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Wednesday 22 Jul
Krakow, Poland

Kraków

I managed to arrive in Krakow and co-ordinate meetings with two different people without anything being too chaotic. In the process I was introduced to the exciting world of Polish self-service restaurants, an education which was to serve me well in days to come.

Krakow is reputed to be a really interesting city. For example, it has a surprising number of quality buskers, and random interesting bars which are not contrived or touristy. Zoë and I were maybe a little bit too cool to fully appreciate this. For some reason we were wallowing in the sense of self-assurance which comes from having travelled for long enough to not feel even a remote sense of loss when sneaking out and avoiding a party in the hostel which involved shots which tasted exactly like cough medicine. (The hostel girls were terribly disappointed with us, but this was mainly dealt with by Zoë, because I had temporarily receded into my ever-so-convenient role of the slightly gruff person who doesn't make lots of effort to make conversation with every group of drunken Danish youths who enter the hostel (for some reason, there were two such groups on that day)).

While I'm on the topic of events in this hostel, I can't avoid a (potentially uncharitable) description of the really weird polish guy who was staying there (and by staying, I mean by most accounts he only left the building for about 30 minutes per day). The most information that anyone got out of him was that he was from Krakow and that he had "professional problems". Generally, he would sit with his legs crossed in some anatomically unreasonable way, staring (with bushy, pointy eyebrows) at anyone who was around. He only spoke to ask people with great concern whether they were leaving the hostel, or to assure us that he himself was not leaving. This went on for the whole time we were there, and it was weird enough to make me a little bit glad to be leaving the place.

 

Anyway, the serious side of visiting Krakow is, of course, Auchwitz. This recalls memories of Cambodia, where I was wondering why anyone would want to visit such depressing places. Well, Auchwitz is both more and less depressing than things I saw in Phnom Penh. The important thing is that it's not as important! I can't avoid concluding that this particular bit of history has been quite thoroughly addressed, and quite a lot of reconciliation and lesson-learning has taken place.

The irony, if I dare to think about it, is that some people are still suffering today, in a way which is in some part a result of what happened here, but they are a long way away and had nothing to do with it. There is a saying after all that violence breeds violence.

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Kraków
22 Jul | Krakow, Poland

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