Thursday, November 13, 2008

This time without fireworks

Tuesday was Independence Day in Poland. They're celebrating 90 years since the founding of the second Polish Republic (at the end of WWI), so it's sort of a big deal. Above is a photo of the flag outside our apartment building.

Brian and I celebrated in the same way as many of our fellow Cracovians--we got on a jam-packed bus (I mean my face was up against someone else's coat for most of the ride), and rode to the zoo!

We weren't actually headed to see the animals, though. The Krakow zoo is surrounded by woods, called Las Wolski, which are full of walking and biking trails. It was our first time out there, and I would definitely return. It helped that we had an absolutely gorgeous day. How many days in mid-November are 55F, sunny and cloudless?

Some of the trails are densely wooded, and some are edged with jagged limestone ridges. Some paths are paved, and some are a bit more rugged. It's a pretty big and diverse area.

The highlight of the trip, and the reason everyone comes out there on independence day, though, is a mound. Ok, a really big mound. Krakow has four of them, each with winding paths leading up to a great viewing point at the top. This one, though, is called Independence Mound, in memory of Josef Pilsudski, the celebrated Polish leader, who took charge as Chief of State of Poland 90 years ago. The mound contains soil from various battlefields, and so it's a pretty important place for an independence day celebration.

Like I said, from the top you can see all of Krakow, which is pretty spectacular. The view's not actually as great as from the Kosciuszko Mound, closer to the center of town, but it's still pretty cool.

Meanwhile, in town, the downtown was pretty crowded, a stage was set up for a sort of pagent and for some reason, small children were on every corner playing instruments. In particular, we saw a few little boys with little accordians... mostly they seemed not very interested in playing. I surreptitiously snapped this shot of an accordian boy against a lamppost on the main square. He would only play a few beats before stopping to gape at the pedestrians or pick his nose. I can't assume it was a very lucrative day for these kids, but who knows?

All in all, a fun and classy Independence Day.

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