I arrived in Krakow on the night train from Budapest this morning, feeling a bit groggy and disoriented, but otherwise in great spirits. Found my hostel, got some breakfast, and strolled around the Stare Miasto (Old City) a little before the mad rush of tourists. Felt perfectly normal tired. Then it hit. A severe exhaustion and unbearable lower pack pain. 20 minutes from my hostel. In the middle of my wanderings of Kazimieriz, the old Jewish Quarter. Frankly, I am ticked off. (That’s the nice version – keeping it family friendly for everyone back home.)
I debated continuing with my sightseeing. There was a free 3 hour walking tour of Kazimieriz I desperately wanted to go on. There was a period film being shot in Market Square. I hadn’t even peeked inside the huge St. Mary’s Church yet. I debated, and realized that pushing myself today would mean bedridden tomorrow. So napped for 2 hours and now here I am, feeling slightly sore, but much improved. The lesson – ALWAYS listen to your body, even if you don’t have fibromyalgia.
A couple things of note: In Budapest, before catching my train, I visited the House of Terror museum on Andrassy ut. A somber way to leave a new favorite city, but I am glad I checked it out. It is housed in the former office and prison complex of two notorious agencies in Hungary: the Nazi-supported Arrow Cross (much like the Gestapo) and the Soviet-supported AVH (secret police). Here the people of Hungary were terrorized, tortured, and disappeared into the night. Just walking into such a building gave me the chills, but the exhibits furthered my horror. An impressive array of artifacts, photos, video footage, and art installations with powerful messages. For example, a maze of walls made of bricks of pig lard in a room about the shortages and rationing Hungarians experienced under Communism. Wandering the maze to find your way out, you contemplate all the invisible mazes they had to go through just to get the basics for survival. Another exhibit showed the two uniforms of the Arrow Cross and AVH back-to-back and spinning slowly, demonstrating how the secret police switched sides, or “turncoated”. Most powerful to see were the actual rooms used to imprison and torture Hungarians citizens. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Hungarian families had someone killed, tortured, questioned, or imprisoned by these organizations.
You may ask, “Why visit such a disturbing museum on your vacation?” I reply, it is disturbing, yes, but as members of the human race where we have perpetrated countless horrors on each other, it is important that we are witness to what happened, that it make us uncomfortable, and cause us to ponder and questions what happened. It is also an important piece to understanding the Hungarian people today.
On that disheartening note, I will head back out into the city. Krakow awaits my full attention and my back is at least 30% better.