Ok, I confess. Actually, I have two confessions to make. The first is that my time in Polish cities was about 4 hours. I was there for 7 days - 3 in Warsaw and 4 in Krakow. It was raining and sleeting the entire time I was in the country. I apologize if the titles led people to think I was going to write about sights in Poland. I didn't see many. My first two weeks in Europe were in Warsaw, Krakow, Vienna, and Prague. I took pictures and wandered through the city all four days in Prague, but the other cities were almost a total bust. I admit that I could have gone out in the rain, but I didn't. Even though I went through 3 umbrellas, I don't feel like I needed be an "umbrella tester" and experiment with more (especially at my own expense). The sleet was bad, the wind made it worse, and I didn't feel the need to go out so that I could tell others about how I braved the dismal weather to see and photograph things and places that most people don't give a damn about. I have learned from sad experience that while true travelers are interested in every picture, most everyone else gets very bored very quickly. So there.
Confession number two has to do with something that I touched on in the preceding paragraph. I have been reading stories and reviews written by others and have realized that as much as I would like to believe that my writing is superior and everyone wants to know what I think about different sights in different places, they don't. And neither do I. All I want is a brief description and pictures of the place. If I want to know about something, I will do the research. Some people want the the writings of other travelers, and writers far more talented and less verbose than me - this website is full of them. The point of searching through travel sites is to find out how to travel as well as where to travel. I want to know things that are of concern to me. I want to know about places where I am going or places that I would like to go, and I know that my age has a lot to do with where I go. With all of that said, I am going to try to put into words the important things about my trip which have more to do with people, not places. In Warsaw, Krakow, and Vienna I saw few sights but I met wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable people.
I am very excited about the former "East" Europe even though I haven't seen much of it. It all has to do with the people I met, not with the sights of a city or town. This is why. In 1961 I enlisted in the US Army shortly after the wall divided Berlin, Germany. I can't say that the decision was the smartest thing I have ever done, but it turned out to be the best. The day that I got off the troop ship in Bremerhaven, Germany, I was loaded into a train and sent to Kaiserslautern, Germany. That train trip is the basis for my excitement.
This year I took the train from Warsaw to Krakow, and on the three hour trip, I saw the very same sights that I saw in 1962 on the train to Kaiserslautern; almost exactly the same. I saw the old, dilapidated buildings along the rail route. I saw the poor farmland, the very old tractors and other obsolete farm implements, the houses and buildings that needed care or demolition. The only difference that I saw was that the cars, while older, were 45 years newer than in 1962, and there were more of them. I saw a country that was emerging from ashes of a war and 50 years of a totalitarian system.
There are differences though. Germany had the Marshall Plan and a population that wanted to return to what they had. They had lost most of a generation of young men and women were doing the work. Education was always very important to all of the population including the farm folk, and the importance of getting the schools back in session was total. While there was unemployment, it was not as serious as it is in Poland today.
But I am still excited. Poland and the rest of the East European community can look at Germany today and see a road map to economic revival. Many corporations are moving factories to the East. While this is very problematical for the countries and cities that are losing jobs, and I do feel sorry for them, a strong Europe, both financially and educationally, will benefit the entire world in the long term view. I wish that I could live to see my vision become reality, but I'm over 70 now so I'll just watch for as long as I can. I can only suggest that travelers go to Poland and the East see the miracle happen for themselves.