Friday, May 24, 2013

How (not) to bore your children while traveling

When you travel with children to the Places-Of-Significance there is often the dilemma of what to show them.  How to show them history or art without boring them to death?  When I was a kid, my parents took me all over Europe, but all I wanted was to stay on the beach.  However, even if I don't remember everything (I wish they took more pictures), as I become older, I realized that it thought me some important lessons.  I think traveling made me realize that there is always a different way to look at things (because of cultural differences), that we have things in common and can communicate even without the language and also that learning the language(s) would definitely help.  I also took in the sights, the beauty of nature and the competing attempts of humans to create the beauty themselves.  Sightseeing definitely contributed to my love for arts and, of course, left me with a travel bug, always longing for the new vistas.

So here I was, taking my daughter down the memory lane to the place of my birth and my most beloved city, that she knew nothing about it. What do I show her without too many 'oh no Mom, not another church' moments?
    


First of all, I wanted her to experience the feel of the town.  Just wander around ancient streets, discover hidden corners and plazas, eat ice cream in the outdoor cafes, feed pretzels to the pigeons, climb the monuments, feel the water in the fountains, skip on the cobblestones and ride the trolley.




But of course we had to see the Royal Wawel Castle.  This was the old residency of Polish kings and queens, located right on the Wisla river.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Krakow_Wawel_20070920_1299.jpg/640px-Krakow_Wawel_20070920_1299.jpg
Source
Castle insides were not not a big hit (no surprise here, but it had to be done), but my daughter enjoyed climbing the bell tower and visiting the famous dragon's den, a cave under the castle and a stage of the most popular Krakow's legend.  We also went to see Leonardo's 'Lady with Ermine' that was on the display at the time.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/Dama_z_gronostajem.jpg
She is something else...

It is easy to fall under the spell of the fairytale quality to the castle...



Then, I had to take her to see the Jagiellonian University, one of the first universities in Europe and the school I went to.

Collegium Maius
 They have a museum with interesting Copernicus exhibit, since he went there too.


At noon, a procession of University officials emerges through the clock doors...


The building where I attended many of my classes 

Before WWII Krakow's population was about one third Jewish and the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz) is definitely worth a stop.



Many visitors to Krakow take a side trip to Auschwitz, located about 30 minutes from the city. We didn't go, I already visited twice and I thought my daughter was still too young to face the horror of it. You can also tour the Schindler's factory in Krakow.


We loved the Chagall-esque mural.

Another interesting side trip was a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  It is also about 30 minutes bus ride from the center of the town.  The mine has been used since XII century until very recently (2010?). What is interesting, is that the miners were not only working there, they also created many monuments out of salt and built several cathedrals and places of worship, all underground and well preserved. 


You have to take about 400 steps to go down but it feels like descending into Jules Verne fantasy world.  Even the chandeliers are made of salt.  




Guess what was my daughter's favorite?  Well, none of the above.  It was our visit to the indoor waterpark (sigh).  Now you know why I brought a bikini.


Oh well, cannot beat this thrill :)

 

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If you are still reading, it means you took the trip too, hope I did not bore you too much ;)

not another church Mom...
  
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Where do you drag your children (or reluctant others) on your trips?
Do you have any tips to m make it more fun?

21 comments:

  1. I've always enjoyed reading your fashion posts. I've LOVED all your recent posts on travel. They have been such a treat to read! You look very chic in all of them.

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  2. Wow, that was a fun hide & ride ajc! Thanks for inviting us to travel vicariously to a beautiful and somewhat unexpected place (compared to all the London, Paris etc. blogs at least.)

    Perhaps your daughter will have a similar travel perspective to you in a couple of decades. And her favourite now is unlikely to be her favourite later. How lovely to spend time with her g-ma on "home" turf. Here's to the next adventure...

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    1. Oh, and since I have organised lots of travel for kids, a couple of thoughts on that. Young children are amazing ambassadors I think. Bring lollipops on the plane for ear pain. Buy a cheap beach ball or soccer ball (inflatables are good to bring along and tote) when you arrive. Let the kids help choose/ plan activities and read stories/ audiobooks/ movies about your destination before you go. Do uncommon activities that burn energy ex. surf school in Hawaii or orange picking in Italy. Have them collect something on the trip (old digital cameras are also great for the virtual version of this, ditto finding a colour, something in nature...) and/or keep a journal. In the Caribbean, South America, less security-concerned places, see if you can visit a local/ rural school (bring postcards and stickers from home.) Let kids help build a picnic from a local market.

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    2. Oh, and while I am still mostly a traditionalist when it comes to car/ plane/ train games and entertainment, a few "sanity apps" can be worth it in a pinch. (Just make sure your roaming is definitely off.) Hello Kitty (memory games) for Windows Phone, Kids Paint Free (finger paints on screen) for Android, and iTunes' ever-popular Sponge Bob Diner Dash freebie have all helped prevent meltdowns on the move.

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    3. This is some excellent advice for traveling with children, I will definitely refer to it for the next time!
      I have to admit, I did not let my daughter to bring her kindle, in the spirit of having better things to do, but there were times I wished I did, especially when I wanted to have long conversations with my mother (in Polish) and she was really getting bored. So she did get hooked on Golden Girls instead (my mother owns all the seasons) who would have thought they would be such a hit with a 10 year old.

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  3. AJC - great pictures! Krakow is on my list of places to visit and you have certainly got me excited to go. We have done europe twice with the kids - I find the cities enthrall them; the countryside, not so much! That is teenagers, I guess. Funny enough, I think that two of their favourite spots were Westminster Abbey and the Cologne Cathedral. They liked Notre Dame and the huge one in Reims as well, but they really liked the other two. my experience is not to try to pack too much in - take lots of breaks for snacks and buy a little "treat" here and there.

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    1. Oh, I LOVE the Cologne Cathedral. I used to work in Germany near Cologne and it is magnificent. I was not much more than a teenager then, I think it speaks to the longing for all things bigger than life that we feel so deeply when we are young.

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  4. Interesting place Krakow and what a wonderful post. I would love to visit one day. One of our current project managers is based in Warsaw and always threatens to host a meeting there, I'm going to put some pressure on him now!

    I remember my first visit to Switzerland with my mother, her ancestry is Swiss-Italian. The sights did get tedious but what really boggled my mind was how people there spoke French, Italian, German or English depending on where we went and who we visited. It made it much more difficult for me to follow along and made getting bored a whole lot easier.

    Thank you for sharing your travel story with us.

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    1. Warsaw has a very different feeling since it was completely destroyed in WWII and then rebuilt from the ground up, which is interesting too. They actually recreated part of the old town, exactly the way it was.
      Almost everybody in Europe speaks more than one language and I was told that when you apply for a job at certain level, English is not even considered a foreign language, more like a basic skill, new Latin of sorts.

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  5. What a wonderful trip and fantastic memories to share with your daughter. While she might have been bored here and there, she will treasure those special times with you and you have already broadened her mind to the world. I would love to visit Krakow one day. The salt mines look amazing! Thanks for sharing ajc!

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    1. I do think see will keep the memories, I know it was a case with my older daughter when she visited at the same age.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing the pictures and telling about your trip. I am really enjoying reading these posts. What a beautiful memory for your little girl.

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  7. Wow, that salt mine is amazing!! Thank you for sharing! I love seeing other places from an insiders' perspective :)

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    1. The salt mines were really worth the trip, the trail is over a mile long, you do get to see some amazing stuff on a way. I never visited before and it was more fun than I expected.

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  9. AJC, That is amazing. Again, thank you for sharing these pictures. Enjoy your weekend. I my try to run to TIces today.

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  10. She probably took in way more than you were able to see on the exterior. What a great trip! She'll remember things from it, definitely. I loved the historical tour. Learned a lot :)

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    1. I think you are right Gigi, I think even the 'boring' sights eventually leave us with meaningful memories as we 'process' them while getting older. This was the case for me and my older daughter at least.

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