Merry Christmas! Burke’s parents arrived safely on time on Christmas Eve. We immediately brought them back to Banska Bystrica had dinner and decorated the Christmas tree. We wrapped our Christmas presents, went to sleep, and awoke to a beautiful green and brown Christmas (the snow went from beautiful, to slush, to nonexistent on Christmas Eve). Lisa gave me some wonderful winter boots which were very much needed. I’ve worn them every day since and my feet have not been cold or wet yet:). After our morning festivities, we went to church and heard a nice sermon by Gabi the pastor of the nearby church plant that our church started. His message was that God trying to get our attention and that he has bigger, better and blessed things for us, if we have the faith to let it happen.

The next morning we woke up and left immediately for Poland. On the way there we stopped at a very old wooden church that was incredibly elegant and was known for depicting the ten commandments on its’ interior walls. Our first real stop in Poland was at Wieliczka Salt Mine. We arrived just in time for the English tour and walked around underground for about two hours. We went down 590 feet and walked several kilometers; however, in our two hours of walking, we explored only 1% of the entire mine. One of the biggest sites of the mine is the cathedral; it is entirely made of salt, including the chandeliers, and is the largest underground church in the world. After the mine, we went on to Krakow.

We checked into our hostel (for some of us it was the first time in a hostel) and then set off to explore the city. We started at Wawel Castel, it was too late to get into the castle, but it is beautiful from the outside just the same. It reminded me of a mix between the Prague and Bratislava Castle. From there we walked on to see two adjacent churches. There was a Christmas concert in the larger, so we ventured into the smaller. It was heavily trafficked, mostly for the ornate nativity scene. Next we went to Rynek Glowny, the main square. We walked through the Christmas market and enjoyed some flavorful Grzaniec Galicyjski, their version of mulled wine. While we meandered through the aisles of the market, we heard the hourly trumpet call cut off partway through the song, representing the trumpeter shot in the 13th century during his fanfare. After the market we went to a traditional Polish restaurant; throughout our dining experience, there was a three-member band playing Polish songs. On our way back to the hostel we stopped at the market again and purchased a few polish souvenirs and went to bed rather early in preparation for a busy next day.

On Sunday we woke up and walked around town for an hour or so in search of a place to eat breakfast. We ended up going with our backup, the grocery store, but along the way we experienced the Jewish center of the town as well as the Plac Nowy, the area in which the Sunday morning market takes place. The market was interesting in the most uninteresting way; it was a homogeneous compilation of clothing, underwear, and shoes. Around noon we started heading west towards Oświęcim, the town housing Auschwitz. Although I don’t especially want to share all of my thoughts in a few summarized sentences on my blog, I will say it was interesting to see Slovakia’s part in WWII. There were a few photos of the Nazi’s in Banska Bystrica, with very identifiable landmarks. It was very eery to see Nazi’s in my hometown. I will openly talk to anyone who wishes to inquire further on the subject, but that’s all for now. When we got back to Banska Bystrica that night, Bones, the dog we are sitting, had ripped his bed (a sheep skin) in half.

Today we took Burke’s parents to downtown BB. We showed them the dog I like to walk by to get to the market as well as the landmarks of our city. They also saw a China shop and enjoyed a traditional Slovak meal at Saint Christopher’s, a few kilometers outside of town. Check back for photos of Poland as well as for updates on John and Lisa’s visit. We’re traveling to Hungary tomorrow, so there is sure to be another post soon.