{Janet’s Germany} Weekend in Poland

selah_candace_rose_poland_1The drive to Kraków was long and beautiful, with a KFC every few miles! The bridges were fantastic and the forests dark and mysterious. Clouds kept the drive from getting too hot and added interest to the drive. We spent the weekend in Kraków. There was so much to see there we didn’t explore anything else. selah_candace_rose_poland_2Our host’s dogs, Onyx and Amber, like to play soccer with their ball! Onyx is good keeping the ball going and Amber is good at chasing Onyx and cheering her on. selah_candace_rose_poland_3Lori took us into Kraków for a short tour the evening we arrived. Kraków started as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and is the second largest, and one of the oldest city in Poland. It dates back to sometime int he 7th century! By 965 it was reported as a busy trading center in Europe.selah_candace_rose_poland_Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939 by Nazi Germany, Kraków became part of the Nazi’s General Government and eventually its capital. It was headed by Hans Frank who was based in Wawel Castle. The Nazis envisioned turning Kraków into a completely German city after removing all Jews and Poles. selah_candace_rose_poland-1Legend says women saved this portion of old city walls from being destroyed by the men. They told the men that if this wall were taken down, the wind would gust through the market square and lift the ladies’ skirts on their way to church, thus embarrassing the women and making the men think badly of them. So the men did not tear down this wall. This is how the women saved the wall of Kraków. selah_candace_rose_poland-2There are roughly 120 churches registered in Kraków. We walked by many, and went into only two (St. Mary’s Basilica and the other were a wedding was taking place, so no pictures were allowed). selah_candace_rose_poland-3 Cloth Hall was originally designed in the 14th century as a center for international trade. The ground floor is continually used for commerce with its many souvenir shops and cafés; upstairs houses the Gallery of the National Museum. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.selah_candace_rose_poland-4We did not spend much time at Wawel Castle because we had so many other things to see, but it was lovely! And the other tourists were a HOOT to watch!selah_candace_rose_poland-5Legend tells about a dragon, Smok Wawelski, who was terrorizing Kraków during the reign of King Krakus, the city’s legendary founder. Each day the evil dragon would reign down destruction across the countryside, killing the civilians and devouring their livestock. The king wanted to put an end to the dragon, but his bravest knights failed. In desperation, the King promised his beautiful daughter Wanda’s hand in marriage to anyone who could defeat the dragon. Great warriors from near and far fought for the prize and failed. One day a poor cobbler grew tired of the ongoing terror. He stuffed a lamb with sulfur and set it outside the dragon’s cave. The dragon ate it and became incredibly thirsty. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and drank and drank, but no amount of water could quench his aching stomach and after swelling up from drinking half the Vistula river, he exploded. The cobbler refused the princess’s hand in marriage because his wife would not be happy. Read more legend versions about the dragon here. selah_candace_rose_poland-6During the reign of Casimir III the Great (1333 to 1370), St. Mary’s Basilica was rebuilt on the remaining foundation of an earlier church destroyed in the Mongol invasion. Vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki had the interior rebuilt in the late Baroque style in the 18th century.selah_candace_rose_poland-7Legend says two brothers were hired to design and build St. Mary’s Basilica towers, but they wouldn’t work together. This is why each tower is different. The brother who built the shorter tower was jealous of the other’s tower so killed him. The knife hangs in an arch in the Cloth Market across the square.selah_candace_rose_poland_2

Every hour a fire fighter climbs to the top of the main tower to sound a trumpet call, the Hejnał mariacki. The melody is plaintive and historically was played to signal the open and close of the city gates. It stops unexpectedly mid-stream to salute the famous 13th century guard who was shot in the throat by an arrow while playing the tune to warn the city of the coming Tatar invasion.selah_candace_rose_poland-8

The extravagant Altarpiece is the largest Gothic altar piece and a national Polish treasure. It was designed and carved out of lime (linden), oak, and larch wood by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) between 1477 and 1484. During the German occupation, the altarpiece was dismantled and shipped to the Third Reich on order of Hans Frank. It was sent to Nuremberg Castle in Bavaria, where it survived heavy bombing to be recovered and returned to Poland in 1946. It underwent major restoration and was put back in its place at the Basilica 10 years later.

Julia took us to the Jewish Quarter where we saw a few Synagogues and an ancient Jewish cemetery. I learned how in the Jewish culture, stones are left on the headstones to tell the family that someone stopped by to pay respects. selah_candace_rose_poland-9And thus ended our tour through Kraków. The next day we went back to do our tourist-ly duty of shopping and souvenir buying before we drove to Auschwitz, which I am posting about next week.

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{Janet’s Germany} Albrechtsburg

selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_03Albrechtsburg is Germany’s oldest castle and was a trendsetter in it’s time! Even now, it is amazing to set eyes on. Albrechtsburg overlooks the city of Meissen and towers above the mighty Elbe river.selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_01Albrechtsburg was incredible to tour! Although the audio tour gets a little long in the end, it was interesting learning so much about the castle and Germany’s history. In one room, we had to wear slippers to help preserve the original wood flooring, which was beautiful. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_02Albrechtsburg was redecorated in the 19th century with murals depicting Saxon history, which were really neat to see as I heard about it. The first one pictured was the coronation of a king. The second one depicts the Duke kidnapping the two princes, while their nursemaid was trying to protect them. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_06The Wettin brothers Ernst and Albrecht commissioned master builder Arnold von Westfalen to build the castle to be a sign of power and wealth. He succeeded and also set European standards, a trendsetter in terms of architecture, vaulting, window and staircase design, among other things.selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_04The castle was built between 1472 and 1525 and is built in the late-Gothic style and was the first castle built solely as a residence. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_05selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_08The Prince’s Chapel was very beautiful and lavishly painted. It was designed with six pillars, each to represent an aspect of God’s faithfulness. The room has five pillars and a spot for the believer to stand, becoming the sixth pillar. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_07The ceilings are most amazing. Each room was painted differently; there was one room which wasn’t painted at all. It was quite stunning in it’s unpainted glory. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_09Meissen porcelain was made inside this castle for 150 years, established in 1710 by King Augustus II the Strong; however, the production as making the castle literally fall apart, so the factory was moved to it’s own location in downtown Meissen in 1863. selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_10 selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_11Even the walls in each room are painted with it’s own unique decoration. The windows were all made in either a diamond or circle cutouts. This was done so if a window broke only the broken pieces had to be replaced, not the whole window! selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_12The spiral staircase was one of my favorite features of the castle. This is the top of the stairs; and almost to the bottom, where they curve out instead of in; and looking into the center of the spiral from the bottom of the stairs.selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_14“The Artist who does not conceive of a staircase as something fantastic is not an artist.”
– Gio Ponti selah_candace_rose_MeissenBurb_13Here is a link to watch a quick video about the castle.

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{N.E.C.} Hello, Royalty

When I first met them, N was three, E was two, and C was 6 months. C hung around on the floor, playing with toys and giggling at silly things his sisters did. N and E were busy getting to know their new babysitter and we maybe had a bit of a rough start, since it was really right after Christmas things started full steam. I would expect that! But as we got to know each other better, these were the greatest little girls to hang out with! We had fun coloring, telling stories, singing, going to the park (even in the snow), playing in the snow, reading books and all sorts of other things.

One past time that we did almost daily, and could take several hours, was making up “‘cary zoo ‘tories”. The main characters were Trainer Nora and Trainer Eliza, daughters of King Daddy and Queen Mommy. They protected the zoo animals (and the whole kingdom of the Land of Far Far Away!) from all the evil people who came to steal, kill and destroy. A few times we used all their building blocks and toy people to make castles with kings and queens and zoos. Then they would be destroyed by the bad guy (usually the Batman) and we would start over.

1NEC1When the Queen was chosen, E held her up and said, ‘Awww. She doesn’t have a hand. It was bit off.”1NEC2

PS – please don’t judge the names! The first time I told the story, I had no idea they would be so popular…