• A Hidden Jewel!

    Zamosc, Poland…the old town’s center piece is the Great Market Square. The town has been called The Pearl of the Renaissance and has been compared to Sienna, Italy or referred to as the Padua of the North.

    The colorful Armenian houses line the square and the impressive town hall is a magnificent centerpiece. It is a grand place in a simple location that you would never expect to find such grandeur. Plus, it all seems still undiscovered by tourists and you can stroll without the crush of visitors like in Krakow.

    An official UNESCO heritage sight, work is being done to restore much of old town to it’s former glory.

    Zamosc is that one of a kind place located off the beaten track…but finding that hidden jewel is always a great thing when traveling!






  • Back to the Family Farm!

    Kolonia Rogozno, Poland…my cousin escorted us to my father’s village to meet one of the few living relatives of his generation! She still lives on the same farm down the road from where my father did almost 70 years ago. Obviously it’s not the same place my father may remember…time changes everything, but his land remains untouched, an Aunt’s land was donated to the church and is now a simple chapel, an Uncle’s plot has been sold to another family, and so on…but this last survivor we met today still lives in the same spot!

    It was like being connected back to another time…this simple woman spent her whole life here; she could still recall the 1930’s and 40’s like they were yesterday… We spent time talking about how she played with my father as a child, we tried to understand how we were cousins, and she lit up when we showed her pictures of people from Chicago that she has not seen since 1944!

    I channeled those so many vintage memories I have heard so much of and wanted to understand life on the farm first hand..I fed the pigs (I of course stepped in slop) and I walked and gave water to the cow!l

    As if that wasn’t enough, we went to the old church that my entire family once travelled miles to attend. My grandparents were wed there, my father baptized there, and my extended family spent holidays there! A stunning brown wood structure with metallic steeples and a humble yet beautiful interior!

    How fulfilling to be able to witness all this, it sheds so much light on so many things…especially whom my father is because I can for the first time see where he came from, what shaped him, and how he began his life!

    This voyage only keeps topping itself with amazing discovery after discovery!







  • The Crypt Keeper!

    Tomaszow Lubelski, Poland…today we embarked on a second day in the pursuit of putting the puzzle pieces of my ancestry together.

    A thorough cemetery tour spent most of the day and central to the quest is my grandfather’s grave. His tragic death resulted in my father’s family exile to the work camps of Germany. It was an important responsibility for my sister and I as we are the only direct descendants to visit his grave. My fathers bad memories have prevented his pilgrimage back to Poland and he has never seen the grave in person!

    We visited amazing old cemeteries dotted with many relatives dating back a hundred years and eventually we came upon my grandfathers grave. This is LEGEND in my family. This is like visiting the Metzger Holy Grail!

    Not only was this symbolic for us but a very emotional moment for my father back in Chicago. We came here as his emissary to pay respect!

    We were standing over his gray concrete grave site and it all felt surreal! I swept his grave and my sister laid a floral arrangement. We lit a candle and a lifetime of hearing stories raced through my head as we absorbed the moment in silence.

    Many people take for granted that they grew up with family albums, family cemeteries, and family memorabilia that all tell a story of their history. I have never experienced this and to stroll through a cemetery filled with my entire ancestry is truly one of a kind! It wasn’t until we drove back and reflected on the magnitude of the day that my sister had a complete breakdown and I teared up all over this blog.

    Everyone has a history and a story to tell, mine just got a bit clearer!






  • Never Forget!

    Belzec, Poland…the third largest death camp for Jews in Poland. Another sobering sight, yet an extremely important one to pay witness to! Only miles from my father’s childhood home, this chilling place was blown up by the Nazis in their attempt to destroy evidence of their atrocities. Today from that rubble, a chilling statement has risen including a museum and monument to pay respect to the staggering amount of Jews from allover Poland that were exterminated here!

    I heard of several relatives who hid Jews to protect them from this awful fate…now seeing how this was practically on their doorstep, it sheds more light on those scary stories and that horrific time!




  • The Family Tree!

    Zamosc, Poland…early riser today in order to get the bus from Krakow to Zamosc. A six hour journey on a mini bus is not a fun way to start the day, but I made the best of it with an IPad full of videos!

    Zamosc is the gateway to my father’s childhood home of Kolonia Rogozno. My father fled from here in WW II and has never been back! I was anxious to see it. Even though my cousin lives here and will show us around this weekend, I couldn’t wait…I was so close, I needed to get a glimpse! So I hired a taxi and my sister and I headed out to explore…this is a remote farming area of Poland and English is scarce, so my sister was going to have to rise to the occasion and channel her best childhood spoken Polish! She shined! When forced she was rolling that Polish vocabulary as if she never stopped speaking it. The taxi driver was impressed as I sat there like a big dummy not understanding a word!

    After a few wrong turns we found the tiny hamlet of Kol. Rogozno within the larger area of Tomaszow Lubelski. Looking around at farm animals and old barns, it really seemed as if time stood still…our driver became as excited and motivated as we were to find a relative or someone who knew my family. He pulled over to ask a simple gentleman if he knew anyone with my grandfather’s last name…next thing we know, this man is in the car with us directing our driver to some distant cousin’s house. We go from house to house unannounced gathering clues until we found my grandfather’s goddaughter who is now 86! Jackpot!

    This woman starts crying, I start crying, and she starts telling us stories of my grandfather, his farm, and the farms of all my Great Aunts and Uncles on the block! This is unbelievable that we can plop down in this tiny place as strangers and barge in on people’s homes and suddenly connect to my entire ancestry…

    I am totally shocked and I am pinching myself at today’s events…but it was the most exhilarating moment of this trip! Tomorrow we go digging further into my family history…






  • A Moment of Silence!

    Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland…we embark on a solemn day to the town of Oswiecim to visit the 2 concentration camps and sites of one of the most disturbing atrocities of modern times. I think a visit to Poland would not be complete without paying homage to the countless that lost their lives in the hands of the Nazis. It is important to make sure this kind of crime against humanity never happens again!

    We all have faced some kind of prejudice at some point in our lives; but I cannot believe any of us can comprehend what the Jews, Poles, Russians, and Gypsies faced under the Nazi regime. The hatred, cruelty, and loss of human respect just doesn’t seem possible for anyone to inflict. How can something so vile have happened so shortly ago, only within the last century?

    After walking these grounds, following in the footsteps of the over 1.3 million that were tortured and exterminated in these camps, I am even that much more dumbfounded! Seeing a film or reading about these atrocities in a history book doesn’t do justice to the numbers represented once you see the piles of personal belongings, the mounds of human hair, or the names written on the leftover victim’s luggage! I am overwhelmed with a mix of emotions that can’t be properly sorted in my head!

    This piece of history can never be forgotten and this visit is not about just seeing the sight; rather, feeling the depth of these hallowed grounds should awaken in anyone the quest for acceptance of people of all races, religions, and lifestyles! I cannot change the holocaust, but I can pay respect to victims of this and every genocide by not allowing prejudice or hatred of any kind to take hold in my everyday life!

    Once again, I am reminded how travel can stimulate your mind in so many profound ways!20120813-195942.jpg20120813-195954.jpg20120813-200004.jpg




  • Carb Loading!

    Krakow, Poland…my first day in Poland was met with Fall like weather! 50 degrees and periods of pounding rain sent a chill down my spine…I definitely felt that summer had escaped and I was in shock…this is going to take some getting used to…

    The town’s main focal point is the huge market square with the massive cloth hall market in the center of it all and flanked on one side by the exquisite St. Mary’s church. The largest square in Eastern Europe, it is something to behold…Ornate and colorful frescos fill the domes and steeples of the church and cafes and vendors flood the square.

    Polish food is in my bones, so I was overcome sampling it all…bread, potato pancakes, pierogis! Yum! I even scored a new accessory: the bread necklace! A statement in carbohydrates!

    Wawel Castle was a trip back in time…to the royal period in Poland’s history. It was as if I entered the “knights of the roundtable”, who knew this existed in Poland! Highly opulent and grand in scale, even after weeks of castles, I was impressed!

    Even in the rain, crowds were out in full force and nothing could cloud the surprising beauty of Krakow!






  • Works of Art!

    Vienna, Austria…I am blown away by the art, but the museums themselves are masterpieces! Smartly, a large group of museums are built together around a modernist central courtyard, called Museum Quartier. It’s as enjoyable hanging out there as it is to admire the exhibitions inside! This planning also makes museum hopping very easy…

    Away from Museum Quartier, the Secession Building is a sight to behold on its own with it’s ornate gold ball top and Klimt murals adorning the facade…literally, it glistens under the sun! All that before you get a sight of the magnificent work on the inside!

    The grand museums of Belvedere and Upper Belvedere are connected by an elaborate garden…the whitewashed interior of Upper Belvedere leading to that chandelier strewn great room is more than an opening act for the great artwork collection inside!

    Beauty to behold on both the inside and out!







  • Hot on Mozart!

    Vienna, Austria…I made my way via train to Vienna or Wien as it’s called here. The four hour train ride was easy enough and all went smoothly. Upon arriving in Vienna, the train station was a bit confusing and with it being Sunday, the tourist info point was closed…I found my way to the taxis nevertheless and on to my hotel.

    The city is extremely hot! A brutal 90 degrees and it’s sweltering…I notice that typical of European cities, all the stores are closed with it being a Sunday!

    I arrive at the hotel and it looks like a dump! Oh no! Up a flight of winding stairs with overstuffed luggage was no easy task…I enter the hotel and it’s a designer gem! It reminded me a bit of my apartment in NYC, nothing from the outside but really unexpected inside…The Hotel Shermin is absolutely beautifully designed and decorated and I am relieved. I am ready to cool down and relax a bit before heading out…the room is totally my style in shades of gray and I immediately go looking for the air conditioner…I throw open every door, shutter and fling open the drapes…YOU GUESSED IT! No air conditioner! I guess it usually isn’t this hot…just my luck…I guess I didn’t read the fine print! I get a fan for the room and decide to go out and look around…

    Vienna is HOT! Cooling misters are on all along the wide streets and people are looking for relief huddled underneath them…I am right in the middle of the action. The city has a very German vibe as I walk through Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz. I love the wide thoroughfares lined with cafes and Mozart everything. I feel especially sorry for the guys dressed as Mozart in this heat! The Cathedral at Stephansplatz is magnificent with it’s brightly tiled roof and the use of gardens at other sights are a great compliment to the grand buildings.

    I see everyone either feasting on tortes of all kinds or hotdogs (wieners) that are sold on every corner! I love a hot dog! I go for a bratwurst as it reminds me of growing up with my mother’s German food! It’s delicious, but I am taken by the clever way it’s served; they take the roll and cut off one tip and insert a long hot rod in it, that makes the hole for the brat, then in goes the mustard and finally the wurst! It’s like the bratwurst is totally encased in the bun, no falling out! Thats clever…sometimes the simplest thing excites me!

    Tonight will be a challenge sans air conditioning, but travel is about surprise and sometimes compromise!







  • From Top to Bottom!

    Prague, Czech Republic…I notice the throngs of tourists filling this town all are drawn to the same sights…their pictures are of all the same guide book designated things…like they are going down a checklist; clock-tower, check…statue, check…bridge, check…etc…

    Are they noticing some simple things that give this place it’s unique charm and individual character? The sea of terra-cotta colored gabled roofs, the ornate moldings on simple buildings, the little brook that comes from nowhere with a water wheel, the vintage barely-there colored buildings, the moss laden cobblestones, and so on?

    These are the things I am enamored with! It’s all in the details! From top to bottom, Prague is cluttered with unique details that are enthralling me…I love all of this town’s sights from it’s grand ones to it’s small ones, but my designer eye really appreciates those that others may just overlook!