Another day in transit and we were welcomed to Poland after a 4.20am wake up call, two hour flight, and five-hour drive from the capital, Warsaw, to Krakow.
A small hiccup changed the itinerary slightly for Bus 16. Airport security stopped all coaches leaving for about two hours so that a bag that had been left unattended in a nearby building could be checked and cleared.
Instead of an afternoon stop at the Jasna Gora Shrine in Czestochowa (home to the iconic Black Madonna painting that held meaning for Pope John Paul II throughout his life), the group ate lunch at the airport then pressed on to Krakow.
On the journey, our guide shared some Polish history, tip on local foods to try and phrases that would help pilgrims get around in Krakow.
Dzien dobry (a formal hello) and Dziekuje (thank you) were the most remembered words, but with a week here packed full of activities and holy events we are sure to pick up a few more.
Rome and its suburbs cover roughly 1,525 square kilometres and are home to about 4.5 million people. In contrast Poland’s capital Warsaw has a population of about 1.7 million, and Krakow is home to about 800,000 people. This figure swells with the thousands of students who attend university there. Being the summer holidays, the student accommodation at AGH University has become the based for many World Youth Day pilgrims, including Sydney ones.
It is difficult to capture the long and interesting history of Poland in a few sentences, but here are a few important moments.
Poland lost independence in 1795 and was divided between neighbouring countries Russia, Germany and Austria. Krakow retained its independence until 1846, when it was taken by Austria. It is Poland’s oldest city. More than 90 per cent of it’s original buildings survived as the town was spared by Nazi soldiers during World War II who used the city as a base.
Catholicism was brought to the country in 996 by a Spanish princess following her marriage into one of Poland’s main royal dynasties. St Stanislaus is one of Poland’s main saints, along with St Hedwig, who first married a Lithuanian prince in 1386 to unify the two countries. Krakow Cathedral is more than 600 years old, as is black crucifix featured within it.