Sunday, March 15, 2009

More from Poland - Augustow

During the time I was in Poland, I had a few hours on a Sunday morning to walk into the town of Augustow. There are great walking paths all around the hotel and lakefront and it made for easy walk, even though they were covered with snow.

On the route taken into town, we passed through a large cemetery. Upon entering the cemetery, someone had set up a small stand and was selling flowers and candles. Inside, row after row of headstones, most with a cross of some kind on them. It was a very beautiful scene actually.

Several of the gravesites were well tended. The snow had been brushed off and flickering lanterns or candles were nestled in flowers.

It amazed me to see so many people out and about in the cemetery on a cold Sunday morning.

Cemetery showing the multitude of crosses

My co-worker and I continued on towards the center of town. We crossed the Augustow Canal.

The canal was built in the 19th century and links the Vistula River in northeastern Poland and the Neman River in Belarus. It is almost 63 miles long. The Polish side of the canal is very popular with kayakers, canoeists and boaters who enjoy the picturesque route.

This time of year, however, the canal is mostly frozen.

Frozen Augustow Canal

Next stop was the town square in Augustow. Surrounded by shops, the square itself was quite large with the requisite statue in it. There was also a visitors center but it was closed.

It was very quiet in town and not many cars were driving around the cobblestone streets. We would soon find out why.

Market Square area in Augustow

After walking around the square, we headed off down a side street towards the massive church spires. Just as we got to the church, Mass let out and a couple of hundred people came streaming out of the doors. Approximately 90% of the Polish population is Roman Catholic according to web sources.

We waited until most people had left before walking around the church. We did not go inside out of respect but I would have enjoyed seeing the interior.

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Pope John Paul II is beloved in Poland (of course!) and there was a statue of him outside of the church. He apparently stayed near Augustow during a pilgrimage in 1999 but I was unable to read the information in our hotel because it was written in Polish.

Pope John Paul II statue

We returned to the hotel after walking around town, but first I had to slip and fall on an icy path just before we reached the hotel. Ouch!

Augustow is a lovely town and I hope I can experience it during the warmer months.

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