I’ve fallen behind on these since I’m at actually at the end of Day 6 right now. I hope I can remember everything that happened yesterday; it was an extremely full day.
Joe, Justin and I attended Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in the Square. I can’t get enough of looking at that building, it’s mesmerizing. Inside was no less so: golden and silver everything, icons and statues and ornamentation everywhere. There were maybe 300 people gathered for Mass at the particular hour, 9:00 a.m. I wish I could have understood the words, it was of course in Polish. Lots of singing and great organ music as well. I donated a little money as they passed around the plate.
We next headed into the Jewish quarter to see about touring a synagogue. There are only two in the city: the one we toured and the larger, older one down the street (which we hadn’t known about until after). Upon entering, as men we were required to don yarmulkes. We saw the holy of holies, behind which was kept the Torah scrolls, saw the cage like structure someone would stand in to read out of the Torah, and heard a history of Jews in Krakow. There are now only 2oo people registered as Jews here, though it’s estimated that more than that actually live in the city. So few Jews compared to the tens of thousands before the war. Surrounding the synagogue was a huge cemetery, some of the grave markers looking ancient. Hebrew inscriptions cover each tombstone and there are rocks and pebbles placed on almost all of them, commemorating the dead. Here and there around the outside of the synagogues were plaques commemorating the Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Next we crossed the bridge over the river and found Oskar Schindler’s factory, now converted into a museum. I hadn’t known Schindler’s story had occurred in Krakow. It was as much a history of WWII Krakow as it was about Schindler’s Jews. We watched a 35 minute film on the Jews in Krakow and how Schindler sheltered them. There is a circular room on which is engraved all 12oo names of those he saved. A camp was established by the Nazis outside the city; if one was sent there the conditions were truly horrible. Inside the city wasn’t much different but it detailed how the Jewish Quarter was turned into a prison ghetto. Statements from witnesses and survivors were so sad. There are short clips from survivors subtitled in English, scattered throughout. I took lots of pictures and will write descriptions when I post them on Facebook.
Attended the conference to hear good presentations from Ralph and Jim. The plenary session later on featured Louis Dupre, Remi Brague, and Agata Bielek-Robson. They were all excellent but she stole the show. So intelligent and confident. Great presentation.
Went to dinner at a fantastic restaurant with authentic Polish cuisine. Great conversation as well. After, we went to our usual ice cream haunt. I bought my cone when suddenly an old Polish woman comes up to me and gestures that she wants my ice cream. I could hardly believe it, so I couldn’t even react. She feigned extreme sadness and again gestured she wanted my ice cream. No big deal, it was only three measly zlotes. But it really disrupted the usual order. I ordered another cone and as I turned to start down the sidewalk the scoop fell off my cone onto the ground. Ok, universe. Uncle.