Kyoto l Streets

Happy Sunday! Was looking through the photos taken on Day One in Kyoto last night. Looks like there will be a few more presses on them. Here’s the second one.

From Kiyomizudera Temple (read Kyoto l I wish I may, I wish I might) to Kodaji Temple (won’t be pressing about it – didn’t leave much of an impression on me), we walked through some of the prettiest streets in the Higashiyama District.

From Kiyomizudera Temple, we hit the street of Kiyomizu-Zaka first, then Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka towards Nene-no-Michi Lane. Didn’t planned to spend too much time here but time flies when you go in and out of the varied shops to check out the Kyoto food, confectionery, souvenir. Doesn’t help when Japanese stuff are such pretty sights.

Definitely a joy to explore. See them for yourself!

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Kyoto l I wish I may, I wish I might

I can’t believe that my last press was 10 months ago (wow!), about Kazimierz The Jewish Quarter which I visited last Autumn.  Been venturing nearer home after Eastern Europe – to Bangkok/Hua Hin in Jan, Kyoto/Osaka in Jul and recently Macau/Hong Kong in Sep.

Took a 6 months break (alas) from long vacation in between, no thanks to work. Still blogged, now and then, at my other blog Long Vacation but never really got back  into the groove to want to press. Till recently. Getting home earlier helps. Staying in on weekends helps. So here I am, ready to press about Kyoto/Osaka.

How I feel about Kyoto, of an ancient city home to so many UNESCO heritage sites is complicated. I like walking through old towns and into cathedrals in Europe. The centuries-old streets, temples and shrines in Kyoto left me feeling undecided. Maybe there will be greater clarity as I press, I hope. Sometimes, I find myself in words.

So at least 1 press per week (my promise to self). And it’s always easier to start with a picture gallery.  So here’s one of Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺 which translate to Pure Water Temple) in Kyoto – the first temple I visited in my first visit to Japan – where I discovered many wishes to be made!

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Kazimierz The Jewish Quarter

For many, Kazimierz probably came alive through the lens of Steven Spielberg and Schindler’s List.

For me, the Jewish Quarter came alive through the stories of the walking tour guide last September.

I felt a tinge of sadness in the district. Imagine the sadness that lingered back then when it was destroyed by the war.

Our walking tour took us from the Jewish Quarter to the Krakow Ghetto. Our first stop was the Old Synagogue. Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

Another Jewish house of prayer, Issac Synagogue, opposite the Jewish cemetery.  Most of the tombstones were destroyed during the war. Was interesting to learn that the tombstones had the occupations of the deceased engraved e.g. book for a teacher… Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

Plac Nowy, one of the main squares in Kazimierz. Such a stark contrast to the square in the Krakow Old Town.  Heard that there are many interesting pubs around this square. It looked quite scary in the day already so I guess the vibes would be quite exciting at night. Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

One of the filming locations in Schindler’s List. Now a restaurant.Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

Kazimierz Town Hall.Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

St. Catherine Church. Interesting to find churches in this district. The guide didn’t said much – not the focus of this walking tour, I reckoned.Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

Krakow Ghetto where the liquidation took place… a memorial to Jews on their deportation site… each steel chair represents 1,000 victims. According to the guide, the chairs faced a dispensary where a doctor would try to help the Jews – he kind of represent hope.Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

This was the second last stop of the walking tour which ended at Schindler’s Factory, now a museum. What I don’t like about walking tour is that we can’t really stop at stops longer or we would not be able to catch up with the group. So we had to explore the area as we traced our way back to the old town.

The Krakow Ghetto from the other side – we had to cross a bridge to get to the ghetto. The Jews were completely cut off from the rest during the war. Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

Glimpses of Kazimierz. Charming in its own ways. Simple architecture – probably a reflection of its Communist days…Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland

I posted this picture in Instagram (@ilovelongvacation) and this was what accompanied my post –  ”Happy New Year! Was surprised to see this graffiti in the Jewish Quarter in #Krakow #Poland where there were sad memories of the war. My take-away – life is really about moving forward and making better memories, forgiving and not forgetting when we look back at times. So no matter how last year had been for you, be happy (again)! #travel #throwback #Europe’

It was kind of hard to press about this. I don’t know why. It’s like I learnt so much about Kazimierz. But I guess I didn’t. I mean, how could I really know and understand how it was like then…

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Wawel Hill – do Zamku

I supposed ‘do Zamku’ means ‘to the Castle’ in Polish… So we did in Krakow in Poland. To me, what makes Wawel Royal Castle different from the castles in Scandinavia is the huge compound it resides on at the top of Wawel Hill. It’s like a self-sufficient town on its own! Thought we would be able to cover the grounds in 2 hours but it was not quite possible since we wanted to tour the royal private apartment as well as see the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece ‘Lady with an Ermine’.

#ilovelongvacationtraveltip! Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours to  enjoy Wawel Hill 🙂

The best panorama shot I managed to take of the castle… Really quite medieval and fairy-tale-like. A bit run-down. But I thought it was charmingly so…
Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

First glimpse of the castle from the bottom of the hill at the end of Wawel old town.
Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

A pretty walk up to enter the castle via Herbowa Gate… where we had to queue 30 minutes for tickets!Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

My sister and I decided to take turns to queue. A shot of the Cathedral on Wawel Hill when it was not my turn to queue. No photos allowed in the ‘katedra’ which also housed the Royal Tombs, Bell Sigismund, Cathedral Museum…Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

Shots of different parts of Wawel Hill starting with the Cathedral.Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

Arcaded Courtyard of the Castle which also houses the State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury and Armoury etc… ‘Lady with an Ermine’ is also housed here…Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

View of the Krakow city from the castle… Pretty European Town…Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

Ending with a shot of the Visitors Centre where we had lunch…By the way, I like Polish food! 🙂Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland

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Discover Cracow

Join us on my discovery of the medieval old town of Krakow in Poland as we went about our own walking tour using the map provided by the hotel 😛 Such a pretty walk down the Royal Road to the Wawel Castle (which I hope to press about soon).

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Auschwitz, Krakow

The truth is I have never really thought about visiting Krakow in Poland. To me, vacations are about visiting places that conjure happy images and well, Krakow was never in that bucket list.  I have caught glimpses of Schindler’s List and those were certainly not happy. But Auschwitz was in my sister’s bucket list. So we checked it off as part of our trip to that part of the world.

It was not as easy to get to Krakow from the other cities we wanted to visit. We set off from Berlin. The train journey including a transfer took us almost 10 hours to reach Krakow! 
Berlin Train Station Berlin Train Station

For most of the journey, we were sharing a cabin with 4 other people on their way to Warsaw. That was really the more interesting part of the journey – random chats with a Spanish couple, a Polish student and a Ukrainian professor –  as we were transported from Germany (top pictures of Berlin Train Station) to Poland (bottom pictures of a train station near Warsaw). Feel the contrast? Must add that Krakow Train Station is really modern to our surprise – will share pictures in another press 
Warsaw Train Station  Warsaw Train Station

The first place we visited in Krakow was Auschwitz I. It was quite easy to get there from Krakow Bus Station – a direct bus ride that took over an hour. The atmosphere at this concentration camp was rather solemn or so I felt.
Auschwitz I, Krakow, Poland  Auschwitz I, Krakow, Poland

We crossed the gate with the Nazi concentration camp motto – Arbeit macht frei  (Work brings freedom). Quite ironic because so many lost their freedom and life here… We followed a guide who took us to several buildings in this museum to learn about (and see some artifacts) about the Holocaust.  Had some sad takeaways… 
Auschwitz I, Krakow, Poland Auschwitz I, Krakow, Poland

A shuttle bus from Auschwitz I took us to Auschwitz-Birkenau. No guided tour was available so we explored the camp on our own. It was raining. It was a rather sad feeling.  
Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Krakow, Poland Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Krakow, Poland

Also felt very catastrophic when we visited the bunks, some of which were meant to be stables. I could not imagine the living conditions back then.Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Krakow, Poland Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Krakow, Poland

The main entrance where the inmates arrived by train. For many, it was a one-way trip. Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Krakow, Poland

As I look through the pictures and press, I have goosebumps as I recall the trip. There are some vacations where the memories are vivid even after a long time, and there are those that brings back vague memories after a while. This is definitely one of the former.  And if you are reviewing your bucket list, I think Auschwitz is worth considering…

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Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery

A newspaper article caught my eye today. Tomorrow (9 Nov 2014) marks 25 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not sure if I would have read the article in-depth had I not visited West Side Gallery a few months back. I have this tendency to develop more interest in a place (history, latest happenings, religion, people etc associated with it) after visiting it. Guess it’s a kind of destiny. I mean, there are so many places in the world and I chose to visit this place which gave me some memories… That’s a pretty thought, that’s the beauty of travelling 🙂

Sharing with you some pictures East Side Gallery gave me…

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