I am a huge history buff so to be in Poland at all, you know where I wanted to visit: Auschwitz. Now, like I said, I enjoy history. I really love learning about World War I and II so I thought I knew a lot about Auschwitz. Boy, was I wrong. I’ve read books, seen movies and spoken with people who have been there but there is nothing in this world more depressing than standing in the courtyard of the most vile, disgusting place on the planet. Take a second to think about it…what is the most awful, gut-wrenching thing in history? Your answer is going to be WWII concentration camps.
While it was terrifying to walk through the front gate and into Auschwitz I (see picture above), past the gallows that I’ve read about, into the gas chambers and finally into the eerie “Death Wall” corridor, the feelings I felt must have been minuscule in comparison to what those poor, defenseless people felt when they were held captive. I took a few pictures while I was there but didn’t need to. For those of you who have been there, you understand. You’ll never forget what the pictures on the wall look like or how the mountains of hair, luggage and shoes made you feel inside. The shriveled bodies, the deadly experiments and the smell of death were enough to ensure that I will never forget what I saw there.
Overall, I am very glad that I went to Auschwitz. I think it’s important for people to see and experience because we (as a whole population) cannot let something like this happen ever again. I feel that it’s a responsibility that we now have. What sickens me is to think there are people in this world who say “what? it never happened. show me proof.”
On a much happier note, after we left Auschwitz I, we toured the small town of Oswiecim, Poland which is where Auschwitz is located. Surprisingly, it’s a beautiful town where people are happy and healthy. We went paddle-boating on a calm lake surrounded by mountains. To cap off the day, we had some Polish beers by the lake and watched the sun descend behind the mountains.
So here we go, I’m off on a wild adventure to Krakow, Poland. For those of you who don’t know about Krakow, it used to be a booming city, as well as the capital of Poland. Now, it isn’t the capital anymore, (Warsaw is the current capital) but it is a great city to visit and I highly suggest it to anyone who is going to be cruising through Poland anytime soon. So why is Krakow such a cool place for a college student like myself? First off, there is a lot of history in the city. Years ago, there was a very high Jewish population so many of the ghettos where people were taken from during World War II are in Krakow. I am actually staying in the old Jewish part of town! It is very eerie walking around these streets and knowing what happened years ago; it is very sad, but from a historical standpoint, it is also very interesting. The flat I am currently writing this in is less than one mile from the factory where the movie Schindler’s List was filmed. I’ve seen the movie and heard stories but believe me when I say nothing compares to standing there in person.
Another reason why I’m really enjoying Krakow is all the great food. I’m a big food guy and I like to eat. Trying different foods is one of the reasons why I love to travel so much. You can tell a lot about a place by the food they serve. Now here’s a few tips while visiting Poland: Eat everything in sight. 9/10 times it will be the best tasting “zupa” (soup) or pierogis you will ever experience. Also, one of the cool things I really like about Poland is their sandwiches. In America, you eat sandwiches with two slices of bread but in Poland you just pile everything on top of one slice of bread and get to work on it. It’s genius. Once I return home, I think I’m going to adopt this tradition and give it a shot.
Below is a picture I took this morning from atop a small mountain right outside the city. It was a long walk (especially up the mountain) but it was worth it. How many Americans can say they started their day like this?