Saturday, November 10, 2007


We took a little day trip east to Tarnow yesterday (pronounced TARN-oof, just as Krakow is pronounced KRAK-oof). There was a description of it in one of our tour books as a nice day trip from Krakow, and it was. Tarnow, founded in the 1300s, is at the crossroads of two ancient trade routes between Germany and the Ukraine and Hungary and the Baltic Sea. As a result, it became a thriving commercial city and also was an early center of learning within Poland, with a branch of the Jagiellonian University being set up there in the mid-1500s. It has a very nice, well-preserved old town center. Though reminiscent of Krakow’s city center, it is more intimate than Krakow’s very large market square. Even the town hall in the center of Tarnow’s square (pictured below) looks like a miniature of the Sukiennice in Krakow. There are old, narrow, cobblestone streets leading off the square that make it fun for exploring.

We didn’t expect to find more wooden churches here, but there was one from the 14th and one from the 15th century. Older, but not quite as impressive architecturally as the ones we saw around Krynica, they were still pretty amazing.

On our way between the two churches, we walked through a wonderful cemetery with all the flowers and candles - some still burning - from All Saints Day.

Something else we weren’t prepared for was the history of the town’s Jewish section. Prior to WWII, fully 40% of the city’s population was Jewish! But between June 1942 and September 1943 any remaining Jewish residents of the city were shot or deported to death camps by the Nazis and almost all traces of their lives in Tarnow were destroyed. I’ve attached a picture of the remains of what was apparently a magnificent 16th century synagogue.

A memorial has been built at the site where 728 local people became the first group to be transported to Auschwitz in June 1940.

We walked out to the Jewish cemetery – surprisingly not destroyed by the Nazis – which is one of the largest and oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland.

We ended up on the “local” train coming back, which took a while longer than the express train we took going to Tarnow (90 minutes versus 60). By then the weather was bitter cold, rainy and windy so it was surprising that the train was almost unbearably HOT! Have I mentioned that buildings all seem to be overheated here? Both in my office and in our apartment, we have to open a transom window just to keep the rooms at a comfortable temperature (there are no thermostat controls in the room). Seems like a big waste of energy…. We arrived back in Krakow and saw people shoveling coal that had been dumped into a big pile on the sidewalk into their building.

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