Thursday, November 22, 2007

"Lubely" Lublin

We took a trip to southeastern Poland this week. We decided to go to Lublin because John had discovered in his genealogy research that a great Aunt and one of her sons had been killed at the Nazi concentration camp there. It took us 5 ½ hours by train to travel from Krakow to Lublin. When we arrived, the weather had turned very cold, windy and snowy. We (foolishly) walked from the train station to the old town area where we had booked a hotel. It wasn’t that far (about a mile – and we’re used to walking and didn’t have much luggage with us), but the wind was brutal. Thank goodness our hotel (the Grand Hotel Lublinianka) ended up being absolutely wonderful – even though we stayed in their “economy” room. (This meant it was on the 3rd floor in an attic-type room, which wasn't a problem since they had nice, modern elevators, and there were skylights rather than windows in the room. The beds and bedding were wonderful, the room itself was great…heated floor in the bathroom and heated towel rack…fine crystal wine glasses.) After checking in we walked to the old town and looked at the absolutely amazing buildings all around the square (called “mannerist” architecture in the tour books….the plaster on the outside is not just painted, but carved into decorations). The buildings are all original (not having been destroyed in the wars of the last few centuries) and have either been, or are in the process of being, restored. We saw a few that were in the early stages of restoration and what a production when they are so old! Much of the insides need to be gutted, but in such a way as to retain the structure and architecture. Even in the cold and snow, the town square was very impressive.

I couldn't decide which pictures to post, so I've included a number of the houses from the town square.

We ate dinner one night at a restaurant on the ground floor of this building.

We walked to the castle (which we dubbed the “white castle” both because it is white but also because it reminded us of the White Castle logo) which is close to the old town center and were able to get right into the chapel to see the amazing frescoes painted in 1418. Entrance to the chapel is closely controlled (only 25 people at a time and then closed for 10 minutes every hour to check humidity levels and ventilation) and the tour books recommend making advance reservations – guess there are some advantages to winter touring! By the time we finished touring the castle, the weather was so bad we just went back to the hotel. We had a lovely light dinner at the hotel (their restaurant is first class, but we weren’t dressed for it and we didn’t want a big dinner so we just went to the cafĂ©), including a glass of a great Beaujolais Nouveau. (Though it made me a bit homesick: my brother Randy always brings a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau when he comes for Thanksgiving dinner.) We still weren’t sure whether we would stay another day because the weather was so bad.
The next morning we went to breakfast (included in the hotel price and an excellent spread of food, with the best coffee we’ve had since arriving in Poland – can you tell I liked this hotel???) and decided to stay another night in order to go visit Majdanek (the concentration camp) and some other area sights. It was a good decision.

The "white castle"

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