Krakow is a beautiful medieval city - cobbled streets, hidden alleyways and lovely cafes. The former Ghetto (The Kazimierz) crawls with tourists of all nationalities and creeds. In this small area reminders of Krakow's Jewish past are everywhere. Synagogues, cemeteries and Talmud Torahs crowd next to each other. Despite this only two working synagogues remain: a Progressive and an Orthodox.
At one time Krakow was home to some 60,000 Jews. Today no more than two hundred remain. The locals have recreated a pastiche of Jewishness. 'Jewish' food (non kosher) is served in 'Jewish' style cafes, and many establishments have their names written in a style that mimics Hebrew script. Souvenir shops sell Chassidic dolls of little old men with comedy haircuts, tallits and playing fiddles - depictions with which I was not comfortable.
We had to visit Auschwitz. Take it as read that the place is more than a little disturbing. The most unnerving aspect for me was completely unexpected, and that was to see youngsters posing for their friends' cameras standing next to assorted unpleasantness with big grins on their faces. Have sufficient years gone by that Auschwitz is now just another impersonal museum?
Philip - June 2005