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DJ & SJ

DJ & SJ

United Kingdom

we are a couple.

Apr172011

Tour/Activity

Traces of Jewish Culture from Krakow

Krakow, Poland

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

We sat to the side of the altar in this picture, on the 17th April. Our tour guide told us the meaning of the curtain, the inscriptions and all the details in this, one of the few remaining Jewish Synagogues in Krakow still in full use. Men in their little skullcaps came in, bowed to the Altar, and left quietly, whilst our Tour was in progress - leaving me at least feeling like we were intruding. The "cage" is where the Tora is read, a most sacred part of the building. Tora of course being the Jewish bible, from the first 5 parts of the Old Testament known to Christians, only. We found it fascinating to learn about putting stones on the graves in Jewish burials/cemetries and when we were taken to one, I put some small stones on a large grave stone, to mark my "Respect" - stones and rocks prevent animals and birds digging up the body, and in the desert where there are no flowers available anyway, a stone was used to signify "Respect". In Schindler's List at the end, the survivors and the actors are seen placing little stones around the name of Oskar Schindler. Now we understand.

Apr162011

Tour/Activity

Zakopane and Tatras Mountains Day Tour from Krakow

Krakow, Poland

My Rating
2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better

My Review

A long and bumpy journey over poorly maintained roads in a tiny, hot bus full of all Nationalities ended with an astounding view from the top of the hillside. We went up in the fenicular railway - walked about in melting snow and ice, were shown the Tatras from a very long way off - the downhill and slalom areas, and the ski jump platform etc, but from that distance it was hard to even focus your eyes and we were quite disappointed that we were not actually going anywhere near the Tatras Mountains. We eventually "saw" the Sleeping Giant, clad in deep snow when the clouds lifted, but for my part, it was the hot meal and decent coffee in the restaurant log cabin, at the top which made the trip even remotely bearable let alone "interesting" (the others left us there and went to see some "church" or other at the bottom, and to shop in the market stalls). We had to wait over 2 hours for the others and the Tour Guide, in an over-heated bus, with the driver asleep at his wheel equally bored to death - and then endure over 2 hours on poor roads back again. Sadly, not what we were led to believe would be experienced but the lovely houses with their Alpine appeal and detailed wood carvings on the veranda railings which actually "made" the day for us. We love all kinds of scenery, and this trip offered us that, as a kind of apology for the lack of anything of substance on the hills. Zakopane is just a little village nestling in the hillside, with few animals visible, just trees, fields and houses as they are mostly self-sufficiency small holdings. This we found more interesting than stalls with Tourist tat!

Apr152011

Tour/Activity

Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum Half-Day Trip from Krakow

Krakow, Poland

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

What is published on the website and in other resources does not prepare you at all for the physical shock of Birkenau Museum. Be warned! We all think we "know" what went on in these sad places, but even hard-hearted men were seen to wipe their eyes at the actual, very real, physical evidence of it and it's atrocities. I won't spoil it for you, but do please take a full box of kleenex with you and steel your soul. This place wreakes of pain, misery and loss - and you will leave it somewhat different, more knowledgeable but hurt to your core by the pure brutality and futility of those who went in and never came out. Of course, thanks to people like Schindler, some actually did survive Auschwitz, but none survived Birkenau. As you will see for yourself. God Forgive the Nazis, and God Bless those whose lives were obliterated senselessly and cruelly, and those who survived them, to suffer decades of agony and grief.

Apr142011

Tour/Activity

Krakow in One Day Sightseeing Tour

Krakow, Poland

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

So glad we booked this on my birthday (SJ) and not Auschwitz/Birkenau. I don't think I could have survived being 60 on such a day in such a place. This trip was most interesting, informative and well executed. The English-Speaking guide was attentive, but walked much too fast in parts for our poor legs to keep up, and she had to stop and wait for us on several occasions. Otherwise, walking and steps apart, the Wawel Castle (vavval) and Church, with the wonderful Art work, and decor, the furniture, etc were equal in comparison to Konopiste Castle in Czech Republic last year, and better preserved than the Czesky Crumlov in Czech Republic last ear.
All told, the tour showed us parts of the town, the Main Market Square, explained about the Kazimierz district, and King Kazimierz etc, and the division he instigated between the Jews and the Gentiles - the wall, the remains of the old wall - all explained well, in detail, but for me, (SJ) going back to the 1100's is of no real interest. I want to EXPERIENCE a country and it's current culture, not it's antiquities. However that is not what we are offered wherever we go. It is always Centuries old news, and dates and History do nothing for me. Reality does, and the graffiti in the Jewish area shows a lack of respect for the 200 Jews left out of what was once (1941-43) 70000 souls. THAT is tragic!

Dec172010

Tour/Activity

Imperial Rome Afternoon Tour

Rome, Italy

My Rating
3 star rating: Worth doing

My Review

We went in December. Snow had stopped the trains running across Britain so we were forced to fly BA from Heathrow. This trip was on the 2nd-last day in Rome. We had gotten off lightly with the weather until Friday, when snow began falling, and overnight ice had formed everywhere. Stalegtites (?) were on the Mermaid Fountain, and solid ice covered the whole thing. It was freezing!!! We seemed to be the only ones prepared for WEATHER, with our waterproof footwear and over-trousers, and double fleece inner jackets, outer breatheable waterprooof coats and gloves....others were struggling to walk on the treacherously icy and slippery surfaces around us; Rome's advance weather forecast said "showers", it did not mention ICE AND SNOW. So be prepared for ANYTHING, including blinding winter sun glaring off all surfaces. We got inside the Collisium, but not the Parthenon as the guide told us it was too dangerous and was just a shell.
In better weather, it might have done more for the senses. Hard to concentrate on Roman History, and Romance when you are trying not to go "ass over elbow" on the walkways and steps...

Dec162010

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Tour

Rome, Italy

My Rating
3 star rating: Worth doing

My Review

Well, since finally getting home safe, and on Xmas Eve to be precise, we watched the film Angels and Demons again. Having SEEN these places for real, the film had a new impact on us. "we know THAT" we yelled like kids in the Saturday pictures..." we KNOW that"
Yes we know it now.
What did we see? well the guide ripped us through the best bit, to get to the Sistine Chapel which is over-rated in my personal view. Much more interesting, awe-inspiring and beautiful, let alone SKILLFULLY DONE, is the Tapestry Gallery, which leads towards the Sistine Chapel. If you got the chance to go without a tour guide on a strictly scripted and very limited language ability descriptive, do so.
Go see the Tapestry Gallery for yourself, at your own pace. The Sistine Chapel has these men who run around "shusshing! everyone. You are not permitted to photograph, or speak whilst in there (??) They take your money, encourage people to be tourists in the Papal See/Vatican City, yet don't allow you to talk in the so-called premier attraction. For me, it was just a large room, divided in two by a sort of wooden structrure, with Frescos on all surfaces. Albeit, by someone famous, but the Tapestry Gallery was by far, more awesome and memorable in my eyes. I'm not Catholic, but I surely appreciated the craftsmanship of those tapestries and the fresco paintings in that gallery. The guide agreed they LOOKED like carved images, but in fact, they are painted in 3D...that, for me, was the highlight of the entire week in Rome!!

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