Ethics & the Arts in Eastern Europe:
Leipzig, Berlin, Warsaw and Kraków
May 17-30, 2017
Jewish peddlers transformed into beggars by the anti-Jewish boycott of 1933-38
by John Fisher
Despite a history of tremendous achievement in the arts in areas now known as East Germany and Poland, the first half of the 20th century was a time of devastating upheaval, suffering and death for millions of people living there. During the 13-day period May 17 and 30, 2017, fifteen Texas Wesleyan University students and two faculty members grappled with questions relating to what can only be described as an utter collapse of ethical values by Hitler, the Nazis and the Soviets under Stalin – and the effects of that collapse on the world around them. The role of music and the arts in coping with and eventually surviving the horrors of WW I and II and the Cold War were also examined.
This self-styled Ethics & the Arts in Eastern Europe study abroad group traveled to four eastern European cities – Leipzig & Berlin, Germany, and Warsaw & Kraków , Poland – pursuing these overarching themes. The intent was to discover details of the history of the area from that perspective.
Below are some photos organized by location or activity. Enjoy! Beyond the pictures at the bottom of the page is a written document describing the journey in some detail. Enjoy that as well! And thanks for viewing!
Leipzig bombed-out building, now retained as is, as a “reminder”!
Group departure at Frankfurt main railway station!
Group departure from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof!
Leipzig home of German poet and author of “Ode to Joy” Friedrich Schiller!
LEIPZIG, May 18-21 WED., MAY 17-18: FLIGHT FROM DFW TO FRANKFURT, THEN TRAIN TO LEIPZIG: After a Lufthansa Airlines overnight flight from DFW to Frankfurt on May 17, arriving the morning of May 18, and a 3.5-hr ICE (Inter City Express) train connection to Leipzig, we were set for a sumptuous buffet-style evening dinner at the NH Messe Hotel in the N outskirts of Leipzig, followed by a restful night’s sleep, hopefully as a good jet lag antidote!
The Titanic Panometer May 19, AM: As of this morning, the long-anticipated study abroad group Ethics & the Arts in Eastern Europe was under way! Our first group stop this morning was to the 360° Panometer, the work of Viennese artist Yadegar Asisi. He’s been creating these “world’s largest” panoramas since 2003. This one was focused on recreating a vision of the underwater ruins of the HMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in the early hours of April 14, 1912, with the loss of 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers, off the coast of Newfoundland, 4 days into its 5-day maiden voyage. Its ruins were only discovered in 1985. The focus of Asisi’s Titanic is less on the actual disaster itself in 1912 than the sinking of the passenger liner as an example for the hubris of man, who attempts to dominate nature with his creative efforts and thus fails. The exhibit is scattered with posted quotations such as: “There is nothing that cannot be produced by machinery.” –Samuel Colt, US Industrialist “I cannot imagine any conditions which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” –Captain Edward John Smith, after maiden voyage of Adriatic, 1907 “In any event, the ship is unsinkable, and there is absolutely no danger to passengers.” –Philip A.S. Franklin, Vice-president of White-Star Line, to a journalist, April 15, 1912 In Asisi’s Titanic, the viewpoint of the observer is set some 3,800 metres below the surface of the water at the level of the shipwreck. An artificial light scenario allows the visitor to discover the tragic proportions of this disaster. Recognizable are both the wreck, broken into two pieces, and the vast amount of everyday items, technical equipment and luggage surrounding it. The panoramic experience is rounded off with the accompanying music by film composer Eric Babak and sound effects reflecting the era and the setting in the scene. Mr. Asisi used the interior of a mammoth former fuel storage tank as the venue for his “Panometer,”and its slightly-curved, near vertical walls make this setting of his computer-enhanced images a breath-taking experience. —
MAY 19, PM: After lunch at a very pleasant authentic Biergarten, the group focused its attention for the rest of the day on two museums dedicated to aspects of the Cold War: 1) the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum [Forum of Contemporary History] and 2) the Museum Runde Ecke [Museum in the Round Corner].
Zeitgeschichtliches Forum The Zeitgeschichtliches Forum is a museum concerned with contemporary German history since 1949. It presents Germany’s divided (1949–1989) and common (since 1989) history since the end of World War II, with focus on dictatorship and opposition in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the German Democratic Republic (or GDR; = East Germany; in German “DDR”: Deutsche Demokratische Republik). It is located in the city center of Leipzig, Germany. The permanent exhibition gives insight into the history of opposition and civil disobedience in the repressive one-party state of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). Furthermore, it focuses on the history of everyday life in the Soviet Occupation Zone and the GDR from the end of World War II in 1945 until the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 and German reunification. More than 3,200 objects are displayed in the permanent exhibition where personal stories and experiences play an important part. We were led through the museum by a very able local guide, a 30-something Jewish gentleman named Shapiro, with an American accent (he had lived and studied in New York for a time), now working on his Ph.D. in at the University of Leipzig, majoring in Jewish Studies. He commented at length on many displays showing life in the DDR during its 40-year reign, including: • copies of ballots used in West Germany, showing a choice of candidates, vs. DDR “ballots” showing only a single SED candidate, and not even a place to mark a vote. All the DDR “voter” could do was fold the paper and insert it into the collection box. • Full-sized street canons used to repel popular demonstrations of dissent, esp. just after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956; • Tons of cassette tapes confiscated from the mail, packages, even people, with “decadent” Western-style music recorded on them. • A genuine “interrogation van” – a dismal-looking VW bus converted into a mobile Gestapo-style interrogation and intimidation vehicle; • A video showing, on the one hand, a military celebration of the 40th-anniversary of the DDR, with tanks, missiles, and thousands of goose-stepping soldiers, while simultaneously there were thousands of E Germans frantically pouring over the finally-opened borders into West Germany! Overall, an excellent, free museum!
Museum Runde Ecke Within easy walking distance of the Zeitgeschichtiches Forum is the Museum of the Round Corner, a unique facility in the world. The building sits on the site of the former “Stasi,” or DDR secret police. Leipzig is universally regarded to have been the starting point of the “Peaceful Revolution” in 1989 which led to the emergence of democracy in what is now referred to as the former DDR. During the period of the communist state, the Runde Ecke, as the locals referred to it, was a symbol of state oppression since it was the headquarters of the “Ministerium für Staatssicherheit” (MfS) – the term “Staatssicherheit” (state security) is better known by its abbreviated title – Stasi. The building itself remains unnerving because it is unchanged from that Monday, Dec. 4, 1989, a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the building was taken over in a peaceful demonstration. An instantly formed “Bürgerkommittee” – citizens’ committee – was established. Amongst its immediate aims was the determination to ensure that nothing was to be allowed to disappear from the offices and that interested parties were to be allowed access to the files that were housed there. [It was said that one out of two residents of Leipzig at the time had Stasi files on them.] The building itself is stuffy, grey and banal, retaining what the museum refers to as a “typical DDR smell,” providing perhaps as authentic a DDR experience as is to be found. An office space remains exactly as it used to be, complete with long-dead potted plant. The various small rooms are crammed with objects and information about many aspects of Leipzig’s GDR past, with no wall space seemingly left unused. Sections are dedicated to the lead-up to the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, as well as aspects such as community and sport, and the death penalty, which was carried out in Leipzig from 1960 onwards. The Scooby Doo-style disguises worn by underover Stasi officers and the pompous Communist memorabilia are in turns bizarre and amusing, yet piles of intercepted letters and a reproduction prison cell underscore the severity of the surveillance culture. The complex and paradoxical relationship with objects from the West is also highlighted: hundreds of cassette tapes, for example, were confiscated and re-appropriated as the source material for making clandestine phone “bug” recordings. The exhibits on show may be but a small selection of the museum’s total collection but they range from fascinatingly graphic tools of espionage – listening devices, cameras, disguises, forged rubber stamps, devices for opening letters, forged documents including passports, a workshop for preserving smells – to the detailed development and structure of the machinery of state, in particular the Stasi itself. The visitor very rapidly gains a comprehensive view of the nature of the organization, its ideological roots and its modus operandi. The state’s efforts to keep as extensive a watch over the people of the GDR by telephone surveillance, observation, investigation and interrogation are vividly portrayed. The sections which deal with punishment, in particular the executions carried out, are harrowing and gruesome. Also on view are the machines which pulped a number of the files the Stasi destroyed in late 1989 in the frantic attempt to eliminate evidence, together with huge preserved piles of pulp which are beyond re-constitution and re-construction. A faithfully reconstructed prison cell for those awaiting trial, and a reconstructed office of a full-time Stasi official, could be taken for sets for a film – but they belong in the world of reality. Many of the exhibits speak for themselves, needing little or no explanation. In later years, the level of Stasi paranoia reached epic proportions, to the extent that “suspects” (perceived enemies of the state) were brought in, sat down on specially covered cloth chairs, and after they sweat nervously, the cloth on the chairs were smelled by specially train dogs and later used to identify those same suspects during clandestine house searches. To this day, any Leipzig citizen can walk into the Runde Ecke and request to see any files the Stasi kept on him or her. For both locals and visiting tourists, this museum is truly an eye-opening experience! For those interested in the topic of life in the former DDR, films such as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning “The Lives of Others” (Das Leben der Anderen) or Christian Petzold’s “Barbara”, both available on DVD, are very powerful evocations of the time.
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Saturday, MAY 20, AM – This day was special in that it was designated “Music Day!” That meant scheduled trips to the world-famous Thomaskirche, the Lutheran church where J. S. Bach spent his last 27 years and is buried there; to the Bach Museum nearby; to the Grassi Instrument Museum in the center of town; and to the Mendelssohn Haus, home of composers Felix Mendelssohn during the last years of his life, 1845-47. Thomaskirche The Thomaskirche, or St. Thomas Church, is the church where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a Kapellmeister (music director) from 1723 until his death in 1750, and as the location of his remains. Standing in a courtyard next to the church in is a statue of Bach by the Leipzig sculptor Carl Seffner. It was dedicated in 1908. He is depicted in a somewhat disheveled manner, with his vest misbuttoned and papers (manuscripts?) sticking out of his left coat pocket. For a man who had 20 children, two wives and produced at least 1,080 known works, this depiction is likely an apt one. Inside, the nave features a simple Gothic ribbed vaulted ceiling. Behind the main altar are some beautiful floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows, set in pointed arches. On the floor between the choir chairs is a simple heavy brass plate with the inscription: “Johann Sebastian Bach.” On unusual feature of this church is the fact that all the pews in the main congregation face toward the center aisle. This is to accommodate the congregation so that it can look both to the front and the back of the church with equal ease, in deference to the organ, boys’ choir or other musical performances which take place in the rear of the church. Another notable feature of the Thomaskirche is that it contains two organs. The older one is a Romantic organ by Wilhelm Sauer, built from 1885–89. Since this organ was considered “unsuitable” for Bach’s music, a second organ was built by the Gerald Woehl organ building company from 1999–2000. This “Bach organ” was designed to look similar to the old organ on which Bach had played in the Paulinerkirche. The Thomanerchor, or boy’s choir of the Thomaskirche, was founded in 1212 and is one of the oldest and most famous choirs of its kind in the world. It is headed by the Thomaskantor, an office that has been held by many well-known composers and musicians, including JS Bach, who held the position from 1723 until his death in 1750. Incidentally, a statue of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, who lived in Leipzig from 1835 until his death in 1847, was dedicated on October 18, 2008, when it was re-erected opposite the St. Thomas Church on the occasion of his 200th birthday. The original statue, designed by Werner Stein, was first dedicated on May 26, 1892. It had been located on the east side of the Gewandhaus until November 9, 1936, when it was taken down by the Nazis because of the composer’s Jewish background. The 6-meter (20 ft) statue depicts the former Gewandhaus Orchestra director and composer in bronze. Celebratory speeches were given by Kurt Masur, also a former Gewandhaus Orchestra director, and Burkhard Jung, mayor of Leipzig, at the 2008 re-dedication. From the church we made our way to the Bach Museum. Bach Museum A short walk from the Thomaskirche is the Bach Museum, with its impressive interactive multimedia exhibition. A highlight is the “treasure room,” where rare autograph manuscripts, the one known original painting of the composer (by German painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann) and other precious items are on display. Elsewhere in the museum is a fine collection of string and other instruments, including an organ known to have been played by Bach. The console of this organ, highlighted in a special display, was part of an instrument made by organ-builder Johann Scheibe. He built it for St. John’s Church in Leipzig, which stood on the cemetery just outside the city center. In 1743, Bach was invited to inspect the new instrument. From written sources, we know that he tested the new organ and “The trial was perhaps one of the most exacting ever made.” In the end, he gave the organ his complete approval. That is why we know for certain that Bach sat on this organ seat and played this instrument. Also in the museum is a small Listening Studio where visitors can immerse themselves in Bach’s music. Every single one of his compositions may be called up from the media stations. Listeners can choose from a variety of criteria, such as the title, opening words or the number in Bach’s Work Verzeichnis (Catalogue) – the BWV. Moreover, a chronology gives an overview of when Bach’s most important works were composed. Recordings are of course of the highest, most respectable quality. From here it was on to lunch in the Old Market Square of Leipzig. I ate a Japanese “Ramen Restaurant” with Sam Smith, who is a connoisseur of all things Japanais! Soon back on foot, we stopped momentarily at a centrally located statue of Johann Wolfgang Goethe in the Market Square, before moving on to the University of Leipzig’s Grassi Music Instrument Museum. Grassi Music Instrument Museum The Museum of Musical Instruments of the University of Leipzig belongs is a part of the Grassi Museum, whose other members are the Museum of Ethnography and the Museum of Applied Arts. It is one of the largest music instrument museums in Europe, alongside those of Brussels and of Paris. Its collection of around 10,000 objects includes valuable instruments from Europe and beyond, as well as music-related items from the Renaissance, the Baroque, and Bach’s Leipzig period. The oldest dated clavichord (1543) and the world’s oldest fortepiano surviving in its original condition (Cristofori, 1726), are among the most significant exhibits in the Grassi, but there are many, many other historic and interesting instruments on display. Of note are a visitor-playable clavichord, “wing-sided” pianos (Hammerflügeln), organs of all descriptions, early trumpets, flutes, stringed and percussion instruments, player pianos, etc., etc. This museum is truly impressive, and our students noticed and appreciated it! Again, a relatively short walk from the Grassi Museum was the Mendelssohn Haus, our fourth and last stop for the day! Mendelssohn-Haus In the heart of the City of Leipzig, just around the corner of the Gewandhaus Orchestra Hall, at Goldschmidtstraße 12 (formerly Königstraße), with the help of our guide we found the house in which Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy lived and died. The house, built in a late classical style, has been carefully restored. It was the composer’s last private address, and the only one of his residences that can still be visited. Today, it houses a museum in honor of Mendelssohn, who was active here not only as a composer and music director, but also as a cultural politician and piano virtuoso. Here, you can experience the authentic atmosphere of the apartment on the second floor where the Mendelssohn family lived from 1845 and which is furnished in the style of late Biedermeier. Visitors can find information about the composer’s life and work, illustrated by letters and music scores as well as a dozen or so first-rate, original watercolor landscape scenes, painted by the composer and set among authentic furniture in his study and music salon. The latter is still used, just as in Mendelssohn’s days, as a venue for regular 11:00 Sunday morning concerts. After hearing Javi’s informative report on the Mendelssohn Haus, we were given a brief tour of the building, ending with the large music salon, equipped with a beautiful Steinway piano, on the second floor. Quite a number of us pianists tried out the piano, which was a delight and privilege to play, given the historic location: Jimmy Angeles, Javier Careaga, Chanel Hurd, Tyler Simpson and I all tried their hand(s) at the piano! One particularly fun and interesting room on the first floor – now referred to as the “Effekorium” – has been converted into a high-tech digital/audio interactive conducting room. In it are a couple dozen narrow, free-standing speakers, each representing an instrument, or small group of instruments, which produce sound for that part of a digital orchestra. When sounding together they make quite a credible orchestral whole! Here’s how it works: from the “podium,” the “conductor” reads the score from a computer screen while “conducting” with a (wired) baton, controlling tempo and volume – all works by Mendelssohn, of course! Tyler got to conduct Mendelssohn’s final movement from the composer’s 5th (aka “Reformation”) symphony, a work he had just finished analyzing for form class in the spring! This evening, after a quick (and final) evening buffet dinner provided by our hotel (the NH Messe Hotel), Taylor Jackson and I set off by taxi for a 20:00 Gwandhaus piano recital in central Leipzig. The program consisted of a 2-hour recital of the three Robert Schumann piano sonatas – those in G minor (Op. 22), F minor (Op. 14), and F#-minor (Op. 11). I warned Taylor that the recital was a “connoisseur’s” program, since it was limited to the music of a single composer (Schumann) and one genre of that composer’s works (piano sonatas), but she gamely insisted on joining me anyway– and survived the experience at least as well as I did! Turns out the pianist, Cheng Zhang, who has made Schumann somewhat of a specialty, had significant Fort Worth connections, since he did his undergraduate degree with Tomas Ungar at TCU, and has appeared as soloist both with PianoTexas and the Fort Worth Symphony. His playing this night was very good, clean, and credible, if also at times a bit “undermanned” – meaning he didn’t quite always have the gravitas for the biggest moments, somewhat undershooting them both emotionally and physically. But overall certainly a great pleasure to hear, and to be in the Gewandhaus “Klavier” hall, at least.
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BERLIN, May 18-21 SUN, MAY 21: TRAVEL FROM LEIPZIG TO BERLIN BY TRAIN Today the group took its second European train ride, this time a short, hour-plus morning jaunt from Leipzig central station to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (HBh). As proved to be true throughout the trip, we were always escorted by a local person to/from the hotel-station. Upon arrival at the hotel, about 13:00, we discovered that our first local guest lecturer and “expert,” Ms. Sylvia Ehl, who was scheduled to speak to us that afternoon on the topic of “The History of Berlin in the 20th Century,” for personal reasons had to cancel her appearance. That left the day – a beautiful one – wide open for individual pursuits. As one student said in his journal: “The speaker is not here and believe me, the entire group is very pleased. FREE DAY!” Since there was also an open-air antiques/flea market-type fair going on very nearby our hotel, a number of our group chose to hit that, including me, and another “gang of seven” or so rented bicycles. They had a great time, eventually ending up at the Cafe am neuen See Biergarten in the Tiergarten, Berlin’s famous “Central Park” and an iconic watering hole. The day turned out to be a delightful, hiatus for everyone. Later than evening Dr. Hanshaw and I enjoyed a meal together at a delightful Italian restaurant just beyond the famous ruins of the 1890’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
MON., MAY 22 AM: On our first full day in Berlin, the group headed for Reichstag (Parliament) Bldg and heard an informative report on it, from the coach, by Sam Smith. After that, it was on to the Berlin Wall! The Berlin Wall Today our group was scheduled to visit the Berlin Wall Memorial, the central memorial site of German division, located in the middle of the capital. Situated at the historic site on Bernauer Strasse, it extends along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip. The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it and is thus able to convey an impression of how the border fortifications developed until the end of the 1980’s. The events that took place here, together with the preserved historical remnants and traces of border obstacles on display, help to make the history of Germany’s division comprehensible to visitors. FATALITIES AT THE BERLIN WALL, 1961-1989 At least 139 people were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the East German border regime between 1961 and 1989. • 101 East German fugitives, who were killed, died by accident, or committed suicide while trying to flee through the border fortifications. • 30 people from the East and the West, who had not intended to flee, were shot or died in an accident. • Eight East German border soldiers, who were killed by deserters, comrades, a fugitive, an escape helper or a West Berlin policeman by accident or intentionally while on duty. At least 251 travelers also died during or after they had gone through checkpoints at the Berlin border crossings. Unknown numbers of people suffered and died from distress and despair in their personal lives as a consequence of the Berlin Wall being built. One of the ways the Wall’s effects are memorialized is by the frequent “stumbling stones” one encounters all around it. Stumbling stones are slightly raised stone discs, maybe 5 in in diameter, embedded in the pavement, showing an identifying number, date and short description of the type of activity which occurred at that particular spot. For example, we observed stumbling stones that read “Flucht, eine Person” (escaped, one person) or “Flucht mit Auto” (escaped with a car). The Wall in certain portions of its 40-km length was actually a double wall, with up to 100 ft of space of “no man’s land” between the E and W sides. Watchtowers placed within these boundaries were designed both to intimidate and facilitate capture of potential or actual crossers. Narrow slits built into these 12-ft concrete walls allowed guards to observe any activity within the “no man’s land.” Later, we viewed other sections of the Wall, along the Spree River, which, after re-unification, had been opened up to graffiti artists. These were some of the most colorful and imaginative graffiti art I’ve ever seen. One in particular continually got special attention: Created in 1990 and dubbed the “Bruderkuss” (fraternal kiss), it depicts the greeting given by Russian premier Leonid Brezhnev to Erich Honecker, president of East Germany at the time, in a fraternal embrace, thereby reproducing a photograph that captured the moment in 1979 during the 30th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the German Democratic Republic. Since it was the Russian tradition to greet political allies in this manner, but definitely NOT the tradition of the East Germans, who would’ve far preferred a simple handshake, it was clear who was in control at this point. Another mural depicts Erich Honecker as a blank-faced Roman emperor standing over a polluted, blackened and apparently dead city skyline. The political commentary is not hard to understand. From the Wall, we made our way to the Brandenburg Gate, at the head of Unter den Linden Straße, for a group photo op, and a quick check of Check Point Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991). Checkpoint Charlie was situated on the territory of former West Berlin in the Friedrichstraße before the junction with Zimmerstraße. A white line on the street Friedrichstraße, drawn in the night between September 6 and 7, 1961, marked the border between East and West Berlin. Behind this line Checkpoint Friedrichstraße was located in the East. A non-permanent wooden building was erected in the middle of the Friedrichstraße. Before August 1961 there had been no US Army presence there. The other two checkpoints were Helmstedt at the West German-East German border and Dreilinden at the West Berlin and East Germany border. Based on the phonetic alphabet, the Helmstedt checkpoint was called Checkoint Alpha, the Dreilinden checkpoint became Checkpoint Bravo and the checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse got the name Checkpoint Charlie, even though it was never an official name. There was a famous sign posted by the American Army at Checkpoint Charlie letting travelers know they was leaving the American sector (in other words, you are entering E Germany – beware!). After another lovely Italian meal in the area of Checkpoint Charlie, it was on to the Topography of Terror Museum. Topography of Terror Museum The Topography of Terror Museum is a combined outdoor and indoor history museum in Berlin. The museum is located on Niederkirchnerstrasse (formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse), the former site of Gestapo and SS headquarter buildings during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945. The Gestapo and SS were the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era. Their building headquarters were largely destroyed by Allied bombing during early 1945 and the ruins demolished after the war. The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street, renamed Niederkirchnerstrasse from 1961 to 1989. The wall here was never demolished. Indeed, the section adjacent to the Topography of Terror site is the longest extant segment of the outer wall. The cellar of the Gestapo headquarters, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed, was found and excavated. The site was then turned into a memorial and museum, set in the open air but protected from the elements by a canopy. It details the history of repression under the Nazis. After hearing Richard Salazar’s summary report of the site, the group had an hour or so to explore the displays, listen to post-war recorded testimonies of victims, and absorb the horrific experiences documented in the exhibits. Yet another terrible testament to Nazi guilt.
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BONUS ACTIVITY: THE REICH CHANCELLORY AREA. This evening I independently decided to try to locate and visit the area near the Brandenburg Gate where Hitler’s main offices, including both the old and new Reich Chancellories, the central ministries, the central Gestapo and SS headquarters – even the “Fuhrer Bunker” – had been located. The good historical map I had showed all these buildings were formerly found in a roughly rectangular area south of Unter den Linden Straße at the Brandenburg Gate, down to Prinz-Albrechtstraße, and between Hermann-Goringstraße (now Ebertstraße) on the west and Wilhelmstraße on the east. Getting wind of my idea, one of the political science majors in our group, Zahraa Saheb (incidentally about to begin her second year as president of Wesleyan’s Student Government Association), requested to join me on this quest to locate these Nazi stronghold locations. With very little effort – and all by walking from our hotel – we quickly found ourselves in the area, confirmed by several historical street markers along Wilhelmstraße. For anyone who might like to repeat this little itinerary when you’re in Berlin, just remember: almost all the original buildings of that time were either bombed to oblivion and/or bulldozed afterwards. Apparently the only building still remaining from that time is the Hotel Aldon, at the corner of Unter den Linden and Wilhelmstraße. Otherwise, there is nothing to see here but rebuilt commercial sites. That and the informative street signs here and there along Wilhelmstraße. Zahraa and I both enjoyed the fact that at the location where Hitler’s bunker once stood now sits a Peking Duck Chinese restaurant! Maybe there is a little social justice here after all! On our walk back to the hotel, we ran across the impressive Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. It consists of 2,100 concrete stellae of various heights in very precise rows N to S and E to W.
TUES., MAY 23 Our second full day in Berlin began with a visit to the Palace of Tears (Tränenpalast). Kayla Collier read out her good report on it in the lobby of the site, and from there we were led by a local guide who, of French origin, naturally spoke with a French accent. He was very good, and from him we had a clear and thorough overview of the facility. Palace of Tears The Palace of Tears is hardly a “palace.” Rather, it was a train station border crossing between E and W Berlin during the Cold War. Its name is derived from the fact that as W Berliners, who were the ones most often traveling to visit their E Berlin relatives, readied themselves to return to the West from E Berlin or E Germany, parting tears were often shed. Neither side ever knew if they were going to see each other again. The Palace of Tears and Checkpoint Charlie were both iconic in the city of Berlin. They were different in the ways that they were used, but had the same purpose. They were both passageways from the west to Eastern Germany through the Berlin Wall between 1947- 1991. The Palace of Tears itself is a small blue building with a rounded glass facade. It is located next to the Friedrichstrasse train station in the center of Berlin. The building has been turned into a museum which includes real testimonies of people who experienced what it was like to go through it. Sieglinde Neff noted that the passport control officers were always abrupt and intimidating – something we learned they had been instructed to do. She recalled that they used mirrors on the ceiling to keep an eye on passengers. She lied to an officer, stating she was from West Germany originally; however, she had grown up in East Germany and had fled to the West before the Berlin Wall was built. Another notable testimony from the Palace of Tears is from Verona Chambers. She was a Russian language teacher during 1988 in the East German state of Thuringia. Her husband never came back from an approved visit to West Berlin. Therefore, she considered escaping, but decided to submit the proper papers instead. She was denied them and authorities also told her she would no longer be allowed to teach in a socialist country. She was also pressured to divorce her husband since he was not with her family. She was even declared an enemy of state on May 1 at a big parade in her hometown, in front of her children. Eventually, after many battles, Chambers was granted approval to travel to West Berlin. However, the day she was allowed to cross through the station – Nov. 9, 1989 – was the same day the border was opened and 1000’s of others passed through Wall from East to West Berlin. It was the beginning of the end for the Berlin Wall – and the Palace of Tears. Pergamon Museum and Museum Island Our second and final official stop on this half-day tour was to one of the world’s great archeological museums – The Pergamon Museum. Located on “museum island” in Berlin, the Pergamon houses three of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s collections: the Antikensammlung (Antique Collection), Vorderasiatisches Museum (Middle East Museum), and the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art). The impressive reconstructions of massive archaeological structures – the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way from Babylon, and the Mshatta Facade – have made the Pergamon famous throughout the world, with the result that it is the most visited museum at the Staatliche Museen and in Germany as a whole. While much of the Pergamon and associated buildings within the Staatliche Museen complex are under construction, and thereby inaccessible, the south wing of the Pergamonmuseum – which features the Ishtar Gate, the Processional Way, the Museum für Islamische Kunst, and the Market Gate of Miletus – were open to the public when we visited. Our first stop in the Pergamon was to the museum’s reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate. The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BCE by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city. It was excavated in the early 20th century and a reconstruction using original bricks is what stands today in the Pergamon Museum. The rebuilding of the gate and processional way was one of most complex and impressive architectural reconstructions in the history of archaeology. Hundreds of crates of glaze brick fragments were carefully desalinated and pieced together. Fragments were combined with new bricks baked in a specially designed kiln to re-create the correct color and finish. It was a double gate; the part that is shown in the Pergamon Museum today is the smaller, frontal part. The larger, back part was considered too large to fit into the constraints of the structure of the museum; it is in storage. We were all much impressed to have the experience of walking through the same magnificent gate as the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar II! Our second stop inside the museum was to an even larger structure: the Market Gate of Miletus. The Market Gate of Miletus is a large marble monument built most likely during the reign of Emperor Hadrian about 120 to 130 AD. It served as the northern entrance to the southern market, or agora, in Miletus, an ancient city in what is now Turkey. The gate was destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. In the early 1900s, it was excavated, rebuilt, and placed on display in the museum. Only fragments had survived and reconstruction involved significant new material, a practice which generated criticism of the museum. The gate was damaged in World War II and underwent restoration in the 1950s. Further restoration work took place in the first decade of the 21st century. By the time we saw it on this trip, it was once again a very impressive sight! Our 3rd and last group stop in the Pergamon was to the Museum of Islamic Art. Among the oldest and most important collections of its kind in the world, the Museum of Islamic Art is second only to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The Pergamon collection occupies an unrivalled position in Germany – no other institution contains such a systematic and comprehensive collection of masterpieces of art and applied arts and objects of material culture stemming from Islamic societies as well as the Christian and Jewish communities living among them. The pièce de résistance in the Islamic collection is the ornately decorated yet no less monumental façade from the palace of Mshatta, which the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II presented to the museum as a gift. The collection’s array of other objects includes centuries-old pages of the Koran, with their splendidly colorful decorations, prayer rugs, ivory carvings, and the dazzling turquoise faience mosaics of mihrabs (prayer niches). These objects boast a bewildering and intense sense of color, form, and pattern. The collection’s holdings span all epochs of Islamic history from the 7th to 19th century, and also include Old South Arabian antiquities and ancient Iranian artifacts. Some of our group did chose to check out another famous holding of the Museum Island’s complex of buildings (in the Neues Museum) – the bust of Nefertiti. A world-famous artifact, the painted stucco-coated limestone bust represents Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. The work is believed to have been crafted in 1345 B.C. by the sculptor Thutmose, because it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt. It is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. Nefertiti has become one of the most famous women of the ancient world, and an icon of feminine beauty. Since her discovery in 1913, Egypt has waged an almost continuous battle with Germany to secure its return to the country of origin – Egypt – but to no avail. The end of the group’s visit to the Pergamon Museum about 12:30 represented the formal end of the scheduled study abroad activities for the day. From here, students were free to pursue their own interests for the rest of the day. * * * HOWEVER – a special opportunity presented itself to the group for the afternoon, and nearly all of its members took advantage of the occasion: Texas Wesleyan University Board of Trustees member Ms. Ann Skipper and her family just happened to be in Berlin on this day. Ms. Skipper had contacted my colleague, Dr. Hanshaw, to invite him and the rest of the group to join her at the Café am Neuen See in the Tiergarten.
Since the impromptu bicyclists from two days prior were already familiar with the location (and offerings!) of this café, it was a no-brainer to join Ms. Skipper and her family there. By the time the dust had settled, at least 11 out of the 17 Ethics & the Arts faculty and students joined Ms. Skipper, her daughter Emily, Emily’s husband and 2-yr-old daughter for the afternoon. A wonderful coincidence and real delight! And on the walk back to our hotel, a sudden cloudburst hastened Sam’s, Dr. Hanshaw’s and my stop at a conveniently located McDonald’s for a little evening sustenance!
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WARSAW, May 24-27 WED, MAY 24: TRAVEL FROM BERLIN TO WARSAW BY TRAIN This day offered our longest train connection of the trip: A EuroCity (EC) route from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof to Warsaw’s Centralna station, taking about 5½ hrs. When we arrived at the departure station in Berlin, Dr. Hanshaw and I faced a bit of an unexpected stressful moment when we arrived at about 8:45 am for a 9:37 departure. Here’s the story: based on our two previous train travel experiences, Mark and I expected to need, in addition to the travel voucher we did possess, individual train tickets for each of the 17 of us. We did not yet possess such individual tickets, and our escort did not have them, so once our students were setup at the correct trackside location, he and I headed to the station ticket office. Showing the voucher to one of the station attendants, we asked her if she could provide us with the individual tickets we understood we needed. I distinctly remember the phrase she repeatedly used in her answer to us: “Es ist nicht möglich, es ist nicht möglich …” [it’s not possible]. In our various attempts to find out how we could get said tickets, we called our 3rd-party travel provider, Kuoni, in Frankfurt, who knew nothing about our problem (but, to their credit, responded quickly and intently, and promised to call back). Eventually, I even called our Texas travel provider, “Charlene,” in Austin, at 2:15 am! I left her a message on her voice mail. The options at this point were either a) purchase new tickets (of which there were only 10 2nd-class and 2-first class tickets now available on the same train; so our other five travelers would have to travel on a subsequent train, which would leave at 3:00 pm, arrive at 9:00 pm!), or b) take a chance, board our 9:37 scheduled train without individual tickets, and beg forgiveness from the conductor! The female station attendant had already told us that our currently reserved seats would remain unoccupied during the trip. So why couldn’t we just buy new tickets for the same seats, if they would be unoccupied anyway? By now you know the response: “Es ist nicht möglich.” (Since tickets for those seats had already been purchased, the software would not allow them to be purchased again.) By about 9:20, some 17 minutes before the train was due to depart, the German woman attendant who had kept saying “Es ist nicht möglich” asked to see the vouchers once more, and then took them to a person who must’ve been either a colleague or a supervisor in the ticket office. In a few moments, she returned, handed us back the vouchers, and basically communicated that there was no need for individual tickets! According to her, the vouchers were both the voucher (proof of purchase) and the tickets! We were so relieved to hear this that we didn’t ask any other questions, which occurred to me later, such as: “Why didn’t you tell us this at the beginning?” “Why didn’t you know this already?” “Why was it necessary to put us thru this stress and expense [phone calls, e.g.]?” Instead, we joyously returned to our students without comment! Little did they know… Several things were different about this train trip compared to the two previous ones we had already taken: 1) the train’s seating was separated into 6-person compartments, three-facing-three, much like those in black-and-white mystery movies, rather than just paired seating on both sides of a central aisle; 2) there were more amenities available, including individual electric plug-ins by each seat, catered coffee/tea service brought to each compartment (€1-2 for tea or coffee when the train was in Germany, but free the minute the train crossed the border into Poland!, and individual overhead luggage racks in each compartment); and 3) there was a wonderful dining car! Mark and I spent 2+ very enjoyable hrs relaxing and dining in the dining car! Happily we arrived just soon enough to beat the lunch crowd who later turned up in droves. In the time Mark made a quick trip to the restroom, one gentleman asked if the seat across from me was free! I told Mark when he got back that he nearly lost his table seat! Our train ride was interesting and restful. Along the way we met a professional artist, a man named Ulrich Scheel, an illustrator, cartoonist, etc., from Frankfurt am Odor, the much smaller German city with the same name, situated right on the Polish border. Seated in the same compartment as five of us, he spoke perfect English, and gave us some very lively conversation. Gracie Weger, one of our students, asked if he could draw something for us, and he immediately responded that of course he could, but “it would cost a lot of money!” We arrived in Warsaw at 15:01, just as scheduled, and were met by our guide for the next three days, a lovely older lady named Mariola Laskowska. On the walk to the coach, we got a close-up look at the one of the few vestiges of the Soviet era still remaining in Warsaw: the monolithic 1955 Palace of Culture and Science, built as a gift to Poland by the Soviet Union. It is now a center for various commercial interests, public institutions and cultural activities, including concerts, cinemas, theaters, libraries, sports clubs, universities, scientific institutions, and authorities of the Polish Academy of Sciences. At 778 ft, it’s the tallest building in Poland. It was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but in the wake of destalinization after is death, all references to the dictator were eradicated from the building. That evening we were treated by the Lord Hotel to a delicious dinner at a downtown Warsaw restaurant – Wiesz Co Zjesz (“You Know What You Eat!) on Plac Konstitucje (Constitution Square) – featuring carrot soup, chicken & potatoes, and an apple pastry dessert. Very delightful!
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THURS, MAY 25, AM: Our first full day in Warsaw began with a visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, preceded as usual by a fine onsite report, delivered outdoors, this time by Chanel Hurd. Warsaw Uprising Museum The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a wonderful, high-tech, interactive, multi-level, multi-modal museum. Opened on the 60th anniversary of the 1944 outbreak of resistance fighting, the museum is the city’s tribute to those who fought and died for independent Poland and its free capital. The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II initiative by the Polish resistance Home Army to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union’s Red Army approach to the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. It lasted between Aug 1 and Oct 2, 1944. The museum depicts fighting and everyday life during the Uprising, using photographs, films and sound recordings. Many larger exhibits include a Nazi side-car-equipped motorcycle with machine-gun mount, a re-created sewer passage visitors can squeeze through, and a replica B24J Bomber used by the Allies for humanitarian airdrops. Of unusual interest to us was the fact that he bomber was made in Fort Worth, Texas. The 1½ hr visit to this museum was time very well-spent! * * *
THURS, MAY 25, PM: Though today’s official afternoon schedule listed a visit to the National Museum of Warsaw, by now it had already been decided – by unanimous group vote – that we would instead make a visit to the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, some 31 miles and about an hour’s drive from Warsaw. Mariola, our guide, the local tour company and the bus driver were all in agreement that that was a perfectly acceptable substitute activity, with no additional group charge required. Chopin House at Żelazowa Wola The trip to Chopin’s birthplace at Żelazowa Wola proved to be for most of these students – esp. the musicians among them – the chance of a lifetime. Certainly it was a felicitous choice, weather-wise. The day was absolutely beautiful – sunny, warm and delightful. The expansive natural park on the banks of the Utrata River surrounding Chopin’s birthhouse was in full bloom with local flowers and plants. Interspersed were several statues and monuments dedicated to the composer. Fryderyk Chopin was born on this estate, belonging to one Count Skarbek, where his father was a French language tutor, and his mother was a relative of the Count, who gave them assistance. When Fryderyk was seven months old, the family moved to Warsaw permanently. During our visit, a 17-year –old female pianist played a short recital of two works: the B-major Nocturne, Op. 62, No. 1, and the Barcarolle in F#-minor, Op. 60. As usual, the audience sat outside the front room of the house on chairs provided for the occasion on the patio; in this way, the sound carried through open windows to the listeners outside. Jimmy Angeles and Richard Salazar took the opportunity to remain inside, in the same room as the pianist was playing, and got an even more up-close and personal experience! The Chopin house is also a small museum, with letters, lithographs, paintings, portraits, furniture and other artifacts from the time, including a period Broadwood grand piano (though the instrument was not resident in the house when Chopin lived there). On display also was a first edition of a polonaise Chopin wrote at age 8, and dedicated to “Countess Victoire Skarbek,” wife of his father’s employer. Very charming to see and experience. Afterwards, we made our way to the nearby Polish specialty restaurant just off the grounds of the site. The tab for everyone was picked up by the University, courtesy of Dr. Hanshaw and myself. I enjoyed the local trout, cooked whole body and all. Delicious! Once we arrived back in Warsaw, the evening was open for individual activities.
* * * FRI, MAY 26, AM: The second full day in Warsaw began in a most unusual way: at the end of the previous day’s visit to Zelazowa Wola, one of our group, Ms. Zahraa Saheb, did the unthinkable: while buying souvenirs at the Chopin Home area, she unknowingly dropped her passport on the ground! Very luckily for Zahraa, the souvenir shop lady found it and, with a little sleuthing on her part, figured out how to contact our guide, who contacted Zahraa and me. Happily, the souvenir shop lady was willing to hold the passport for Zahraa to pick up, rather than follow the usual protocol and turn it in to police – which then might take 2 weeks to return to its rightful owner! But there was a price for such good fortune: in exchange for her good will, the souvenir shop lady was expecting a significant tip – in the range of $100 USD (not 100 PLN, or zloty). Though one of Zahraa’s friends offered to accompany her back to Żelazowa Wola to retrieve the passport, in the end Dr. Hanshaw and I agreed it would be he who should do so. And though the round trip ended up taking her all day, rather than the ½ day expected, Zahraa did retrieve her document and ended up having to pay only about $60 USD, rather than $100. I did regret that both she and Dr. Hanshaw thereby missed our otherwise scheduled visit to the fabulous Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Museum of the History of Polish Jews Of all the museums we visited on this trip, for my money, this one was the best. Everything about it was wonderful – the contents, organization, interactivity, variety of exhibits and span of coverage (1000 years). The Core Exhibition covers a journey from the Middle Ages until today. Visitors will find answers to questions such as: how did Jews come to Poland? How did Poland become the center of the Jewish Diaspora and the home of the largest Jewish community in the world? What was that community like? How did it cease to be one, and how is Jewish life being revived today? The exhibition is made up of eight galleries, spread over an area of 4000 square meters, presenting the heritage and culture of Polish Jews, which still remains a source of inspiration for Poland and for the world. The galleries portray successive phases of history, beginning with legends of arrival, the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Poland and the development of Jewish culture. The social, religious and political diversity of Polish Jews is shown, highlighting dramatic events from the past, the Holocaust, and concluding with contemporary times. 1000 years of Polish-Jewish coexistence are presented, speaking of cooperation, rivalry and conflicts, autonomy, integration and assimilation. While seeking to confront thorny issues, bright chapters in the common history are brought to light. The Core Exhibition is a narrative: visitors will be drawn into a story told by artifacts, paintings, interactive installations, reconstructions and models, video projections, sounds and words. The focus is on life, therefore at each stage of the journey an effort is made to remain close to life by letting people speak – Jewish merchants, scholars or artists from a given era, rabbis, housewives, politicians, chroniclers and revolutionaries. The floor is given to those who perished and to those who survived. At various points, visitors were able to make a replica digital copy of a 16th cen. Jewish coin, with blessing and first name “stamped” on it, or print a real piece of paper with a public announcement in Yiddish, the secular language of the Polish Jews. We walked on a typical 17th c. Jewish “street,” cobblestones and all, sat on an 18th c. Polish throne, stood under a Jewish wedding canopy, and witnessed many tragic and threatening scenes from the Holocaust. All in all, this museum was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening experience, to say the least! I’d love to return to it someday for further viewing! * * * 1ST GUEST LECTURE: Upon leaving the POLIN Museum, the group was free until 4:30 pm that afternoon, when we were scheduled to hear our first local guest lecturer during the trip (since the Berlin speaker had had to cancel), back at the Lord Hotel. By 4:40 that afternoon, most of the students had arrived at our rented conference room on the 2nd floor of the hotel to hear Professor Piotr Skurowski, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences at SWPS University in Warsaw. His topic to us was: The History of Poland and Warsaw in the 20th Century. We were most grateful for his presence and expertise, and his 75-minute discussion was a good one. Essentially he showed many still photographs of life before, during and after WW II in Warsaw and environs, and explained the significance of each. Afterwards there was a chance for questions. The rest of the evening was free for students to do as they wished.
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FRI, MAY 26, AM: The second full day in Warsaw began in a most unusual way: at the end of the previous day’s visit to Zelazowa Wola, one of our group, Ms. Zahraa Saheb, did the unthinkable: while buying souvenirs at the Chopin Home area, she unknowingly dropped her passport on the ground! Very luckily for Zahraa, the souvenir shop lady found it and, with a little sleuthing on her part, figured out how to contact our guide, who contacted Zahraa and me. Happily, the souvenir shop lady was willing to hold the passport for Zahraa to pick up, rather than follow the usual protocol and turn it in to police – which then might take 2 weeks to return to its rightful owner! But there was a price for such good fortune: in exchange for her good will, the souvenir shop lady was expecting a significant tip – in the range of $100 USD (not 100 PLN, or zloty). Though one of Zahraa’s friends offered to accompany her back to Żelazowa Wola to retrieve the passport, in the end Dr. Hanshaw and I agreed it would be he who should do so. And though the round trip ended up taking her all day, rather than the ½ day expected, Zahraa did retrieve her document and ended up having to pay only about $60 USD, rather than $100. I did regret that both she and Dr. Hanshaw thereby missed our otherwise scheduled visit to the fabulous Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Museum of the History of Polish Jews Of all the museums we visited on this trip, for my money, this one was the best. Everything about it was wonderful – the contents, organization, interactivity, variety of exhibits and span of coverage (1000 years). The Core Exhibition covers a journey from the Middle Ages until today. Visitors will find answers to questions such as: how did Jews come to Poland? How did Poland become the center of the Jewish Diaspora and the home of the largest Jewish community in the world? What was that community like? How did it cease to be one, and how is Jewish life being revived today? The exhibition is made up of eight galleries, spread over an area of 4000 square meters, presenting the heritage and culture of Polish Jews, which still remains a source of inspiration for Poland and for the world. The galleries portray successive phases of history, beginning with legends of arrival, the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Poland and the development of Jewish culture. The social, religious and political diversity of Polish Jews is shown, highlighting dramatic events from the past, the Holocaust, and concluding with contemporary times. 1000 years of Polish-Jewish coexistence are presented, speaking of cooperation, rivalry and conflicts, autonomy, integration and assimilation. While seeking to confront thorny issues, bright chapters in the common history are brought to light. The Core Exhibition is a narrative: visitors will be drawn into a story told by artifacts, paintings, interactive installations, reconstructions and models, video projections, sounds and words. The focus is on life, therefore at each stage of the journey an effort is made to remain close to life by letting people speak – Jewish merchants, scholars or artists from a given era, rabbis, housewives, politicians, chroniclers and revolutionaries. The floor is given to those who perished and to those who survived. At various points, visitors were able to make a replica digital copy of a 16th cen. Jewish coin, with blessing and first name “stamped” on it, or print a real piece of paper with a public announcement in Yiddish, the secular language of the Polish Jews. We walked on a typical 17th c. Jewish “street,” cobblestones and all, sat on an 18th c. Polish throne, stood under a Jewish wedding canopy, and witnessed many tragic and threatening scenes from the Holocaust. All in all, this museum was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening experience, to say the least! I’d love to return to it someday for further viewing! * * * 1ST GUEST LECTURE: Upon leaving the POLIN Museum, the group was free until 4:30 pm that afternoon, when we were scheduled to hear our first local guest lecturer during the trip (since the Berlin speaker had had to cancel), back at the Lord Hotel. By 4:40 that afternoon, most of the students had arrived at our rented conference room on the 2nd floor of the hotel to hear Professor Piotr Skurowski, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences at SWPS University in Warsaw. His topic to us was: The History of Poland and Warsaw in the 20th Century. We were most grateful for his presence and expertise, and his 75-minute discussion was a good one. Essentially he showed many still photographs of life before, during and after WW II in Warsaw and environs, and explained the significance of each. Afterwards there was a chance for questions. The rest of the evening was free for students to do as they wished.
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KRAKÓW, May 27-30 SAT, MAY 27: TRAVEL FROM WARSAW TO KRAKÓW BY TRAIN On this, the final ground travel leg of the trip, students were out of the hotel and aboard the coach by 9:17 am – 17 minutes late, but nonetheless ready to travel. Since the train wasn’t due to depart Warsaw until 11:03, we had a little extra time. Mariola, our loyal companion and guide, suggested we a quick photo stop to Lazienki Park, home to a famous statue of Chopin, on our way to the train station. This we heartily agreed to. Lazienki Park Lazienki Park is the largest park in Warsaw, occupying 76 hectares of the city center. The park-and-palace complex lies in Warsaw’s central district on Ujazdów Avenue, which is part of the “Royal Route” linking the Royal Castle with Wilanów Palace to the south. Of particular interest to our group was the Chopin Statue situated there, a large bronze statue of Fryderyk Chopin in the upper part of the park. It was designed in 1907 by Wacław Szymanowski for its planned erection on the centenary of Chopin’s birth in 1810, but its execution was delayed by controversy about the design, then by the outbreak of World War I. The statue was finally cast and erected in 1926. During World War II, the statue was blown up on May 31, 1940. It was the first monument destroyed by the occupying Germans in Warsaw. According to local legend, the next day a handwritten sign was found at the site which read: “I don’t know who destroyed me, but I know why: so that I won’t play the funeral march for your leader.” Professor Oskar Sosnowski designed the pedestal and basin, which are made of red Wąchock sandstone. The original mold for the statue, which had survived the war, made it possible to cast a replica, which was placed at the original site in 1958. At the statue’s base, free piano recitals of Chopin’s compositions have been performed since 1959 on Sunday afternoons in the summertime. The stylized willow branches over Chopin’s seated figure echoes a pianist’s hand and fingers. A 1:1-scale replica of Szymanowski’s statue stands in Hamamatsu, Japan.
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Our final train ride, from Warsaw to Kraków, was scheduled to take 2½ hrs, departing at 11:03 and arriving at 13:31. By this time students knew the drill and seemed comfortable with the procedure. They were also plainly tired, and appreciated this day of travel to rest a bit. The journey to Kraków was blissfully uneventful and enjoyable, with idyllic, pastoral scenes flying by the window. We were met at the station, as always, by an efficient and well-informed escort and guide, in this case, Mr. Grzegorz Brzostek. He quickly proved to be a welcome addition to our travels. And other than the temporary loss of student traveler Jimmy Angeles, who was buying sunglasses in a shop when the coach left downtown Kraków (!), the ride to our final hotel, the Sympozjum Hotel, was equally uneventful. The Royal Chamber Orchestra Concert The one remaining scheduled activity for the day was the entire group’s attendance at the only University-paid concert during the trip – a performance by a group of four strings (2 violins, viola and cello) calling itself The Royal Chamber Orchestra. Members consisted of outstanding musicians from Kraków who graduated from the city’s Academy of Music. Clearly designed as “tourist concerts,” the program was always given at the same time (18:00) and location (St. Adalbert Church, on the square in Kraków ). There were only two programs played each month: one given on odd-numbered days, and a second, contrasting program played on even-numbered days. Our particular program – the one played on odd-numbered days – consisted of such familiar chestnuts as the Pachelbel Canon in D; a movement of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik; Handel’s Ombra Mai Fu; Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons; Nina Rota’s Godfather movie theme; Webber’s Phantom of the Opera movie theme and nine more super-familiar “classical” or “movie music” selections. The Church of St. Adalbert (or in Polish, St. Wojciech) is one of the smallest and oldest churches in Poland. Its nearly 1000-year-old history goes back to the beginning of the Polish Romanesque architecture of the early Middle Ages. Throughout the early history of Kraków the Church of St. Wojciech was a place of worship first visited by merchants travelling from across Europe. It was a place where citizens and nobility would meet. The Church was built in the 11th century and named after the martyred missionary Saint Adalbert whose body was bought for its weight in gold from the pagan Prussia and placed in Gniezno Cathedral by Boleslaus I of Poland. The Church of St. Adalbert stands at the south-eastern corner of the biggest medieval market square in Europe, demarcated in 1257. The place of worship preceded the Square by nearly a century. The interior of the church is cramped, relative to its larger exterior. The floor level is situated under the present level of the Square, which reflects the overlaying of the subsequent surfaces of the plaza with pavement originally adjusted to the two already existing churches (St. Wojciech/Adalbert and St. Mary’s Basilica). The church was partially reconstructed in the Baroque style between 1611 and 1618. Inside, there is a beautiful ornate dome overhead, an icon of St. Adalbert on the N wall, and a smallish main altar area done mostly in gold and black tones. The small size of the church makes the acoustics very lively. The slightest musical details can be heard by everyone in the building. We were stuffed into the church, pretty much like sardines in a can – seated in very tightly-paired sets of temporarily-placed chairs next to permanent pews, so as to maximize seating potential. The concert itself lived up to its expectation as a “tourist concert,” and not just because of the super-familiar repertoire. The four string players almost invariably took faster tempos than seemed advisable, playing through the notes in an obviously hurried and perfunctory manner, generally eschewing opportunities to provide expression and nuance. It was tempting to think that the generally rushed, expressionless quality of their performance was due to the players’ over-familiarization with the program. There was one performance bright spot, however: toward the end of the program’s penultimate piece (Bizet’s “Habanera” from his opera Carmen), the first violinist took off on an improvisational flight of fancy, eventually leaving the rest of his colleagues in the dust, relegating them to the status of simple listeners, like the rest of us, with his virtuosic solo playing. Eventually his solo improvisation bled over into the final program piece, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5, creating an almost single continuous whole of both pieces. The audience, myself included, were duly impressed by his speed, accuracy of pitch, brilliant bow technique, creative imagination and masterful command of harmonics. This all came to a rousing finish as the other three players joined him in closing out the Brahms, bringing the audience to its feet with its full-throated approbation! And as advertised, the program ended in approximately one hour’s time. Once the concert ended ca. 19:00, the rest of the evening was free for individual pursuits. I personally checked out items for sale in the Cloth Hall [Sukiennice], located in the center of Medieval Europe’s largest square, the Główny Rynek [Grand Square]. Mostly on display were amber jewelry, decorative clothing and other tourist-type gifts [e.g., hand-carved music boxes]. I bought four amber bracelets – the saleslady threw in a fifth one just for fun [most likely because she was making such a killing on the original four!] – and other souvenirs.
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SUN, MAY 28 AM: This morning our schedule us slated for a tour of the most iconic sites in historical Kraków : the factory owned and run by war-time industrialist and Nazi party member Oskar Schindler, and made famous by the 1993 Steven Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory Thanks to the Spielberg film, most people are now familiar with the name Schindler. Oskar Schindler was a Sudeten German businessman industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi Party. He is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He is the subject of both the 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark, and the subsequent 1993 film Schindler’s List, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity and dedication to save the lives of his Jewish employees. Schindler saved his Jewish workers from extinction by providing them “essential” jobs in his factories, and fighting to keep them there, in order to avoid being deported to concentration camps – and certain death in the gas chambers. For those who might think this facility is a preserved factory as depicted in the Spielberg movie, they would be disappointed. It is not. Instead, the former metal item factory is now host to two museums: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, set in the former workshops, and a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków, situated at ul. Lipowa 4 (4 Lipowa street) in the district of Zabłocie, the location we visited this day. The museum is located in the administrative building of the Schindler’s former enamel factory. The Schindler Factory Museum was, in my estimation, second only to the museum POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which we had seen two days prior in Warsaw. The Schindler Factory permanent exhibition is primarily a story about Kraków and its inhabitants, both Polish and Jewish, during World War II. It is also a story about Nazi Germans – the occupiers who arrived here on September 6, 1939, brutally disrupting Kraków’s centuries-long history of Polish-Jewish relations. The exhibition presents the tragedy of the war both in the individual, and in the collective dimension, but it also portrays everyday life in the Nazi-occupied Kraków as it is immortalized in ordinary objects, photographs, newspapers, personal and official documents. To me, one of the reasons this museum is extraordinary is that the exhibition has been created with the use of various means that go beyond the framework of traditional museum exhibitions. The designers and creators have given it the character of a theatrical, or cinematic narrative. The theatrical reconstructions of Kraków’s historical city space are juxtaposed with sculptural installations metaphorically embracing the city’s wartime history. The spectator voyeuristically wanders through the city: walking down the cobbled streets, popping in at a photographer’s shop, peeping into an authentic stereoscope which used to belong to a pre-war studio on Szczepańska St, boarding a tram to watch a documentary portraying the everyday life of the city which is screened on the tram’s windows, walking through the narrow, labyrinthine streets of the Ghetto to visit a typical Jewish apartment, and then moving to the Płaszów camp, together with the Ghetto residents. Looking through the windows of a hairdresser’s salon, s/he watches the Polish underground’s attempt on the life of Nazi war criminal and Poland administrator, Wilhelm Koppe. A moment later, looking through the window of a gloomy basement, s/he witnesses a street round-up, and finally, trapped in the fortified city, s/he waits for the Red Army to arrive. The five key points in the city’s history are marked by “memory machines” – the stampers which every visitor can use to obtain a commemorative stamp associated with the given historical event. By using the “memory machines” visitors can produce their own, tangible “time documents” which they can take home with them. The symbolic summary of the exhibition is the “Hall of Choices” – a sculptural installation symbolizing the various ethical dilemmas and attitudes one could encounter during the war. The 45 exhibition rooms of the Schindler Factory Museum have been used to present Kraków’s history in an almost tangible way, enabling visitors to get a personal experience of the past, and to feel the dramatic emotions shared by the city’s wartime residents. Extensive multimedia solutions (including 30 interactive multimedia kiosks with touchscreens, 70 soundtracks, and 15 video projectors) create an attractive, contemporary, and visitor-oriented museum environment. At the conclusion of the Schindler Factory Museum visit, a change of plan had been agreed to. Instead of the originally scheduled visit to the Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral complex, the group was set free for the next 4 hours, to allow to for lunch and individual pursuits in downtown Kraków. My colleague Mark and several of his students decided to walk back to the Kazimierz quarter of Kraków , the location of at least five Jewish synagogues and the former Jewish ghetto of Kraków during WW II. Alternately, I and six of the students were conveniently dropped off in front of the Muzeum Narodowe w Kraków ie (Kraków National Musuem), a few blocks W of the Główny Rynek [Grand Square], with one purpose in mind: to view the city’s most famous and valuable art holding: Leonardo da Vinci’s painting on wood known as Lady with an Ermine. Having recently viewed two other Leonardo paintings at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia (both of the Virgin and Child – the so-called Benois Madonna and the Litta Madonna), I was especially keen to see this work, one of the most admired and sought after in the world, and rightly considered Poland’s “Mona Lisa.” Lady with an Ermine The subject in the portrait is Cecilia Gallerani, painted at a time when she was the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Leonardo was in the service of the duke. The painting is one of only four portraits of women painted by Leonardo, the others being the Mona Lisa, the portrait of Ginevra de Benci, and La belle ferronnière. The provenance of the painting is an interesting one. It was acquired in Italy by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, son of Princess Izabela Czartoryska and Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski in 1798, and incorporated it into the Czartoryski family collections at Puławy in 1800. The inscription on the top-left corner of the painting, LA BELE FERONIERE, LEONARD DAWINCI, probably was added by a restorer shortly after its arrival in Poland (note Polish spelling of Leonardo’s last name), and before the background was overpainted from blue to black. Czartoryski was clearly aware it was a Leonardo, although the painting had never been discussed in print; unfortunately, no record exists of any previous owner. The actual Belle Ferronière is the Leonardo portrait in the Louvre, whose sitter bears such a close resemblance to Lady with an Ermine, the Czartoryskis considered her to be the same. The painting traveled extensively during the 19th century; Princess Czartoryska rescued it in advance of the invading Russian army in 1830, hid it, then sent it to Dresden and on to the Czartoryski place of exile in Paris, the Hôtel Lambert, only returning it to Kraków in 1882. In 1939, almost immediately after the German occupation of Poland, it was seized by the Nazis and sent to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin. In 1940, Hans Frank, the Governor General of Poland, requested it be returned to Kraków, where it hung in his suite of offices. At the end of WW II, it was discovered by Allied troops in Frank’s country home in Bavaria. It was then returned to Poland to the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków. The painting was purchased in 2016 from the Czartoryski Foundation by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage for the National Museum in Kraków. It has been on display in that museum’s main building since only May, 2017 – just days before we arrived! After what proved to be a truly moving experience for me by viewing the painting, members of our Lady with an Ermine group made a short stop at the gift shop and then walked back to the Główny Rynek for a lovely Italian meal on the square! Our only remaining scheduled group activity for this day was to re-assemble at the Hotel Sympozjum for a 4:30 guest lecture by our second and final history expert, Professor Tomasz Cebulski, Ph.D., from the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków. His topic: The History of the Jews in Poland, The Jewish Diaspora, Auschwitz & WWII. Dr. Cebulski’s comments were wonderfully insightful and enlightening, centering on the concept of genocide, and its expression during the Holocaust. He mentioned the work of Polonized-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, best known for coining the word genocide and initiating the Genocide Convention, as well as for his 1933 essay “The Crime of Barbarity.” Professor Cebulski also listed the eight recognized steps which lead to genocide: 1. Changes in language reflecting a radicalization of ideas, which are then housed in changes in law (thus, language) 2. Administrative/social marking (Jews having to wear a Star of David) 3. Physical separation (ghettos) 4. Propaganda (Goebbels was the Nazis very effective Minister of Propaganda) 5. Technological applications (radio, TV, newspapers, posters, other mass media) 6. Murder (once the 1st victim falls in a genocide, it’s too late to stop it) 7. Silence (for a long time, even Jewish survivors didn’t want to discuss their experience or the Holocaust in general; the 1st serious research only occurred 50 years later, in the 1990’s!) 8. Denial (very effective, esp. if there’s little or no physical proof of the crime[s]) Incidentally, before Dr. Cebulski’s lecture began, I asked our escort, Greg, to contact the Kraków Opera, which was performing Verdi’s La Traviata that night at 18:30. Four of the group – myself, Alan Michael, Blake and Chanel – had hoped to attend. But during the lecture, Greg called me to the door and informed me that there were zero tickets available, and that typically seats are sold out for weeks ahead of time anyway (something we should have checked), so very little chance that we’d be able to get tickets at the box office this evening. I passed a note around to the other three opera hopefuls. Though it left the evening free for individual pursuits, the four of us were quite disappointed.
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MON, MAY 29: This, our last full day in Kraków and Poland, had two main items on the agenda: in the morning we were scheduled to visit the historical royal seat of Poland, the Wawel Cathedral and Castle complex just S of the city center, and in the afternoon, we had a 3:00 timed entrance to what Dr. Hanshaw and I had arranged to be the climax and piece de resistance of the trip: the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. AM: Our walk up Wawel Hill included a de rigeur stop to look down at the “dragon’s den” below, even noting the firey breath emitting from the bronze dragon statue found there. Legend says, we were told (!), that before the city was founded Smok Waweleski, the local dragon, lived in a cave under one of Wawel’s rolling hills. Smok was of the classic maiden-devouring ilk, requiring the local people to put out a fresh young woman each month to quell his appetite. According to legend he was finally killed by a local hero (or a local apprentice, depending on the version), who fed Smok a lamb laced with sulfur. This made the beast so thirsty that he drank water from the river until he exploded. Hanging next to the cathedral’s entrance are the “real” bones of Smok Waweleski, They are chained together in a random jumble, hanging high above the main doors. As delightful as it would be if the remains were truly those of a “dragon,” the bones are actually thought to be fossilized whale bones or mammoth bones. Regardless of their true origin, they have been there for centuries and are credited with magical powers. * * * Wawel Castle Wawel Castle is a castle residency located in central Kraków. Built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great, it consists of a number of structures situated around an Italian-styled main courtyard. The castle, being one of the largest in Poland, represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally significant site in the country. In 1978 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Center of Kraków. For centuries the residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish statehood, the Castle is now one of the country’s premier art museums. It houses collections of paintings, including an important collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, among them the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, goldsmith’s work, arms and armor, ceramics, Meissen porcelain, and period furniture. The museum’s holdings in oriental art include the largest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe. Wawel Cathedral The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill, also known as the Wawel Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków. More than 900 years old, it is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków. Karol Wojtyla, who in 1978 became Pope John Paul II, the day after his ordination to the priesthood offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of the Cathedral on November 2, 1946, and was ordained Kraków’s auxiliary bishop in the Cathedral on September 28, 1958. The current, Gothic, cathedral is the third edifice on this site: the first was constructed and destroyed in the 11th century; the second, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one began in the 14th century on the orders of Bishop Nanker. Wawel Cathedral Crypt Whereas Poland’s medieval monarchs were buried under the floor of the Wawel Cathedral below their sarcophagi, those of the l6th, the 17th and the 18th centuries were laid to rest in its crypts. That innovation was introduced by King Sigismund I. In 1533 he transferred the body of his first wife to a purpose-built vault underneath the brand-new exquisite chapel later named after him. He joined her in 1548. Most crypts of the Wawel Cathedral date back to the l6th and the 17th century and they entomb ten Polish monarchs together with their spouses and occasional children. Some of the nation’s greatest war heroes were also honored with burial in the Cathedral’s vaults – Prince Jozef Poniatowski in 1817, Tadeusz Kosciuszko in 1818, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski in 1935, and General Wladyslaw Sikorski in 1993. In 2010 President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, both killed in a Russian airplane crash in 2010, considered by some to be suspicious, were buried in the vestibule of the Wawel Cathedral’s Marshal Pilsudski crypt, which created considerable controversy at the time. The remains of two 19th-century Polish outstanding poets – Adam Mickiewicz in 1890 and Juliusz Slowacki in 1927 – were buried in the separate “Bards’ Crypt” which contains also a symbolic tomb of Cyprian Kamil Nowid, another great poet, and a plaque commemorating Frederic Chopin. After our visit to Wawel, we were given 45 minutes to find some lunch in the Glwony Rynek area. While some chose an (albeit nice) nearby McDonald’s Restaurant, others, Dr. Hanshaw and myself among them, upon Greg’s recommendation, ate at a Polish self-service restaurant which was very quick, tasty and reasonable.
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MAY 29, PM: The final official event of the trip now loomed over us: an approximately 1 hr. drive W of Kraków to the little Polish village of Oświęcim, for a visit to the site now forever known by its Germanized name: Auschwitz. Auschwitz-Birkenau What more can be written about the largest, most notorious and most deadly of the Nazi concentration camps? Perhaps a few facts will suffice: • More people died in Auschwitz than the British and American losses of WW II – combined. • About 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at Auschwitz. • 1.1 million people died during the 4½ years of Auschwitz’s existence. • Auschwitz was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May, 1940 • 144 prisoners are known to have escaped from Auschwitz successfully. • Besides Jews, to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti (gypsies), 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses. • Witold Pilecki, a Polish soldier, volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz in order to gather information, escape and let the world know about the Holocaust. • Auschwitz’s camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, was arrested in 1946, convicted of murder, and hanged at the camp on an individual gallows built just for him. • About 60 million Reichmarks, equivalent to $165 million USD today, was generated for the Nazi state by slave labor at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. • Of a total of about 7,000 staff at Auschwitz, only 750 were ever punished. • Josef Mengeles’s “scientific” experiments at Auschwitz often involved studies of twins. If one twin died, he would immediately kill the other and carry out comparative autopsies. • In Auschwitz, an SS guard fell in love with a Jewish prisoner. He saved her life multiple times and she testified on his behalf during his post-war trial. • The company that created Zyklon B, the gas that was used to kill missions of Jews in the Holocaust, still exists as a pest control company. • During a revolt at Auschwitz, a member of the SS was stabbed, then burned alive in a crematorium oven. • Anne Frank’s father survived Auschwitz and died in 1980 of lung cancer. • After Auschwitz became a museum in 1947, exhumation work lasted for more than a decade. For more, consult the vast literature on the subject of the Nazi concentration camps and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Its story will forever stand as one of humanity’s darkest hours – one never to be forgotten or repeated. After a film on Auschwitz and the Holocaust shown in the coach on return trip to the hotel, the group looked forward to its final meal together, a “Farewell to Poland” banquet in the Hotel Sympozjum dining room.
MAY 30, AM: With a 2:30 wake-up call and 3:15 bus boarding call for our shuttle to the airport, the study abroad program Ethics & and Arts in Eastern Europe was set to complete the circle and return to its starting point in Texas. Armed with a sack breakfast provided by the hotel, group members easily made the 6:15 am flight from Kraków to Frankfurt, and the subsequent 10:10 am flight from Frankfurt to DFW, arriving ca. 2:10 pm on the same day (though some 7 hrs later in body time!). Dr. Hanshaw left the group in Frankfurt, as he was scheduled for a professional conference in London, where he planned to fly the following day, so we all said our goodbyes to him via What’sApp. All in all, the final travel day went smoothly, uneventfully and according to plan, with everyone (excluding Dr. Hanshaw) returning safe and sound to DFW by about 2:05 pm! * * * EPILOGUE: The trip was successful in just about everything that it had planned to do. Only a very few things happened differently than what was scheduled, and several of those were an improvement. Here are a few of them, remembering that, overall, Dr. Hanshaw and I are very happy with the way things turned out! 1. Dr. Hanshaw and I were a bit disappointed that, on arrival in Berlin, the first of our guest speakers, Ms. Sylvia Ehl, had had to cancel her lecture on the city’s history, due to a personal emergency. On the other hand, that hole in the schedule allowed students to use the rest of that beautiful day to explore the city on their own – on foot and bicycle, which many of them did. Some of them stated that that afternoon was the most enjoyable of the trip for them! So the unexpected free time turned out to be a definite boon, and not a bust. 2. The serendipity of visiting Wesleyan trustee member Ann Skipper and her family at the Tiergarten in Berlin was a perfectly timed bonus event. That day was also beautiful, and the chance to have relaxing refreshment with her and her family and our group together on an otherwise free afternoon in a famous café in the Tiergarten was priceless, and an experience we’ll all remember for a long time! 3. The decision to visit Chopin’s home at Zelazowa Wola, Poland, instead of the originally scheduled visit to the Warsaw National Museum, turned out to be a most felicitous choice. The afternoon we chose to go was a perfect day to be outdoors in the park surrounding the house, to visit the museum, and to hear a short piano recital of his music outdoors on the patio, with the windows of the house open. Everyone agreed it was the right choice, including our experienced guide Mariola, who gushed about what a good substitute it was. The lone dissenter might have been Zahraa Saheb, who lost her passport at a souvenir shop there, and had to spend the following day going back and retrieving it – which she was able to do! 4. The bonus visit to the National Museum in Kraków and Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine, which seven of us accomplished, was the experience of a lifetime for me! It was fantastic to see the priceless painting in such good condition, and was much reminiscent of my family’s quest to see Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I in New York City in October, 2015. I was gratified to see as many students as did join me in that effort. 5. On the other hand, I was sorry that the music students who had wanted to attend an opera somewhere along the trip – esp. in Kraków with the chance to hear La Traviata at the Kraków Opera – were never able to do so. We didn’t make as big an effort to hear something in Leipzig or Berlin as we might have, and by the time we got to Kraków, seats had apparently long ago sold out. I know in particular Chanel, Alan Michael and Blake were disappointed. 6. Finally: one thing I should’ve thought to accomplish, since we were right in the area several times, and that was to visit the Mariacki Church on the Grand Square in Kraków’s city center. Inside is one of the greatest treasures of Polish culture and arts: Wit Stwosz, the greatest sculptor of the Gothic art, lived and worked in Kraków for 19 years, and he sacrificed twelve of them (1477 to 1489) to carve in wood his magnum opus: a three-story-high altarpiece, covered in gold-leaf, dramatically depicting the Virgin Mary’s Quietus among the Apostles. It is breathtaking to see, and would not have taken a lot of time, so I’m sorry I didn’t even think to suggest it.