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
Today began with a scrumptious breakfast ranging from mini crepes and scrambled eggs to various delightful meats and cheeses in our hotel in Zamość.
Because of the limits to our bus driver’s driving schedule, various men from the church collected us at our hotel and whisked us off to the local evangelical church.
This week was the beginning of a week-long Bible camp for them and we were privileged to participate in their morning service in a large tent. We enjoyed interacting with them afterwards over bigos, cakes, and kielbasa. Plenty of children kept us entertained as well.
After driving to Kolbuszowa, we unfolded ourselves from the warmth of our under air-conditioned bus and proceeded to rehearse and prepare in the town’s culture center. Though the town is wary of evangelical Christians, the concert was well attended and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The director of the center was delighted to host us and even posed with us for a photo afterwards. We were then treated to a royal spread of artistic sandwiches and an array of cakes and desserts. It was satisfying and fulfilling.
This was definitely the best program so far because of several factors. The American host pastor gave us a brief history of his work and vision in this town. The development of an evangelical presence in this town really has been an act of God. It was encouraging to see their depth of commitment and burden for the people. Also, the tuning and musicality of several of the pieces really came together. And, our audience really engaged with the pieces and there was good communication.
I asked various members of the choir to describe the concerts and events today in one word.
Antsy (an ant appeared on the conductor’s page)
Written by David Miller
This song is a wheel in a bus,
On a highway in eastern Poland-
A bus with a full load of high hopes.
For high notes
Of high musical art,
The full voices of thirty-five full hearts.
This is the wheel that turns round-
The bus that pulls to a stop-
The song we sing,
The program we finish in spite of a few missed entrances,
and unexpected avant-garde harmonies.
This was the first day,
This is the first night-
Was it good?
It was good.
This was the first day of tour,
of somebody’s – tour de force
Was it good?
This is God’s house
Slava v vuishnikh Bogu
This is God’s house
ina zemli mir
In which it pleases Him to dwell:
v chelovetsekh blagovoleuiye.
By Christopher Good