Seeing as though my last blog was about a school trip I thought it would be fitting to write about another school trip. This time it was to Krakow, Poland. DISCLAIMER: Before I begin I would like to warn anyone reading this, I will be discussing and sharing photos of the former concentration camp Auschwitz and if you do not feel comfortable or want to read or see these things it is alright to stop when it says Auschwitz in bold letters. But other than that lets begin with Poland.
Now Poland is not somewhere I would have ever thought I’d go but boy oh boy am I sure glad I did. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, but it has some of the BEST dumplings I’ve ever had in my life. Yes I said that and yes they are the best. While we were there, the weather was not the greatest but it also set a mood that felt like fall, finally. And for some reason it made the trip much better.
On Thursday the 18th of October we took the night train. This may sound so cool, and it kind of was, but at the same time, it was not the slightest bit comfortable. It’s something everyone should experience and honestly, if I had a choice I would totally do it again because it beats traveling all day. Overall, the traveling was not bad! We arrived in Krakow around 7am and made our way to our hotel where we left our bags and ate breakfast. Around 10 am we headed out for our first tour of the old town in Krakow. What makes this part so beautiful is the large park surrounding the town. This park used to be part of the fortification walls that surround Krakow for most of its existence. While we were there, the leaves were changing color and everything felt so peaceful. We made our way through the old town and stopped at the old university museum where we got a tour of the inside. Interestingly the outside has this clock that at certain times of the day (I don’t remember which times) it goes off and out comes little figurines and go around in a circle. Now this may not sound significant, but in Krakow it was and it was quite a sight to see.
Eventually we made it into the center of the town where there was a long row of markets (that were amazing) and of course, a huge church. Now with this church came something that everyone should experience. Every hour on the hour, the window of one of the towers opens up and a man plays the trumpet for all of the town to hear. He plays what is called St. Mary’s Trumpet Call four times, in each cardinal direction (North, East, South and West). This call is a five note anthem that supposedly came about during the Mongol invasion and a trumpeter sounded an alarm playing this tune. However the trumpeter was shot before he could finish and therefore the call is only 5 notes. At the end of the call, the trumpeter sticks his hand out the window and waves to everyone in the streets. Now this is something so amazing and unique that I never expected to see or even hear of and it is something everyone should experience. We ended the day with some lunch/dinner where I had some amazing dumplings, of course.
The next day we headed up to the castle and had an amazing tour of the church inside the castle and parts of the actual castle. Later that day we made our way to Auschwitz.
Auschwitz is a former concentration camp from World War II and is known as one of the biggest. There are two parts of Auschwitz, Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau Auschwitz 1 holds many barracks and areas where some of the SS Soldiers had slept as well as the prisoners of the camp. During the tour they took us through a few of the barracks. In the first barrack they shared photos of the prisoners and maps of the grounds. The next barrack is where we saw the suitcase, the shoes, the dishes, and the hair of the prisoners. Each of these things had a certain impact on me and the hair is what impacted me the most. They requested that no photos be taken of the hair out of respect. To end our tour of Auschwitz , they showed us one of the gas chambers.
We then headed to Birkenau. Birkenau was the largest area of the Auschwitz concentration camp and is split into three parts, the women’s side, the men’s side and then there was a third section that was never actually finished. When you walk through the gates you are immediately walking where prisoners of Auschwitz had walked. The guide took us along the pathway where newly arrived prisoners were sorted into two sections, able and not able. Able as in able to work. Many of the women and children were put in the not able section, because they had not wanted to leave their children. Here they were lied to and told they were going to take showers, but were actually sent to the gas chambers. The tour guide then took us to the memorial area where they have a memorial stone in every language that was recorded there.
After this we saw what was left of the gas chambers, which were burnt to the ground by both Nazi soldiers and the workers of the camp. We then headed into the women’s side of the camp where we saw their sleeping barracks. Often 6 to 8 people were fit into a bunk. This concluded the tour. This tour of Auschwitz was not something I’d ever thought I’d do, but now that i have, i highly recommend everyone to at least visit a concentration camp. It is important to remember what happened and make sure it never happens again.
The last day in Poland, we went to the Salt Mines which I have to say were pretty awesome. You could actually lick some of the walls and taste the salt! I’m not sure how far down the salt mines go. However I do know that they are something everyone should see!
That’s much like all of Europe.
So far this trip has been an eye opening and amazing experience in which I encourage everyone to try and do.