A Special Goodbye – Łódź Day 12 & 13

My last days in Łódź were not spent visiting a tourist attraction or learning a new piece of its history. Instead, I was sucked into a tornado. I found myself pacing the cobbled streets, the  highlights of my trip flashing through my mind.

I used up all my money, save for the taxi fare to the aiport. I packed and re-packed my suitcase, leaving out the essentials like my laptop. I dined at the pancake restaurant for my last amazing meal.

I woke up, threw the rest of my possessions into the suitcase, and cast a final look aroud my room. It had been my home for a fornight. A quiet refuge to return to at night before setting out again the next day.

Reception called me a taxi. It was over.

I can’t stand goodbyes. So, instead of saying farewell to this historic city, I’m going to say ‘see you soon’. I’ll return one day, even if it’s just for the pancakes, even if I’m just passing through.

For now, it’s time to get back to sunny England.

Advertisements

The Black Madonna – Łódź Day 11

When I first planned this trip and looked up Łódź to see where it was in Poland, the name Częstochowa caught my eye on the map. I grew up in a Catholic family and so I’d heard stories about pilgrimages to this place – home of the Black Madonna – an icon of the Virgin Mary housed at the Jasna Gora monastery. Thousands come from across to globe to kneel before it.

I kept it at the back of my mind throughout my hotel stay. It soon came to the time to think about heading home, and it struck me that this might be my only chance. I bought my tickets and got on the train. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

WP_20160824_14_11_04_Pro__highres

The town of Częstochowa is easy enough to navigate. Outside the train station, you’ll find signs pointing straight to the long road up to Jasna Gora. Aim for early morning or at least arrive by noon at the latest. That’s when the pilgrims begin to climb the hill. They make the experience unforgettable, parading up the street with flowers, flags, and music. Such a joyful crowd.

Follow the path into the monastery. Some people choose to approach on their knees. I held back at first, wanting to watch others go first. Benches line the walls for silent reflection. And the icon… it’s just beautiful.

WP_20160824_13_35_21_Pro

I recommend the experience for all, regardless of religion or beliefs. Inside the chapel, no one cares where you come from. You’re all there for a single purpose: to revel in the glory of the painting. It may have more meaning for some but that doesn’t stop tourists visiting who are simply fascinated by the history. Just make sure to be respectful at all times and wear appropriate attire since the chapel is a place of worship.

You’ll find several museums on site. There’s the Museum of the 600th Anniversary, as well as the Treasury and the Arsenal to visit. If you’d like to buy any souvenirs, please buy them within the monastery walls. The proceeds will go directly to the upkeep of the buildings. You can get your souvenirs blessed by a priest in the Basilica. And if you’d like to attend mass, you can book a slot just outside the monastery.

WP_20160824_12_48_38_Pro__highres

Visiting Częstochowa, regarded as the spiritual heart of Poland, is an unmissable experience. You may have concerns or reservations, but just go. It’s worth it.

 

Life As A Local – Łódź Day 10

So, as the title suggests, it was my tenth day in Łódź with no news on how long I’ll be staying or when my trip will end. I realised I’d spent a long time blogging about all the tourist spots I visited and some bits of history about the area, but not much about day-to-day life.

Let’s start with shopping. You’ve all heard me talk about ulica Piotrkowska which has a few souvenir shops, cheap odds and ends stores, and a variety of restaurants. But the real shopping is elsewhere. There are shopping centres along most major roads filled with high end fashion stores and open until late at night. And don’t forget the Manufaktura, which is an old factory converted into a shopping centre, also hosting a cinema, museum, and art gallery.

Entertainment is another key part to living. The nightlife along ulica Piotrkowska can be quite loud and busy, but if you’re just heading to the pub to watch the football, then it’s perfect. There are a few clubs dotted around and plenty of beer gardens at no more than 8 zl for a pint. But one interesting form of entertainment in Łódź is heading to the cinema. It’s nothing like what you might see in the US or UK, showing mainly non-American or independent films, which makes a nice change for an evening out.

For your sporting needs, the Łódź marathon is hosted every year and is very popular with locals and visitors alike. It offers a variety of distances to run. Then there’s the Fala Aquapark. This is one of the largest aquaparks in Poland with a huge swimming complex. It also contains Sauna World with 5 saunas, 2 steam rooms, and an outdoor area for nude sunbathing.

Whenever you’re attempting to do as the locals do, I suggest heading to the local markets. Łódź has several. There’s a big open air market on Saturdays called Baluty Market where you can buy vegetables, clothes, and live animals. Just down the road is another market, vegetable-only this time. Zielony rynek is the place to buy any homemade products like honey or bread. And finally, the Gorniak Market is popular with the locals, selling high-quality clothes at a low price.

Łódź is great for walking. With so many green spaces, and free WiFi to tempt you out into the fresh air, you could spend hours wandering around. Just don’t get caught up and miss out on everything else Łódź has to offer.

If you’d like any more tips on places to go or things to do in Łódź, just comment below.

The Ghetto Trail – Łódź Day 9

The Litzmannstadt Ghetto was established during World War II to hold up to 230,000 Jews in Łódź – the second largest community of Jews in Europe. Within seven days of the Nazi invasion, Łódź was occupied. The order to establish the Ghetto was passed on 8th November 1940. All those over 14 worked in the factories in horrendous conditions under Rumkowski’s control.

It wasn’t until December 1941 that the Nazis announced the first deportation of Jews. Throughout the length of the Holocaust, as many as 200,000 Jews left from Radegast Station in Łódź. Although a long bus ride out of the city centre, the Museum is worth the visit.

2016 08 22 (3)

The station has been restored and preserved, along with three original cattle trucks waiting on the tracks. The building houses two permanent exhibitions and you’ll also find several plaques commemorating Jews from Vienna and Luxembourg, who were transported to the death camps via the Łódź Ghetto.

Two stops back on the bus route is the Jewish Łódź Cementary. This is the second Jewish cemetary built, since the first was founded in 1811 and no longer exists except for a statue erected by Dr George Kropiwnicki. This new cemetary was founded in 1892 and hold approximately 160,000 people, including 43,000 victims of the Łódź Ghetto who died from hunger and exhaustion. They are buried in an area called the ‘Ghetto Field’ and sadly,  many of their graves are not marked or named.

2016 08 22 (12)

The next stop on the trail should take you to the Park im Szarych Szeregów, which was created in 1961 on the remains of the Jewish Ghetto. In the middle of the park is the Monument of the Fractured Heart which consists of a heart broken in two with the statue of an emaciated boy inside. This is to commemorate victims of the police camp for Polish Youth, founded in 1942, where hard work, poor sanitary conditions, and brutal treatment lead to the deaths of thousands of children aged 2 – 16 years old. Exact figures are not known since the Nazis destroyed all the documentation.

I finished the day in the Łódź Ghetto Survivors’ Park. Established in 2004, the park lies just outside the boundaries of the Ghetto. On the 68th anniversary of the Ghetto liquidation, 363 trees were planted by Ghetto survivors and a monument, composing of the Star of David and the Polish eagle was unveiled.

2016 08 22 (14)

I did not follow the full Trail of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, which takes you around 38 sites with commemorate plaques telling the history of the Łódź Jews. Instead, I chose to take my own quiet path of reflection. This gave me time to really think and and remember the victims of the Holocaust.

As most of you will know from my blogs about Auschwitz, I am a firm believer in learning about our past mistakes – about the tragedies and horrors committed not just by the Nazis but by many civilisations throughout history. Only then can we put every ounce of strength into preventing it from happening again.

George Santayan once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

2016 08 22 (18)