Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sunny Day at Malbork Castle (June 14)

It's surprisingly hot here in Poland. Surprising, in part because it was so cold for the last two weeks, surprising in that the sun feels more mediterranean in its strength.

I've been going to sleep a little early here, not because I'm so tired, but because I wake up so early. The window curtains are quite sheer and the sun comes up around 5 am. This morning I woke up at 5 and forced myself to go back to sleep until 6:30. At least I didn't have to wait for the shower.

The hostel isn't bad. It's very close to the center of town (about a 5-10 minute walk to the main square; about a 10-15 minute walk to the train station), and my window looks out on one of the old watch towers and the main canal. I had a lot of problem finding a place to stay in Gdansk (this was my third choice), but it's been pretty good. They are washing my dirty laundry for me as I type (they also provide free internet, but you have to wait in line).

Today I went to Malbork Castle, about 45 minutes east from Gdansk. I had seen "kingdom of the teutonic knights) on maps of medieval Europe, but never really understood who they were until today. The castle, made from red brick, dominates the town and is amazing. I bumped into an American couple from Chicago, who, along with a Latvian couple, had hired an English guide, so I joined in with them.

The tour was great and the sights were amazing. Tons of school children running about with their teachers (probably 2:1 ration of children to adult tourists).

When I got back this afternoon, I went to the main square to tour the Dom Artus and the Ratusz (city hall). Amazing restoration work of buildings that were nearly obliterated in the war. At one point I entered a room clearly not meant for tourists as I saw a parokhetv (the fabric cover in front of an ark) on display. I could see several other displays of Jewish life in Gdansk (I think), but the staff quickly ushered me out as the room was not yet ready for tourists. At least, unlike Poznan, they are actually doing something regarding Jewish history.

Tonight there should be a big crowd at the pubs watching the game between Poland and Germany. I asked the guide who was favored to win. He said that Germany had played in Dortmund stadium over a dozen times and never lost.

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