Posted by ed on 23rd July 2013
As we were preparing to leave Paris, we decided to plan out our final couple weeks in Europe. We had booked a flight from London to the US for June 25 so we could attend my niece’s’ wedding. We decided we could squeeze in 3 more cities in the time we had left. We chose Krakow, Warsaw and Berlin.
Krakow, Poland (inc. Auschwitz-Birkenau)
On June 12 we flew from Paris to Krakow. We had booked a nice hotel just off the main square in Krakow’s old town. The old town (pictured on left) reminds me a bit of Prague, which we had visited last Christmas. The central square is quite big and is dominated by the cloth market hall in the center, the old city hall tower in one corner and St. Mary’s Basilica (pictured on right) in the opposite corner. There are tons of cafes and restaurants around the square (and throughout the old town) with lots of sidewalk seating. There are various stalls inside the cloth market hall and horse drawn carriages for hire around the square. For me, the highlight of the square is the basilica. The interior is beautiful with patterned brick walls and a deep blue ceiling.
There are many old churches and other old buildings around the old town. At one end of the old town is the Wawel (pictured on left), a fortified complex on a hill overlooking the town and the Vistula River. The main buildings on the hill are the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral. We visited the cathedral and did a tour of the Royal Apartments and Armoury.
While visiting Krakow, we did venture out to the Kazimierz neighborhood, which is the old Jewish quarter. We also took a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (pictured on right). Auschwitz-Birkenau is a sobering place to visit. The camps are huge, especially Birkenau. There are numerous displays describing the horrific things that happened there, but most of the site is empty buildings or ruins of buildings.
On June 16 we took a train to Warsaw. Warsaw is more spread out than Krakow, but it also has a nice old town (pictured on left). Warsaw’s old town was very heavily damaged during WWII, but has since been rebuilt in the original style. New Town is just past the rebuilt barbican of the Old Town. Next to the New Town is Multimedia Park with a cool water fountain display. A bit further afield, we visited Wilanow Palace (pictured on right) and Lazienki Park. Lazienki Park has numerous palaces and in the park we encountered red squirrels. Throughout the city there are memorials to some of the most famous Pols, such as Copernicus, Chopin and Marie (Sklowdowska) Curie.
There are more photos in the Warsaw album.
We caught a train from Warsaw to Berlin on June 19. Unbeknownst to us, we were arriving in Berlin on the same day that President Obama was giving a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. As it turns out our accommodations were located a few blocks from the Gate (pictured on left) on the opposite side from the train station. We tried to catch the U-bahn, but the Brandenburg stop was closed. We tried to walk, but the roads and bridges were cordoned off. Eventually we were able to take the S-bahn to Friedrichstrasse and walk from there.
It was really hot when we were in Berlin. We ended up staying indoors for parts of the afternoons, but we still managed to see quite a lot. On the first full day we started at the Potsdamerplatz and did a self guided walking tour which included the Sony Center, Philharmonie, parts of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. On the next day we did another walking tour which included Unter den Linden, Bebelplatz, Berliner Dom (lower left), Museum Island, City Hall, TV Tower and Alexanderplatz. That evening we were able to visit the dome on the Bundestag and enjoyed the sunset from there. On the final full day we visited Charlottenburg Palace and spent our last evening around the Brandenburg Gate.
There are more photos in the Berlin album.
One June 23 we flew to London and spent the next day saying goodbye to friends and tying up a few loose ends. On the 25th of June we were heading back to the United States, more specifically, to Erie, PA to attend my niece’s wedding. We’re still in Erie as of the writing of this blog, but are heading to the San Francisco Bay Area later this week.
So, is this the end of our European Adventure? I guess we don’t really know. Stay tuned to see where we end up…