Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Zamosc and back to Krakow

On Monday, August 12 we traveled from Krasnobrod to Zamosc, where we would pick up a van that would take us back to Krakow - we were assured that the van would be the best and likely only way back - "the trains, you might never get there because you'd need 3 connections". Father Maciej drove us the hour to Zamosc. Although his English was limited, he was eager to converse with us and we shared many interesting facts about our respective countries. Overall in Poland, we were impressed by many clergy in their sincere devotion to their calling as priests. It was one of the things that struck us most during our visit - the near total sway of the Roman Catholic Church, and the strong priesthood. So many dedicated younger priests, something one does not see in the US so often, where priests' funerals far outnumber the ordinations of new priests. On the other hand, the second most memorable thing about Poland was learning that, before the second World War, the local population in the Lubaczow & Krasnobrod areas was less than 50%. Now, 98%. (Russian orthodox churches seem to have been closed since the breakdown of the USSR). The destructive elements of the 20th century, from the emigration and/or extermination of a significant Jewish population (over 40%), to the loss of buildings and dislocation of people, is everywhere still evident. We were reminded of our friend Bill Zukof passing a sign for the town of Zukow - pronounced, Zukof. Surely his people were from the area (I checked, and he confirmed that).

In Zamosc, we were treated to the surprise of a beautiful restored Renaissance town. Zamosc is now a World Heritage site, and much recent renovation has taken place in the historic churches, synagogue (though there are apparently now no Jews), town square, and many other monuments. The color and festive spirit of the town was a distinct contrast to the bleak looking towns full of undistinguished postwar buildings; we had seen previously; in Krasnobrod, after the baroque church and monastery, the only other old building was a house from the 1880s. Zamosc was "designed" in the late 16th century by the Italian architect Bernardo Morando - an early example of a planned city. Father Maciej took us on a walking tour of the Old Town and a visit to the cathedral. Afterwards, we visited the church gift shop to obtain our very own mini Virgin Mary car protection statue, which the shop insisted on giving to us gratis, as a gift to my daughter who is fascinated by religious iconography and symbolism (she loved it).

Our van was a small bus, seating at least 20 people in very tight quarters. The best guess for the length of the journey was something between 4 and 6 hours; in fact it was very close to 6 hours (including a 20 minute rest stop). On the map, it looks like a 3 hour drive; but, there are no highways between Krakow and the eastern part of the country, and the bus made its winding way through every major town. Many many towns. It wasn't too terribly hot, but it was far from comfortable (small, crowded seats) and it seemed INTERMINABLE. We realized how lucky indeed we had been to have the brand new train with AC on the way to Lubaczow! Evening, we checked back into our familiar Krakow hotel, went out for one more great meal, and fell into bed.

Some pictures from Zamosc - the Great Market Square.

Another view of the square, and the colorful buildings.

Gwen and Father Maciej in the square

Detail from one of the buildings

The interior of the Cathedral

The organ in the Cathedral (not the original organ within the case, unfortunately)

Exterior of the Cathedral

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