Journals from England Fall, (University of Nottingham)
Since my last blog update, Tim and I have left Brussels. We spent five nights or so in Amsterdam and rang in the new decade. Currently, we are in Krakow, Poland (where we have met up with Katie). This is the farthest east I have ever been in the world. Poland does not use the Euro; its currency is called the zloty and it comes with a very favorable exchange rate for us Yankees in Europe. 1 zloty is worth about 35 cents, which means things for us here come at excellent prices. Which reminds me, I had the manliest dinner of my life last night. Two litres of beer and this enormous platter of assorted meats. Every kind of meat you can think of: haggis, steak, bacon, chicken, even liver, and Im probably missing a few other meats too. I was so full I thought I was going to burst. And that whole dinner only cost me about 12 dollars.
To be honest, I never thought I would make it to Poland. Katie mentioned it to me a long time ago after we both found out we were going to England for the semester and I told her Id tag along. She wanted to come here to see a Da Vinci painting (she has the goal of seeing all of them). Well, yesterday we trudged through the snow to find this museum where the painting is and when we found it not only was the museum closed for the day, but also the Da Vinci painting is on loan to a museum in Budapest. Katie was devastated and I was amused at the way life never fails to throw a curveball when all your planning has kept you organised. Oh well, I guess it gives us an excuse to come back to Krakow.
Its weird to think Ive been traveling for so long, living out of two backpacks and always having a map in my pocket trying (and failing) to not get lost. Im pretty exhausted though. I find myself taking more afternoon naps when at the start of the trip I was so excited to go out and see everything I possibly could. I think part of the reason my pace has slowed a bit is because we are spending more time in each city now. Its nice to be able to get to know a city over five days rather than having two days to see everything you want to see. We just have one more night in Krakow and then we fly back to London, where we will be spending three nights before heading back to Nottingham for final exams. Its so strange to think I will be home in less than three weeks now. I feel like Ive really become acclimated to living in the UK (and spending one month on the continent). I think it may be hard to drop my UK spelling and turns of phrase, and I will certainly be bringing back with me a love of beans on toast and milky tea (always with two sugars).
We went to the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Berkenau today. It was probably the most intense experience of my life to find myself standing inside of one of the crematoriums where hundreds of thousands of innocent people were systematically murdered. Its hard to find the right adjectives to describe Auschwitz. Its nothing like seeing a museum, a monument, or a building. Its a place that was built for killing people. A place where people were treated like cattle and where they had their identities and all earthly possessions stripped away. Being there, seeing huge mounds of eyeglasses, pots and pans, shoes, hair, suitcases, and prosthetic legs, it makes all the history that tells the story of what happened there so much more real and important to me. It was a very depressing day, but I would recommend that everyone go see Auschwitz. Now that Ive started writing about it and thinking about what I saw today, I feel a bit depressed again. I dont really think anything I could say would be able to even approximate how I felt about what I saw today. I guess I should just leave it at that.