ISSUE 18, July 2006
Editorial
Archbishop Fisher: A Godly man and a Brother
Travel: The train takes the strain
Quarterly Communication: Annual Investiture speech by the Grand Master and Speech of the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech by the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes Grand Lodge of New York: Speech by the Pro Grand Master
   Specialist Lodges: Keeping their eyes on the ball
Education: Planning ahead for the Chair and Events and New premises for Masonic research
Royal Opera House: A right Royal occasion
Royal opening: Beamish Museum
Digital records: Saving our past for the future
Library & Museum: The hall in the garden
Queen's Birthday: Masons played a prominent part
International: A Mason and the Foreign Legion
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity and NMSF and RMBI and RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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    A short ride out of the city, we visited Europe’s largest narrow gauge locomotive museum, which has over 100 trains on display. The visit included a 15km an hour ride on one to the Kampinoski National Park, a unesco heritage site that is home to 3,500 animals, of which there are 31 species of mosquito!
    Nearby, but far enough away from the mosquitoes, in an area designated for picnics, we sampled some typical polish food. This included sausages, which we heated on an outside fire, and pierogi, a kind of dumpling in the form of a crescent that can have many different fillings, in our case meat, cheese and potato. Fortunately, very little of Krakow was destroyed during the war, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wherever you want to go is in walking distance with a lot of the activity centred around its main market square, the largest medieval town square in Poland.
    The Cloth Hall, in the centre, houses a bazaar with many stalls selling souvenirs and jewellery. At one time the town was the royal capital of the country, with the Castle still a major focal point on Wawel Hill. Although ransacked many times, and therefore sparsely decorated, it still houses a superb collection of tapestries.
    The adjoining cathedral is particularly ornate. Entry can be booked in advance, which is certainly worthwhile as people are only let in on a timed admission, which can mean hours of waiting around. The statue of a dragon spitting out gusts of fire, a legend of the city, stands at the bottom of the hill overlooking the Wisla River, which flows all the way to Warsaw.
    Kazimierz, known as the Jewish Quarter, still has several synagogues, although the main one has been transformed into a museum which has many exhibits coupled with explanations explaining the Faith. The area has a scruffy feel to it, although behind many of the doors are shops and cafés which come alive at night. This part of the town was used extensively for the film Schindler’s List, and there is a route one can follow to see the various sites used, including the factory.
    Not until you visit the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau does the reality of what happened during the Second World War actually hit you. A poignant photographic exhibition by Chris Schwarz at the Galicia Museum in Kazimierz helps to portray the magnitude of the situation.
    Fifteen kilometres from Krakow are Europe’s largest salt mines at Wieliczka, which go down nine levels to a depth of 327 metres. The two-hour tour takes in several of the levels, descending 380 steps through a labyrinth of tunnels.
    Astounding are the statues that have been carved by some of the miners, and the ornamental chapel and church with all its fittings carved from salt, still used occasionally for concerts and masses. Fortunately, there is a lift to take you back to the top.
    The smoking ban has not yet arrived in Germany or Poland, so if you are anti-smoking, it is essential to mention this when booking. There are still trains with smoking compartments, as there are bedrooms which smell like ashtrays, as we found out to our cost.
    Evening meals are included, whether in the hotel or at what can be described as an ‘ethnic’ restaurant. Eating en masse can be good fun and a great way to get to know your travelling companions. However, it is rare that you get a real insight into the local food. As long as you have a word in the tour leader’s ear you can, however, ‘disappear’ and investigate the local eateries.

Below
A statue to the famous Polish composer Chopin in the Lazienki Park in Warsaw

  


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