Today all buses said goodbye to Krakow, ready for a three-day retreat in the mountain town of Zakopane.
Everything is picturesque, rural and green, and hidden by snow in the winter months when people descend for skiing and spa holidays. After a fast-paced few weeks of pilgrimage in Italy, the Holy Lands and Krakow, the town seems an ideal spot for reflection aided by the fresh air.
Bus groups are staying at four hotels. Many are two kilometres from the main town in Zakopane, others 20 and 39 kilometres out, in equally green and quiet surrounds.
On the way to accommodation buses stopped at Wadowice, the hometown of St John Paul II. There they had more than an hour of free time and tried the thick vanilla custard-and-cream slice that was his favourite as a boy. Ask for the ‘Pope’s cake’ and this is what you get. As both the longest reigning Pope (26 years) and the only Polish Pope in history, John Paul II is a national hero in Poland. Our tour guide for this leg of the journey, Peter, told us there are close to 700 statues or monuments to him around the country!
A prolific Pope
Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice in 1920, and by age 21 both of his parents had died, he had studied Polish at university and worked as a forced labourer in a German chemical factory. He became Pope John Paul II in 1978 after 11 years as a Cardinal and many more serving the church. As Pope, he made:
146 pastoral visits to Italy
104 international apostolic journeys
51 cannonisations, and 482 saints
15 apostolic exhortations
11 apostolic constitutions
45 apostolic letters