Kraków, Poland

As their historical readings for 4th grade, Sean, Carter, and Ammon had been reading multiple books from the Holocaust: The Hiding Place, Irina’s Children & Anne Frank. Sean had read Schindler’s List by himself then he paraphrased / abridged, then taught Ammon and Carter some events that had happened with Jews and the Polish people in Krakow, Poland. Shindler’s Factory is almost 2 miles from downtown Krakow. By the time we finished the logistics of our Polish Summer, we knew we wanted to spend the most of our time in Krakow. We also decided to save Krakow for the end of our Caylor-Brown Polish Experience 2019. It was not just the engaging history and charming Polish architecture we were looking forward to in Krakow, but the geographic region is very much like Southeast Tennessee too: rolling hills, low-lying mountains, and lots of summer-green.

The 21st Century high-tech Polish passenger trained had taken 4 hours to get from Gdansk to Krakow. We had been anticipating Krakow for 2 weeks. The greenery of the Polish fields and the demure mountains of southern Poland pulled us like a magnet into the Krakow-Glowny Railway Station.

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One of those adventurous, engaging European train rides from Gdansk to Krakow- July 3, 2019

By taxi, we found our wonderful apartment (full apartment – huge Great Room -living room/dining area/kitchen , hallway, bathroom w/clothes washer, and huge bedroom … like $75/night). The Caylor-Browns were neither disappointed with the apartment nor the city of Krakow.

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You can tell by the size of the full kitchen kitchen how large the apartment is.

Milk Bar (s)– large cities in Poland have popular restaurants called Milk Bars. It’s cafeteria style and sells the same foods (perhaps a SLIGHT CHANGE of menu taking out some breakfast foods around noonish) all day long starting at 8 AM. If you find yourself at a Milk Bar in Poland be ready for lots of potatoes, beets, peas & carrots

I think we ate here at least once a day for 7 days.. well, almost. My most memorable moment was when, I think, a native Krakow couple was eating at this Milk Bar. The mentally disabled gentleman of the couple walked up to our table, grabbed a fork, and ate my remaining potatoes from off my plate!

The City of Krakow (associate the paragraph with the below photos)

I am really looking forward to returning to the St. Mary’s Basilica. It has been my favorite building of worship in Europe since I started traveling in 1984. I’ve only felt this spiritual connection one other time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, but I was only there for an hour. I was in Krakow for a week. Each morning after my morning jog (finishing up around gulp!….. 6:30 AM!! Sunrise was about 5AM), I entered the basilica, knelt, and prayed. They weren’t just rote-memorized prayers, but Spirit-lead… everything from my family, to distant friends, to the Polish people, to world peace, to Milk Bars! LOL I really felt a spiritual connection while in the basilica. Wawel Castle is on a hill overlooking the Vistula River. The castle (begun sometime around 1038) sits over rock caverns one of which was the home of the legendary Wawel Dragon. The bronze, fire-breathing dragon is a leviathan of enjoyment. It breathes fire about every 5-10 minutes.

 
 

There was a lot to do in Krakow proper, but I want to venture to some nearby attractions with you all: The Wieliczka Salt Mines and the Oskar Schindler Factory (Krakow Museum). The salt mine has 26 subterranean caverns. One of which is a chapel to worship. All the walls and sculptures in the salt mine are made of salt. If you go to Krakow for any length of time, you must take a tour of this mine: Well worth the money.

Huge Chapel in salt mine

From 1939 to 1944 Oskar Schindler, an official member of the Nazi Party, had an enamel factory in Krakow. Between the Krakow Ghetto ( walking distance to the Factory) and the Plaszow Work Camp, Mr. Schindler saved 1,200 Jews from extermination. In 1962, he was declared a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official agency for remembering the Holocaust. According to his wishes, he was buried on Mt. Zion , Jerusalem. Thanks be to God for such human beings as Oskar Schindler.

Schindler’s Desk & Schindler’s Secretary’s Desk . One of only 2 preserved 1940 rooms of the museum.
 

Two more things:

Nazis topple Krakow/Polish History

1) There is an underground museum in the Market Square. It commemorates Middle Ages Krakow. We were not allowed to take photos, so I will allow Trip Advisor to give you all a tour. 

2) Several countries, Russia, Austria, and Germany (Nazis) have tried to erase Poland from the world: Literally. When people do this, they eradicate art (sculptures, STATUES), literature, music, and language. They wish to ERASE your identity …. your heritage. While we were at the Schindler Museum I took a photo of a photo where Nazis were toppling a provincial / national Polish statue attempting to erase history. Folks, since the dawn of civilization, groups have done unnecessary sometimes horrific atrocities. No person, city, state, nation, or empire is blameless. That doesn’t mean we erase the art, literature, and heritage from the past. We simply need not repeat man’s inhumanity to man. 

I hope you have enjoyed this Krakow blog. If you happen to be following chronologically, you are approaching my final blog of Poland. It will be a blog covering our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. As I write the final words of this blog, I am already very emotional in my soul with its preparation. I am praying that I will do the experience of Auschwitz justice and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Berlin, Germany Summer 2019

In 2012, I honestly thought it was the warm weather and hundreds of extra tourists that made the Germans edgy: There are other turbulent currents under the sea of migratory change in Germany. Two disturbing interruptions that did not happen to us was that 1) One afternoon near the Hard Rock Cafe, a Jewish man was was kicked out of a supermarket while we were standing in line to check out groceries and 2) there was a group of Palestinians near Alexanderplatz marching in protest and chanting stuff against Israel one Friday afternoon.

The pleasant photos you will view were the onset of our arrival and the celebratory feeling of returning to Europe on Friday June 21. Three weeks later we returned to the Berlin travel hub to fly back to the United States after a wonderful and engaging Central European vacation. On Tuesday July 9 around 10 AM, Berlin Train Nazis entered the train we were on, violated us, and made us pay 120 Euros for not having inner-city train tickets. We asked the “train police” to escort us off the train and help us buy a ticket. They refused! They told us they would call the police and turn us in at the Train Station stop. Carter and Ammon were SCARED TO DEATH especially after studying then visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and seeing what Germans did to Europeans nearly 100 years ago. The train Nazis first told us that it was 60 Euros each (240) we did not have that much! We did not have a ticket because no one else bought a ticket all morning on neither the bus nor the train. We asked them to 1) Please escort us to an ATM, or 2) Escort us to the Ticket kiosk and explain what we needed to do. “No, it’s either 120 Euros for you two adults or we call the police!”  Earlier in the morning we had tried to read the kiosk, and it was very confusing. Three weeks earlier we had walked everywhere without the train/bus system. Thanks be to God, combined, Sean and I had EXACTLY 120 Euros!!  We will not travel to Germany again until certain political tides have turned. The whole time in Berlin we felt oppressed and troubled spiritually… much like foreign travelers felt traveling in Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s. The German authority figures are bullies using “terrorist tactics” (we are calling the police, they said) to manhandle their citizens and foreign travelers. If we feel the need to engulf ourselves in the awesome German language, my family and I will travel to Switzerland or Austria for a while.

So, we finally “shook off” the scare of the Berlin police imprisoning Daddy H and Daddy S (what would have happened to Carter & Ammon!!), finished the day, and prepared to go home. The following day at the Berlin , Tegel, Airport was horrific. We were there 2 hours ahead of time, but there was AWFUL and EXTENDED bag check in and security check lines.

As soon as we stepped up to the passport counter Sean and I were targeted. The “gentleman” scowled at us. Hours before, all our liquids had been placed in zip-bags and the beverage bottles had been thrown away. All my pockets had been cleaned out and the items placed in my backpack, but at one point in the security line Sean had asked me about the taxi receipt we had just gotten from our ride from the Novotel Tiergarten to the airport. I took the wallet out of my backpack and read the time we had arrived at the airport.  In haste and out of habit, I placed my wallet back in my pants pocket. So, in the security line, I went last in our family of four. Sean had gone through the bag search with Carter, and I had helped Ammon who went into a panic when she thought she might have food in her backpack. The little, middle-aged, militant (short haircut and uniform) security lady said in English with her militant, German accent, “Any food?” “No, I hope not”, I said in an exasperated tone. “Anything in your pockets. Everything out of your pockets!” My verbal reaction was “No!” She looked at my pocket and saw my wallet that I had absentmindedly placed back in my front pocket. In an elevated voice she repeated, “Everything out of your pockets!”, I was more mad at myself than her. With a look of disgust, I took out my wallet and tossed it in the bin. THAT WAS IT for the little security Nazi. She immediately lifted her hand to a female protégée on the other side of the X-ray machine, and I knew I was “in for it” … As I walked through the metal detector (stripped of everything metal and had CLEANLY passed through ALL the airports from Atlanta to Berlin, to Budapest, to Krakow) I began walking to the protégée, and I did, indeed, beep. The male security man began man-handling me. I did not know that they had done the exact thing to Sean who had also “argued about some food”. Carter went to the woman and said, “I would like to complain that you all are searching my dads’ private parts, and that isn’t right.” Another Nazi lady said, “This is the security check. We can!” …. It was awful, folks.

We will not be returning to Germany for a while. HOWEVER, I did want to share these photos from our pleasant days.

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Brandenburg Gate (Happy Beginnings June 21, 2019: The dark cloud of the day was a Palestinian parade near Alexanderplatz shouting about racist Jews )

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Ruins of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie.

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The Berlin Cathedral.

Train Whistles & Granddaddy Alexander

Train Whistles & Granddaddy Alexander

(Like Wikipedia, I welcome people to add names & pics… I will add things as I find them).

Update: October 21, 2020

I finally found my photo of Granddaddy Alexander’s 1914 Southern Railway Engine. The photo’s date is stamped July 22, 1914.

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(Thanks, TVA for the pic.. this is a restored, 1904 engine that ran on Southern Railway!) 

William Oliver Alexander : May 15, 1875 – June 29, 1935. Southern Railroad Locomotive Engineer.

Friday evening September 28, 2018 location = Collegedale, Tennessee, Collegedale Greenway 

I was jogging beside the railroad track headed toward’s Collegdale’s Southern University, and I heard a train coming: Sometimes it’s a BNSF train, and sometimes it’s a Norfolk Southern train. Traveling at about 35-40 MPH a Norfolk Southern diesel locomotive comes barreling into the clear. I smiled, kept jogging, and I waved. Of course, trains blow their whistles at the crossings, and the engineer had just passed the College Station Crossing. I had no idea if my waves would illicit a friendly blow, but THEY DID …. “Toot, Toot…. toot ,  toooooot”: I smiled from ear to ear and continued jogging. Granddaddy Alexander whom I never met (he died 31 years before I was born) immediately came to mind…. However….

Join me  the summer of 1988.

My dear friend of  mine, Loraine Morgan Hammontree (February 2, 1913- May 13, 1989) , and I had been cultivating our awesome, Varnell friendship, and she had said, “Uh, Haven, would you like to visit my sister (Ralph Morgan, I’m tracking you down for her name! LOL) in Dalton. She can tell us some stuff about Varnell from our childhood.”  Loraine’s sister was several years older than Loraine and she couldn’t drive, and neither could Loraine who had heart failure. I rearranged some of my busy, summer schedule (I was in town for the weekend from Lipscomb University Summer Semester where I was just about to finish my last year) , and we drove to Dalton. Loraine’s, sister was so hospitable and so sweet, and charming. I fell in love with her lovely demeanor immediately.

Loraine: Haven, I was just a kid and I don’t remember, but my sister remembers living in the Alexander’s house in Varnell. (Turning to her sister) Tell Haven about living there and Mr. Alexander.  Mr. Alexander was Haven’s great-grandfather.

Loraine’s sister: (With a huge smile). I didn’t know that! Let me tell you.  You know , Mr. Alexander had a fixed schedule, and we always kind of knew he was coming. He would begin tooting the whistle as he entered Varnell, and we would run down to the track. The train went right in front of the Alexander house, and he was going slow. Depending on what he had, he would toss it out to us kids. Sometimes, it was candy wrapped in sacks and sometimes it was bags of coal we needed for our coal-burning stove. It was like having Santa Claus!

Loraine: (Turning to me with a huge smile.) Yeah, just like Santa Claus, that’s just what I was thinking.

The visit was perfect, and I had spoken with someone who knew Granddaddy Alexander personally. I took Loraine home with a full heart and lots of joy.

Before I finish this Santa Claus tale of  Granddaddy Alexander, I ‘ve got to share one more thing (I could be dead tomorrow, and I want Carter & Ammon to know) LOL ….

Trains (Steam engines in the 1900s – 1930s) were steam engines and so different from the powerful diesels of today. The trains stopped at every “pig trail” in those days. Granddaddy Alexander’s route took him from Atlanta to Chattanooga. When stopping at the “pig trails”, boys from the local area would bring stuff (nuts, berries, live animals such as baby squirrels or baby opossums) to sell to him. He would buy whatever for a few pennies. On up the line, while stopping for water, coal, or passengers, he would let the animals go free. He sometimes would even take a baby squirrel or a baby opossum back to his house in Atlanta for Nanny, Madeline, and Florence to play with!  In a few weeks he would put them back in his pocket, take them to Inman Yard where his engine was then carry them back up towards Chattanooga where he would set them free.

Back to September 28, 2018-

As I turned around to face my jogging destination, I was overcome with emotion, and tears came unexpectedly into my eyes as I started sobbing  with happiness about Granddaddy Alexander as I trotted onward.

No one is ever perfect, but William Oliver Alexander was a good, caring human with a wonderful heart.  His girls (Mary Naomi Alexander Caylor, Gloria Madeline Alexander Kirk, and Florence L. Alexander Sheeley) adored him. Nanny always shared how he loved life, loved to joke, and loved nature.

With my memories and the wonderful avenue of the Internet and/or writing journals, I can keep Granddaddy Alexander and his story “alive”.

-Happy Saturday to all- Haven