Friday, May 31, 2013
May 23 (repost)
After a rough night on the sleeper train, consisting of not a lot of sleep for most of us, we arrived in the beautiful city of Krakow Poland. We met our tour guide for Poland, Alicja, and then traveled to the hotel. Since it was around 7 AM we were unable to check into our rooms so our luggage was placed into a holding room until we returned from our tour. We ate breakfast at the hotel, and shortly after headed to Kazimierz, the Old Jewish district. Here, we met up with our tour guide and walked around. We stopped and learned about the Old Synagogue, which got its name because it is the oldest synagogue in Poland. The synagogue is very important for the Jewish as well as Polish community. It has been rebuilt many times and was used as a Nazi storehouse during World War 2. It has since been rebuilt again, and is now used as a museum. Outside of the synagogue is a monument that is dedicated to the 30 people that were killed by the Nazis in that square.
We then walked over to the New Synagogue, which was built in the 1500s by the Father of Remuh. He was only 20 or 21 at the time, which prompted the saying that it is not the age that matters, but the wisdom. There was a special place added in the synagogue for women, and there is also a special chair that is always left empty for Remuh.
From the New Synagogue, we went to the cemetery. Although they are next to each other, the synagogue and cemetery are not connected to one another. In this case, they are close due to the lack of space. The cemetery was ruined in world war 2, and was used as an illegal swamping place. The wall was built around the cemetery after WW2. The headstones were put back up, but the stone does not necessarily represent a marker as to who is buried in that spot. After the Nazis left, the stones were all mixed up. The only headstones that they are sure about is the headstones of Moses Ramuhs family. There is a legend that when someone would try to move the headstones, they would end up dead within a few days. We learned that stones are places on the headstones in cemeteries as a sign of respect, but also out of Jewish tradition. Back in Egypt, the Jews would be buried in sand, and then covered with stones so that wild animals would not eat the bodies. At the graves of Moses family, visitors now write wishes on a piece of paper and leave it there in the hopes that they will be granted.
We then walked over to the High Synagogue. It is called the High Synagogue because the prayer room is on the first floor. This is for safety reasons. We learned that in order for Jews to settle somewhere, there needs to be a synagogue, cemetery, and a ritual bath. We then walked to the “Krakow Eye” which is in the Jewish square and is the center of trade from the 1900s. on our way to lunch, we walked by the “newish Synagogue” which has stain glass windows and is more modern, which is used for ceremonies and concerts.
After some free time for lunch, we made our way to the Wawel Royal Castle. By this time, we were all pretty much ready to call it a day and go back to the hotel and sleep. Although the castle was beautiful and there were a lot of interesting artifacts, we were just too tired to fully appreciate it. After the castle we went back to the hotel and had free time for the rest of the afternoon. We then all went to a Jewish restaurant for traditional Polish perogies and vodka, and listened to live Jewish music. It was a great time and a great way to relax after a long day.