Finally, I fulfilled a long-held dream to visit Poland, the land of my foremothers (yes, this half-Irish O’Brien is also half Polish). I write from the charming old city of Krakow in southern Poland.
Krakow’s main feature is its large central square, which is still surrounded by elegantly preserved 15th century townhouses and shops, including some large ones that have been converted to hotels — like the “Bonerowski Palace” (palace of “the Boners”) where I am fortunate to be staying … and feel so at home (perhaps I was a Boner in a previous lifetime :-).
In addition to my interest in history, one of the best parts of traveling for me is the social experience. Gemini extrovert that I am, I learn from variety and make it a point to meet many different people — and different kinds of people — wherever I go. The Polish people — decimated first by the Nazis (who wanted to eliminate the Poles in order to take their land), then by Stalin — are nothing if not resilient. They are also sweet-tempered and good looking (like half of me :-).The younger generation is highly educated and smart, non-pretentious and actually optimistic — quite a development given the country’s tragic history. I compare their attitude, which is relatively practical and conscientious, with that of American youth who are so caught up in non-stop entertainments that they hardly read or write.
And the city of Krakow itself … ah, lovely Krakow. Rick Steves, the American travel writer who specializes in Europe, is so right about this place … the well-preserved combination of ancient cathedrals, castles and cobble-stone streets is beyond charming … it is positively magical! And this 15th century Bonerowski Palace hotel, where I stay on the main square, is so elegant it hosts a Chopin (Polish cultural hero) concert almost every night. Charming and richly cultural … viva Poland!
Next installment … death camp blues.