Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Communism Tour of Krakow

Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we found ourselves in Poland. We signed up for a ‘communism tour’ and were shown around in this old plastic Trabant car. With its lawn mower style engine, a tailpipe that had a closer affinity with the ground than the car, and a clutch that worked about half the time, it was a very interesting experience!

The tour took us to the Nowa Huta (meaning New Town), a suburb of Krakow, which was designed and built during the Stalin era to be a showplace of communist planning, design, industry and living. A large steel mill, founded as Lenin’s Steelworks but now owned by an Indian company, still operates there. In the 1980s, thousands of the workers at the mill belonged to the trade union, Solidarity, which played a major role in the revolution against communist control of Poland. Unfortunately my photos, taken in the dark while walking, did not turn out well but I highly recommend you do a Google search for photos of Nowa Huta.

The Nowa Huta neighborhood was rejected as a desirable place to live after 1989 because of its history. However, our guide told us that prices there are now relatively cheap and artists, students and young couples are turning the area into a fashionable residential area. We visited the inside of one communist-era apartment, now serving as a museum for the Crazy Guides tour company.

Our guide offered us vodka and pickles. "You must always eat Polish pickles with vodka," he said.

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