Vienna and Krakow, Part 10.

Okay, we covered the depressing. Back to the positive things humanity has contributed to history.

But first! A doorframe. I saw a Baroque doorframe with angry… weasels? Lizards? Dog griffons? I couldn’t tell. Thankfully, the club made their logo a line drawing of the guardian beasties so that mystery was solved right quick. Thank you, Klub Pod Jaszczurant.

This was our heated towel rack. I developed a deep and powerful relationship with this towel rack. I would come back from sightseeing frosty with crisp extremities and drape myself on this towel rack. I think the towel rack and I are married in some villages, so intimate was our contact.

In one of the churches I visited I saw a ceiling motif of the ten commandments. Now I’ve always seen them split even in two, five on one side and five on the other. Here it was the first three on one side and seven on the other, which I found odd. I asked my dad why they did that and he said the first three commandments deal with your relationship with God, where the remaining seven deal with your relationship with your fellow man. Ergo, the uneven split. Knowledge!

So if you remember I mentioned that when a building needed repair in Krakow they repaired it in whatever style was popular at the time of the repair, not the style that was popular at the time of the building’s creation. This worked out well for me because one whole church interior was fixed and painted in the Art Nouveau style which is my favorite artistic movement.

The windows were stained glass in the Art Nouveau style but they weren’t very good so I didn’t hurt myself trying to take pictures of them. The church was very dark and the windows were very bright and my camera was like, “What… precisely… are we going for here” so I didn’t fuss with the windows.

Before WWII Krakow had a ton of Jews. Now it’s got about 200 permanent resident Jews but approximately 700,000 Jews visit Krakow every year so the former Jewish district has been turned into a sort of cultural center with restaurants and museums relating to the community that used to live there.

Most of the buildings are around a small town square. This was the oldest remaining building from 1300-something.

Here’s the school off to the side. I like brickwork and am a sucker for a good brick building. Mock me if you must, I will find solace in my bricks.

Here’s a bit of Roman wall. The Jews were sent outside the city limits at one time and it’s cool to see where the city limits used to be.

This was the butchers market. In the center of this octagonal building is where the actual kosher killing happened and then the stalls where you would buy the meat. Now there’s a vintage and second-hand market there on certain days in the stalls.

The Old Synagogue (so named because it’s from the Renaissance) is now a museum. It has a really lovely clean interior with several original elements remaining.

The main thing I took away from visiting this museum (which I recommend, it’s small but excellent) is that Jews loooooove lions on their religious objects and, bless their hearts, they cannot make a decent lion for all the money in the world. There was these ones:

And this:

And these cheerful failures:

And my personal favorites from the 1700s that I call “If I’m going to get lions wrong I’m going to get them epically wrong.”

Brief moment of grimness (listen, it’s Europe, it’s Jews, things are going to get crappy, it’s unavoidable). We walked through the former ghetto. This was the SS office in the center of the square.

After the ghetto was liquidated and everyone in it was sent to concentration camps, the Nazis threw all the furniture in their apartments out of the windows and the square filled up with furniture. So as a memorial the square is filled with bronze chairs. Some believe it represents all the furniture that was thrown out. Some say they are waiting for their owners to come back (spoiler alert: it never happens). It’s a very impactful memorial.

We also went to the Remu Synagogue. From Wikipedia:

The Remah Synagogue, is named after Rabbi Moses Isserles c.1525–1572, known by the Hebrew acronym ReMA (pronounced ReMU) who’s famed for writing a collection of commentaries and additions that complement Rabbi Yosef Karo’s Shulchan Aruch, with Ashkenazi traditions and customs.

I was interested in going there because I heard a story (remember, we’re in Krakow where there are no myths and fables, only TRUTHS and FACTS) that Rabbi Moses Isserles wrote a book that was very important and then he buried it in the backyard where a tree grew out of the book. Then when Rabbi Isserles died he was buried under that tree as well. When people tried to dig him up to move his body to a better cemetery the tree smacked the crap out them with its branches (“No move body! I smack!”) and when bombs were dropping the tree bent over and protected the body from damage. I love that this rabbi is protected by something that is half Whomping Willow from Harry Potter and half Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. I wanted to see the tree and wandering around an old cemetery is always on my list.

 

Headstones had lion fails as well. This one looked like Courage the Cowardly Dog screaming.

Someone had taken the broken headstones and embedded them on the back wall.

The interior of the actual synagogue was very small and cute.

And it took me a while to figure out why there was a lobster on the ceiling because, hello? Sooooo not kosher? But apparently there were the signs of the zodiac around the perimeter of the room (which still makes very little sense because isn’t that Greek mythology, whatever).

Next entry: The Salt Mine! With the Salt Church! And that’s the end of the trip.

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