish cemetary that managed to escape desecration by the Nazis. I am in heaven. Krakow is a delightful city, and a pleasant change from Lviv. Better coffee, food (!!!) and tourism.
Today we went to Auschwitz, in the pouring rain. It was terribly cold and wet, but somehow fitting. It’s hard to see a place like Auschwitz, and make sense of it, make it seem real. It wasn’t until we reached Birkenau, the larger, extermination camp, that I felt raw emotion. A flock of Israeli soldiers, along with a few Holocaust survivors came through the infamous entrance to Birkenau, marching in step, holding the Israeli flag. It was wiping in the wind, declaring freedom and reclaiming the bloodied soil. A lone trumpeter stood at the gate, playing a haunting tune. Tears burned my eyes, and I felt so grieved. I wept and wept, watching the men and women walk along the railway tracks, somber, yet resilient. It was a powerful and a rare experience. I managed to capture it on video and will post it when we return home. We returned to Krakow, wet, chilled to the bone, but warmed up after some bowls of matzo ball soup and Jewish dumplings. Again, I am in heaven…
Tonight we’re taking the night train again. We managed to snag a deal on our tickets, saving a whole 100 Euros!! Wow! Our trip is about 8 hours. We shall arrive in Budapest tomorrow at 8:30am! I am so excited to go back! We’re staying on the YWAM base, so we should have some lovely fellowship and conversations.
Farewell from Krakow; we bid you adieu!