Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Krakow & Auschwitz; My weekend in Poland.


Well I went to Krakow, Poland with some of my friends this weekend! We had a blast. I liked Poland and Krakow itself way more than I thought I would. Our trip started with a four hour train ride, then hopping in a “bus” to travel the remaining three hours. At this point it was just us six girls that were traveling together. Some of the others had class so they caught a later train to Krakow and met us there. Well our train was a little behind schedule so by the time we got to the station we had like three minutes to find and catch our bus. We all run off the train and sprint through the platforms. We also had no idea where the bus station was at this particular train station so it was really hilarious. Anyways, we run outside and go look at all the busses and none of them look like what ours should be. After a minute we realize we sprinted right passed our “bus” that was actually a small passenger van. We got quite a kick out of that.

It was us six girls and one other middle aged woman in our van along with our driver. I’ve honestly never felt scared in Europe until that night. We had been driving a few hours and at this point we were going through a random city. Our driver pulls into a random alley and just parks and doesn’t say a word. This is when I finally looked up from our book and everyone else stopped listening to music and what not and we all got really confused and nervous. I was so confused why were stopped in the middle of nowhere. I might have been having a tiny panic attack at this point thinking we were getting kidnapped. I mean honestly it was just seven women and our driver could have easily done something like that. Finally we all asked what we were doing and he said “picking people up” and that the next stop was Krakow. We didn’t actually pick anyone else up… but after a few minutes we were on our way again. The guys that were traveling the same way as us on a later route said the same thing happened to them so I guess it was a legitimate thing but it was quite scary. We were all a little creeped out. I mean we were traveling through Student Agency so it was a reputable company… but still. Scary.

Later that evening we made it to Krakow and caught a cab to our AirBnb. It happened to be in a really awesome area, Kazimeirez, which is really hip with tons of cool bars and restaurants, just a quick walk from the main square, and really close to the river so it was really nice. We liked the place. It was also right next to an American bar that had a Chicago Blackhawks theme. For dinner we ate at a place right down the street that had buffalo wings, chili, corn dogs, milk shakes, ‘American’ fries (not French fries haha), and other American foods. It was delicious and amazing.

The next day we did some exploring, shopping, eating, and drinking. The weather was absolutely gorgeous all weekend! We were incredibly lucky. There were blue skies and it was around fifty degrees, which felt like heaven.

I really liked the main square. It was very open and had a great atmosphere.

Krakow Krew

Lunch! I had this delicious toasted sandwich thing. Mine had cheese, pepperone, bacon, fried onions, and garlic sauce. It was heaven. And I actually couldn't finish the entire thing so that was a first.

The sunset over the river was beautiful!

Fab Five. Love my friends.

Oh you know, just skipping through the park after a perfect day with my wonderful roomie who I love to death.

Saturday was a really important day. We were able to travel about an hour outside of Krakow and visit Auschwitz. This is something I have always really really wanted to do and was on the top of my list for places I wanted to see during my semester abroad.  I’m not sure why, but I have always been very interested in the Holocaust and WWII ever since I was really young. I was always reading historical fiction and doing school projects about the time period and events that took place, so for me to actually go there and see it for my own eyes was the experience of a lifetime.

I honestly don’t know what to say about it overall… It was unfathomable. I can’t even describe how it made me feel. I don’t even really want to talk about it or think about it ever again to be honest. It was just so hard to see... our tour guide was really amazing. She was very serious and informative. I’m honestly just sitting here and I don’t even know what to write about to try and convey my feelings and the things I saw… It’s just… hard.

I saw the fences, the blocks where people lived, the wooden barracks, the execution wall, the prisoner’s cells, giant rooms full of human hair shaved from the victims heads, thousands of shoes and suitcases and glasses and everything else you can image….. I walked through a gas chamber where thousands of people took their last breaths and were murdered in cold blood…. Knowing that I was standing and walking in the same place that was literally worse than a living hell for so many people was absolutely soul crushing. Even thinking about it just hurts my chest and makes me speechless all over again. Auschwitz was just unbelievable… I’ve never had such a humbling experience in my entire life. It wasn’t just a prison or the site of a horrible event. This place was literally worse than hell. Over one million people died there…. I know that the Holocaust is something everyone studies in school, but seeing it in person makes it so real. Like I said, I honestly don’t want to think about it ever again. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, and now I have the memories and I’m done. A few places we weren’t allowed to take pictures at all, but here are a few. I don’t want to post very many because I feel like it’s somewhat disrespectful and disconcerting. 

Pictures of the prisoners lined one of the hallways. You can read the date they entered the camp and the day they died or were executed. Looking through the portraits was horrible. It was hard to find a person that survived more than a month or two. 

These were the different blocks. Around 1,000 people each slept on the concrete floors. Some of the buildings were prison cells or labs where they experimented on the people. 

The crematorium that was connected to one of the gas chambers.

People wrote their names on their suitcases so they wouldn't lose their things. They had no idea where they were really headed.

People who were disabled were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

These were just a few of the metal containers that held the chemicals that were used in the gas chambers. It took only three canisters to kill 1,000 people.  

There was a room full of 40,000 shoes left behind by the victims.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

When the Nazis realized they were going to lose the war, they burned several buildings including one of the large gas chambers above, trying to destroy the evidence of what they did. These haven't been touched since the day they were burned in 1945.

I really just can't even describe all the horrors I saw. Even after learning about the Holocaust for so many years, I still learned so much more by going and visiting Auschwitz. Nothing can prepare you for it but I feel like everyone should go at least once in their life, to witness the evils of man serve as warning to everyone.

Inside the barracks where the women slept.

On a lighter note, we went out that evening for dinner and drinks. Poland is well known for their perogies, which are like a dumpling with tons of filling options. They are absolutely delicious!!! My perogies were filled with potato, cheese, onions, and bacon. Probably the best thing new thing I’ve eaten since I got to Europe. I must find a place in Prague that has these scrumptious little things. After that a few of us went out for some drinks. They actually had cocktails there that were really cheap so Haley and I loved it. They also had specials on shots so we could get 12 for less than $15. We may have done that more than once haha. It was a good night. 

I'm lucky to have such awesome friends, Zack, Sean, Greg, and Haley.

The next day we just travelled back to Prague. Wasn’t too bad of a journey. Overall I really liked Krakow and would definitely go back. It was a lot more European looking than Berlin because of the tiny streets and beautiful architecture. It wasn’t quite as pretty as Prague though. It also didn’t have that much to do. There was just the castle and main square and that was about it. People there spoke really good English and were actually friendly. I think honestly though the main attraction is the food and drinks. Or maybe I’ve just been in Europe too long now and I was a little over excited about all the delicious and Americanized food. But dang it was good.

Also, I got a package today!! Big shout out to Renee and Richard Crow. They shipped me a box full of velveeta and shells and sweetarts. It was a dream come true! I can’t even express in words how nice it was and how happy I am. Nothing like the comforting tastes of home. Thanks again Renee! You’re the best and I really appreciate it.

On a final note. There was a shooting today here in the Czech Republic. About 180 south of Prague someone open fired in a restaurant and killed at least eight people. I know things like that happen in the states, but usually not within three hours of me. Pretty crazy. And very sad for the people affected and the country.

Everything else is going well here. Busy busy with classes and my internship. Leaving Thursday morning to go to Innsbruck, Austria to do some snowboarding in the Alps. I may be a tiny bit excited.  

1 comment:

  1. I felt the same way when visiting those camps....like the wind has been knocked out of your sails and a sinking feeling all rolled into one. Deep & Heavy. But the message sticks with you forever more and I suppose that is the point.

    On a happier note your 'fab five' look like they are Ready for fun.....I love hearing of your adventures!


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