2009-10 Travel Expedition
The Wyatt Exploration Year 2009-2010 focuses on Poland. At the heart of Europe since medieval times, Poland was a cultural bridge between east and west. United with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland formed a Commonwealth of diverse cultures. Art and architecture, manuscripts and printing, royal and municipal documents, trade, and costume reflect the Commonwealth’s varied populations: Lithuanians and Ruthenians, Germans, Jews, and Italians, Armenians and Tatars. The Renaissance and Reformation entered Poland through cultural ties with the west. Old Poland’s unique tradition of electoral monarchy and parliamentary rule was finally overwhelmed by empires. Divided in 1795 for the third and final time by Prussia, Russia, and Austria, Poland persisted---resilient, rebellious, and romantic. Polish emigration established vibrant communities in Europe and the Americas; Tadeusz Kos´ciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski fought “For Our Freedom and Yours.” Poetry, music, and an abiding Catholic faith sustained Polish identity until 1918. The Nazi occupation of Poland, the fiercest in Europe, more than decimated the Polish population and annihilated the Jews. Over four decades of communist rule did not diminish Polish faith or fortitude. In 1980 Poland’s Solidarity movement led the way to the end of the communist era. A member of the European Union since 2004, Poland with its music, art, literature, poetry, drama and film contributes to the vibrant culture of Europe today.
“Poland Between East and West” involves the history and culture of Poland, Poland’s relations with her neighbors, Germany and Russia, and the centuries-long development of Jewish civilization in Polish lands.
Krakow, former capitol of Poland, is our destination in May 2010. Seat of kings on the castle mounted (the Wawel), home of Jagiellonian University and a center of the arts, Krakow symbolizes the continuity of Polish political and cultural tradition. Krakow was also the home to a centuries-old-Jewish community and major city of Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Headquarters of the Nazi General Government, Krakow survived World War II intact. This Wyatt Exploration Program offers students insight into the significance of medieval and Renaissance Poland in East Central Europe, Jewish life in Poland up to World War II, post Communist life, and 21st century challenges of Poland today.
Old Town and the Wawel
The historic core of Krakow is on UNESCO's World Cultural Register. The Main Market Square is the largest in Europe; its foundations are medieval and its central Cloth Hall has a Renaissance exterior. Wawel is the castle mound and site of the Cathedral where Polish kings were crowned. The palace is remodeled in the Renaissance style of the 16th century.
Kazimierz, old Jewish quarter of the City
Established in the 14th century by king Casimir the Great as a separate but protected area for the Jews of Krakow, Kazimierz contains synagogues, a cemetery, a mikvahm and a slaughterhouse. Dilapidated after the war, restoration of the old district began in the 1990s. The entire area was used in the filming of "Schindler's List."
Founded as the Cracow Academy in 1364, Jagiellonian University is the second oldest university east of the Rhine (after Prague). It was revitalized in 1400 by funds from Queen Jadwiga and in the 19th century renamed for the dynasty of her husband, King Ladislaus Jagiellon. Today Jagiellonian University has 52,000 students and 15 different faculties plus other programs. Jagiellonian University has a Center for European Studies; we meet with Professor Aleksander Fiut (specialist in Central European culture and politics and 20/21st century Polish literature) and students in the Masters in Central European Studies Program.
The largest and most notorious Nazi extermination camp is just an hour's ride from Kakow--- its location chosen for its rail connections and centrality in Nazi-occupied Europe. Only Auschwitz I and Birkenau (Aushwitz II) remain of the original 40 square km. camp territory. A site of remembrance and memorial visited by millions, the camp today is also a research center where Nazi atrocities continue to be documented through archives and collections; the physical site and its objects are maintained by experts at one of the most advanced conservation workshops in the world.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
One of the European continent’s great mineral deposits, the salt mines at Wieliczka were part of medieval Poland’s resource wealth. Wieliczka links Poland to the great European salt sites---Austria, Germany---known to prehistoric peoples and then later to the Romans. Mined since the 13th century, Wieliczka is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Register. The mine microclimate also enables it to serve as a sanatorium for respiratory diseases. Wieliczka also contains chapels mined completely in salt.
The Dunajec river, a tributary of the Vistula, winds south of Krakow beneath limestone cliffs in the Pieniny mountains. The Pieniny National Park and the Dunajec border Slovakia. The limestone and dolomite formations and their plants and animals are unique forming a small but rich ecosystem. The trip begins at Niedzica Castle, originally built in the 14th century by the Hungarians to protect an important trade route through the Dunajec valley. Raftsmen from the region pole barges along the river route through mountain gorges.