Poland Day Seven- Friday April 14: Krakow To Czestochowa. A Very Emotional Visit to the Black Madonna, Queen Of Poland.
I finally had some time to post some thoughts and photographs from my trip here in Poland. I can’t believe it is almost a week now. A week of pure joy and wonder , visiting the homeland of my paternal grandparents. And it was a very special day for me today , some of which I will share with you.
It began in Krakow, the Golden City, this morning , whose cobblestone streets I have already come to know and love. It was cold again, 41 degrees, with a light rain when I began my early walk. I walked the mostly empty streets to the magnificent town square, one of the largest in medieval Europe. It is dominated by the towering steeples of St Mary’s which have already became so familiar to me. There will be more on it’s history in a later post.
The streets were now deserted and the shops closed, but this place bustles with life throughout the day and evening. Music, talking in many languages and laughing add to the hospitable atmosphere of the square and city.
This street also was quiet at this early hour, but it is lined with restaurants, business and small shops selling all sorts of merchandise including many Polish arts and crafts, and is very busy throughout the day.
Also located on it’s old cobblestone streets are two of the cities two hundred beautiful and historic churches, St Peter and Paul , and pictured here , St Andrew’s one of the oldest churches in the city. These very walls protected many of the inhabitants of the city from a Tatar invasion almost a thousand years ago.
Grodzka runs right into the protective walls of Wawel Castle, which sits atop the city and over the scenic Vistula River. I have visited this castle a number of times and there will be more pictures and posts about it’s history. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike to the castle this morning. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Seven-Krakow-morning-walk-to-Wawel-Castle-Friday-April-14-2017-
I followed it up to the remains of the cities old fortifications the Barbican and Florian Gate. These massive walls once surrounded the entire city, now the ‘Old town” where I stayed during my visit. There will be more thoughts and photographs about this area it’s amazing history in some later blogs post.
I could have walked for hours, but my bus to Czestochowa, the next stop on my adventure in Poland, left at 10:10 a.m so I had to head to the hotel for breakfast and to finish packing. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk along the planty https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Seven-Krakow-planty-walk-April-14-2017-
I arrived at the bus station, and knowing the routine from my trip to Zakopane, was concerned when there was no bus at G6. Unfortunately English is not a second language in Poland and few people outside of the tourists areas speak English. It was only after a considerable effort, and, thankfully a young woman who knew some English, that I discovered I was in the right place but the that bus was delayed.
I enjoy riding the public buses in Poland, They are clean and usually punctual. I learned my bus was coming from Zakopane and maybe more snow may have caused the short delay. We were off at 10:14 and soon made our way out of busy Krakow into the beautiful Polish countryside.
We now rode north and trough more rural parts of Poland, the rolling hills and farms reminding me so much of my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. So many birch and aspen trees grew on the hills, I knew that there had to me many wild mushrooms growing in the fall. As some of you many know from following my social media posts, I love wild mushrooms and have had eaten many a mushroom dish while here in Poland.
It was about a very pleasant 2 1/2 hour drive to Czestochowa and I was surprised of the size of the city, and the extent of the industry as we approached it’s outskirts, More on that in a later post, but I made it to the station where I found a kindly old taxi driver to drive me to the Mercure Hotel. He spoke no English but I gathered he spoke German and was proud of it. He kept repeating some German phrases hoping I would know what he was saying. Although we didn’t share a language, we still communicated as much as we needed. It was one of so many such wonderful exchanges of basic human goodness. Here is a link to some more photographs from my bus ride to Czestochowa. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Seven-Krakow-to-Czestochowa-bus-trip-Friday-April-14-2017-
Having arrived at my hotel, I soon learned there was no laundry service, which I so badly needed, and there was no money exchange, because of the Holy days., It was Good Friday and Poland is still a very devout Nation.
My hotel was right across the street from the impressive Paulite Monastery of Jasna Gora, It is famous to Polish of the Catholic faith all over the world for it’s Chapel of Our Lady, the home of the revered Black Madonna. So much history about this portrait, and how many believe Her protection saved Poland on many occasions over the one thousand years since She arrived here. Legend has it the portrait was painted in the home of the Holy family by St Luke.
I do know this, my dad was one of those devout Polish people. So were as were his parents who immigrated to the United States early last century bringing their deep faith with them. My father, was especially devoted to Our Lady Of Czestochowa, having told me and my siblings She saved his life during World War II and that none of us would be here without her Protection. Her image has been one of my earliest memories. I just learned recently from my mother, that my dad took her, on one of their first dates, to the Shrine devoted to Her in Doylestown Pennsylvania when it was still housed in an old barn. I remember so fondly the visits our family would make to that Shrine. My dad always wanted to come to Poland. He never had the opportunity. We lost him three years ago, He was my best friend and the most loving man I knew.
I made my way up to the massive monastery on the hill, and finding the chapel, I can only say it was one of the most moving experiences I had during my journey on this Earth. The Chapel itself is so awe inspiring as the walls are decorated with crutches, rosaries and other objects left behind by devoted visitors over the centuries. And when I saw the image of the portrait of the Black Madonna, so much a part of my dad’s and his families life, what a special moment to me. I spent some time reflecting on his life and my life in Her presence. My dad was with me. I know that. No more need be said of this very emotional experience.
I left the monastery and it’s beautiful grounds and decided to explore a bit of the town of Czestochowa. As I said, it was much larger than the little farm town I expected. I made my way down the large newly build avenue that begins across from the Monastery.
I stopped in this beautiful church on the square and spent some time listening to a Good Friday service in the beautiful Polish language, recalling a few words from when I first heard them in the Polish language services I attended as a young child.
My tour book states , that, other than the monastery, there is little else to see or do in this town. I found them to be so wrong and look forward to exploring it’s many wonderful streets and parks these next three days, and I hope to share my thoughts and photographs with all of you. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk through the streets of Czestochowa. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Seven-Czestochowa-afternoon-hike-Friday-April-14-2017-
“Sacred places are not empty vessels and people coming to them continue to build on what’s already present and layered in the landscape, culture or activities of the place.”
~Adrian J. Ivakhiv