This morning, nine sleepy girls woke up in the same room in a charming hostel in Krakow. Sharing a bathroom with the other hostel residents was an interesting experience, but we made it successfully to the breakfast room. After a typical Polish breakfast (deli meat and cheese sandwiches) we headed to Old Krakow for a walking tour.
Ella was our tour guide. She trotted ahead of the group holding aloft a large red umbrella. We could remember her name, she said, by thinking, “Umbrella Ella.” She told us the history – and the legends – surrounding the city of Krakow. We listened to the beautiful song of the trumpeter that plays every hour, in the top of St. Mary’s cathedral. During Nazi rule in World War II, much of Poland’s majestic architecture was covered over with grey plaster. After the war, the people of Poland worked hard to restore the Krakow town square. The result is a gorgeous display of European architecture. Street musicians waft their melodies over the crowds strolling through the square. Old Krakow has the most amazing ambiance.
Also, dragons! There are many dragon sculptures in Krakow. Legend has it that the people were afraid of both dragons and devils. They reasoned that dragons and devils would also be afraid of each other, hence the dragon heads scowling all over the city.
Another dragon legend tells of a dragon that ate the sheep of Krakow. After eating all the sheep, it started eating the young women. Finally, the last young woman left was the King’s daughter. In desperation, the king promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to whoever could kill the dragon. Many knights attempted and lost their lives to the dragon’s fiery breath. Then a poor shoe maker had an idea. He created a fake sheep, full of poison, and set it right outside the dragon’s lair. The dragon was poisoned, the people were saved, and the poor man got the princess.
After touring Krakow, most of us got on the bus for Auschwitz. Touring a concentration camp is a sobering experience. There were piles of clothes, brushes, and dishes stolen from the prisoners. We saw the gas chambers where thousands of people lost their lives – evil at its worst. I kept thinking of a phrase from one of our chorus songs:
We seek Thy peace….
Til that dawn breaks, and earth’s dark shadows flee.
O God of peace and love, grant us thy peace.
Evil is terrible. Yet God is greater, bringing hope and redemption to everything, even Auschwitz. I am thankful that He’s given us this chance to join Him in His work of bringing peace to Poland.
Written by Rhoda Martin