From City Wall to Planty Park

Planty Park? The Polish name seems to mean park of plants, or something to that effect. You’d think the city would have come up with something more evocative of Kraków’s distinguished past, but so be it. This marvelous urban green way is one of features that gives Kraków its captivating charm.

Like many ancient and medieval European cities, for many years, the historic urban core of Kraków was enclosed by a defensive wall and a moat. Eventually, as artillery that could fire explosive projectiles replaced catapults hurling stones, walls lost their defensive edge and cities began to remove them. In the 1800s, Kraków replaced its wall and moat with a green beltway that rings the city’s Old Town.

Today Planty Park is a beautiful common space with lengthy walkways shaded by stately trees. While it never felt crowded to me, the park was full of people, from locals going about their business to visitors with cameras. A place for strolling, quality thinking time, meeting friends, texting, or catching some morning rays.

Finally, when you have walked your fill or gotten where you are going, the city is never far away.

Ruins in the Jungle, Angkor Wat

I visited this small site after walking through Ta Prohm. If there was a sign with the name of the place, I did not take note, and I could not find a likely location searching the maps I have. Beyond the entrance area, it seems that not a great deal has been done to develop or maintain this site; the jungle surrounding the buildings was dense and rather eerie.

Xeo Quit Jungle, Mekong Delta

During the Vietnam War, Xẻo Quít was a jungle base and command post for Viet Cong troops in the Mekong Delta area. It is about 100 km southwest of Saigon, and while it was shelled and bombed, the area was never attacked by South Vietnamese or US ground forces. Today, much of what was jungle in the Mekong Delta area in the 1960s has been cleared to make way for agriculture and urban expansion as Vietnam’s economy develops rapidly. But the Xẻo Quít area, itself, has been preserved and is now a national park where visitors can take a boat ride through the old base or walk on jungle trails. The park was crowded with Vietnamese tourists, many of them students on school excursions, the day I visited.

Whenever I see Vietnamese landscapes of this kind, I am reminded of how downright stupid the United States was to become involved in Vietnam’s complex war, a war of national liberation and a civil war mixed together in ways next to impossible to unravel. Our delusional and ugly hubris rained horrible destruction on this country and its people, enormously magnifying the damage the Vietnamese would have done if left to settle their differences on their own. I remain thankful I was not called to serve in the US military. I was a pretty flakey 20 year old in 1969, and I cannot imagine how I would have coped with being made a soldier and packed off to Vietnam to fight. In fact at the beginning of 1970, the military had sent me a notice to report for a pre-conscription physical exam – I was scheduled to be drafted – but in the end I was spared having to serve by the draft lottery that took place at the end of 1969. My birth date drew a high number and I received a second notice telling me I did not need to report for a physical. Luck of the draw. It was the last I ever heard from the US armed forces.