Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Running With the Nuns

First of all, we did get to see the pope last night. We will explain the circumstances in just a bit (including the running with the nuns.)

We apologize for the multiple post madness. We were having trouble and tried to post several times but didn't think it was working. It obviously was...

Anyway, after we returned from Auschwitz and Birkenau yesterday, we were hungry and decided to try some authentic Mexican food, as only Poland makes it. (OK, Poland's version of Mexican food.) Instead of chips and salsa, they brought us peanuts in the shell. Definitely interesting. Our meals were pretty good though. Andrea had enchiladas, and Jake ordered fajitas. Our only complaint was that they needed salt. That's actually been our one complaint about several of the things we've eaten here. It seems these Eastern Europeans don't know how a little salt can really enhance flavor.

The salt and pepper (if they are present) are located in little ramekins on the table. (A ramekin is a small bowl.) If you want some of either, you pinch a little out of the bowl and sprinkle it on your food. In several places, we have seen ramekins of paprika alongside the salt and pepper.

But back to the pope.
You could tell he was coming because of all the preparations in the city. Vatican and Polish flags were everywhere. Barricades were set up, and the police force seemed to double daily. At Auschwitz, they were setting up chairs for the pope's visit on Sunday. Also, many of our fellow hostel guests were pretty upset to learn that alcohol sales would be banned while the pope was in town.

It can be extremely hard to get good information when you are in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. After we found out that Pope Benedict XVI would be coming to Krakow, we asked at least three different people (and looked on the Internet) for the schedule surrounding his visit. Until last night, we thought that we were just going to miss his visit -- that he would be here Saturday and Sunday, but we would be in Zakopane those days.

Turns out that he was arriving by helicopter at about 8 last night. We only discovered this when we noticed barricades, people waiting by them and a large number of police (including SWAT team-like officers). We decided to try to catch a glimpse of him, so we walked to Main Market Square a little before 7. We got a good spot and settled in to wait. And wait we did. We stood alongside excited Poles and tourists waving their pope flags that the city had been selling in anticipation of the big event. At about 8, a helicopter, which we assume was transporting the pope, flew overhead.

After waiting two and a half hours, we saw the first police car of the motorcade. The next vehicles were loaded with security personnel. And then came the popemobile, with two cardinals in front and Benedict himself. The excitement in the crowd was contagious. As the cars cruised by, the pope smiled and waved to all. We were within 15 feet of him. It was pretty neat. We'd like to say we can prove it with pictures, but as you can see, in the only picture that would have turned out, the pope is obscured by an exuberant Polish woman's flag. So use your imagination, and remove the flag from the picture to see the pope.

Here is a news photo from the event showing the pope in his popemobile.

After his drive-by, the crowds began to disperse, so we headed back to the hostel. We had left laundry in the washer and needed to move it over. As we approached our hostel, we noticed that people were running around us in the direction of the Archbishop's Palace, where Benedict would be staying. Jake went to investigate where everyone was going while Andrea went up to move the laundry.

Jake followed the crowds, but they only led to a dead-end street. He stood around for a few minutes until he heard a huge cheer a few streets over. He (along with everyone else) began running over to where the cheer came from. As he ran the three blocks, he looked to his left and realized he was running alongside 10 nuns holding hands. They were giggling like schoolgirls. It isn't every day that you run with nuns down cobblestone streets in search of the pope.

He arrived at a huge park packed with thousands of people just as Benedict began to address the crowd. Jake couldn't see him, so he tried to move to get a better vantage point. However, everyone else had the same idea, so he didn't move very quickly.

He never did see the pope in the park, but he did hear his speech, which he assumed was in Polish. The only word Jake recognized was the pope's last one in the speech: "Dziekuje," which is Polish for "thank you."

It sure was exciting. It will be hard to top the experiences that we have had here in Krakow, but today we move on to Zakopane, a popular outdoor recreation area.

We plan to do one last Krakow post when we get a chance with some more photos and stories.


At 4:30 AM, May 27, 2006, Anonymous lee said...

running with nuns...wow that must have been quite an experience. a great story for when you get on jeopardy. many contestants have told about running with the bulls in pamplona but i bet you would be the only one who ran with nuns in krakow.

At 6:58 AM, May 27, 2006, Anonymous Millie said...

What a wonderful ending to your visit in Krakow and what a contrast from evil to good. You will have stories to tell your children and grandchildren.

Enjoy the next part of your journey.

Love you,

At 1:08 PM, May 27, 2006, Anonymous Doug and Rose said...

Nuns! Popes! Cathederals! Careful Jake, Catholicism is sneeking up on you.

I thought I would take your PopeMobile picture and Photoshop the Pope into it. You could pass it off as the real thing, instead of some lame story of a lady with a flag.

My sister and her husbgand left Prague yesterday and are heading to Vienna, then on to Budapest and eventually to Turkey. But for the last few days you guys have always been just a few hundred miles away from them. Close but never crossing paths.
Their luggage took the long way to get to them. British Airways lost their bags. Sherri got her bag after a few days wait and Bud got his a day or so later. So much of getting better service when you pay the premium fares.

We are enjoying your travel blog.
Doug and Rose

At 3:33 PM, May 27, 2006, Blogger Nichole said...

What a great story! I love the "censored" picture of the pope, too. Great timing, Flag-Wielding Lady!


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