A Travellerspoint blog

Day 35: Extra day in Krakow

Early that morning a good chunk of our group had already been taken to the airport, and most of those still hanging around left right after breakfast. There were a couple of us that had later flights so we got to go with Dr. D and his family to church in the Krakow ward that morning. Out of all the wards we went to this one was by far the smallest. It was a nice service though, and the people there were friendly.

Since we had to check out of our rooms that morning we left our bags in Dr. D's room since they had permission to check out later. Jess, Hannah, and I hung out in their room for a little bit until we decided to go out and explore the city more. One funny thing that happened when I was in Dr. D;'s family's hotel room. They let us use their restroom and while I was in there I noticed that the trashcan was filled with people's assignments (the book and City reports) that we had turned in the day before! It made me wonder if he had actually read the assignments or just counted to see if they were there and then binned them! Since they were going to leave while we would be gone, we brought our luggage down to the front desk and the girls working there let us store our stuff there until 5 when our taxi would take us to the airport.

Our first order of business was to check out this little stand that Hannah and Jess had seen that sold things called "Chimney cakes".
Don't they look absolutely amazing?!?!?! It's a bread-y dough wrapped around a metal cylinder, then cooked, covered in cinnamon sugar, then filled with different saucy type things and nuts of your choice. I got nutella in mine. It was absolutely phenomenal! It was still warm from being cooked which made the nutella all melty. A perfect treat for less than perfect weather! I recommend going to the stand if you are ever in Krakow!!

It was a little chilly outside so after we ate our fill of the chimney cakes we tried to find stores to go into to keep warm as well as to kill time until the taxi came. We shopped around in Zara (our group's favorite store to shop around in) and some of the boutiques that were on streets off the main plaza. We still had about two hours left until the taxi was coming to get us, but we were done pretending to be interested in clothes we weren't planning on buying. Luckily, I spotted the Cinnabon across the big square and I remembered that they offered free wifi from when we stopped in the other day. So we trooped over there and I ordered a hot chocolate so the workers would let us sit and chat in peace. I got to know the other girls really well as we shared our life stories, and of course "boy stories". I had been on this trip with them for the last 5 weeks, but I learned more about them in the last few hours of our adventure than I had during that whole time!

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a Carrefour to grab food to eat for dinner and to stock up on more European chocolate :). We got in the taxi and drove to the airport. The drive was only 30 minutes and Hannah and Jess realized they still had about three hours to kill before their flight took off. My hotel was literally across the small road from the airport, so I offered to let them chill in my room before they went over. It was nice for me because once they left I really didn't have much to do! There wasn't any netflix in Poland (sad), but I ended up just reading and scrolling the internet before going to bed. Only three more days in Europe!

Posted by cedevault 19:57 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 34: Exploring Krakow

We started the day off with breakfast at the hotel we were staying at. Like the morning before, the breakfast was amazing. Ventus Rosa- you know what you are doing in the food department. There was an array of pastries, meats, cheeses, and juices (much like everywhere else we went), but what was different was there wasn't a single less than excellent piece of food on the counter! Well done.

After breakfast, we trooped across the city to visit the Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. We visited an old synagogue that had been turned into a museum about the history of the Jewish people in Krakow, as well as traditions and ceremonies that they practiced. I thought the exhibits were engaging, interesting, and well-worth visiting. I really like learning about Jewish customs because we learn a little about it in church and in classes so I have had some exposure to it before, but not enough for my taste! The museum offered lots of in-depth knowledge on topics I had always been curious about, so I finally got my fill! For more information on the museum click here. The synagogue is the oldest still standing in Poland!

On the way to our next stop for the day, we came across a house that had this painted on it:



I thought it was so sad that this family who had lived in that house for nearly three centuries were forced out during the Nazi regime. We walked by walls of the old Jewish ghetto. This especially touched me as we had the context of Auschwitz from our visit there the day before. It was a constant reminder of the atrocities committed and our need to promote love and understanding instead of hatred and fear.
We then stopped by Schindler's factory from Schindler's List. I loved the quote on the outside of the factory, "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire".



We then went to see the Empty Chairs Memorial. It was made to symbolize how when Jewish people were being cleared out of the ghetto, they were forced to leave behind their possessions, they represented the absence and loss of this people.


After we stood and discussed the memorial, our study abroad was officially finished. Dr. D gave a small speech to give closure to the adventure and released us to go do whatever we wanted to do. Zach, McCall, and I wanted to go check out a couple markets that we saw on our maps to see if they were any good, so we took off towards one of them. There wasn't much to see at the market we chose so we decided to just keep walking around.

Before deciding where to go for dinner, we shopped in the market that was in the middle of the big square in town. I bought my mom these amazingly fluffy slippers since our house is always freezing! They were like eskimo shoes they were so thick! After checking out a few different places, Kylie, McCall and I went to a traditional Polish restaurant that was recommended to me by a woman I knew who had originally lived in Krakow before coming to America. Her recommendation did not disappoint! The food was delicious. We got to try authentic pierogis as we listened to and watched a traditional song and dance of Poland!



It was hard to believe that everyone would be going their separate ways the next day (minus the couple of LAME people that had already left--- (jokes jokes jokes, they just wanted to get cheaper tickets home)).

That night Lauren, Catherine, McCall, and I stayed up late talking again. We talked about our study abroad, first impressions of each other, and spent another night laughing into the night. My favorite part of the night was "GUYS. I LEAKED!" I'm not going to explain it at all, I'm just going to leave it there for my memories! The last two nights with everyone were probably some of my favorite nights on the study abroad (and yes, that includes Eiffel Tower night in Paris!).

Posted by cedevault 20:28 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 33: Auschwitz- Birkenau

So today was the day that I was interested in the most. I've always been drawn to learning about WWII and the reign that Nazi's had on Germany and Europe as a whole. My english teacher from the 8th grade, Mr. Gibbons, whose wife had family that died at Auschwitz visited the concentration camp right before I had him as a teacher. One of our units was to read the book Night by Elie Wiesel (which incidentally was one of our required readings for the study abroad), so he showed us pictures from when he went. Ever since then I was intrigued and I wanted to visit it myself.

Driving to Auschwitz was in itself an interesting experience. It was about an hour drive to get from Krakow so the bus ride started just like all the other ones where everyone was talking and laughing, but as we got closer we got more and more solemn. I think everything started to feel real to us, that where we were heading was a place of nightmares.

When we pulled up there were tons of people of all different nationalities lining up to learn and visit. Since we had set up a group tour for us we were able to skip the lines and go right in. They had headsets for us so that our tour guide wouldn't have to yell and so she could give us information as we were walking through. One thing that was a little funny (while still having proper respect) was that even though our tour was supposed to be private random people joined at different times and then followed us around.

^^^ Arbeit Macht Frei

^^^ Shoes from the captured

^^^ suitcases. This exhibit was especially sad because one suitcase was from an orphaned child who most likely was killed right after arriving at the camp.

^^^ Gas chamber.

To be honest this was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. While it was interesting and necessary to learn, I felt really sick the whole tour. The thought that people could do something so heinous and despicable made me physically ill. Human nature is a fickle thing. There can be so much light, but so much darkness and hate. There's a book that addresses this called Ordinary Men about how normal men became cold blooded killers of thousands of Polish citizens and Jewish people. I highly recommend reading it. Incredibly eye opening.

We took a short break after the Auschwitz tour to eat lunch in the bus and then we took the short drive to Birkenau. We also did a tour there. There was this couple who was in our group that disgusted me. There is a railroad line that came through the middle of camp that would drop off the people that would be left at the camps. The women was on her knees on it posing like a model while her boyfriend took pictures of her. So terrible.

^^^ Barracks behind the fence



^^^ "For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about tone and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries in Europe."
They had those plaques in all different languages. When we got to where the plaques were there was a Jewish school group who were doing a ceremony of remembrance.

^^^ Crematorium that the Nazis bombed to hide the evidence of their acts.

^^^ "To the memory of the men, women, and children who fell victim to the Nazi genocide. Here lie their ashes. May their souls rest in peace."

It helped that I had reread Night before coming because it dulled some of the shock of the horror. A preparation, if you will, for what was shown. One part that really struck home for me was a hallway that had pictures of prisoners with their names and whether they made it out alive or if they died while at the concentration camp.

I think everyone was feeling really heavy, which is the only way I can describe the feeling, so by the time we drove away on the bus everyone is in a somber mood. Like the morning when we were driving to Auschwitz, except the opposite, we started talking more and more with the passing miles we put between us and the camp.

That evening we had our final group dinner at a traditional polish restaurant. After such a grim start to the day it was nice to end on a happy note. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was fun and light. There was this very drunk man that approached my friend Tashia at our table and asked her to dance to the band that was playing. Since it was her last night in Europe (she and Madison were leaving a day early), she said yes! It was so funny!





^^^ You can see her behind some of the beams. Everyone was very entertained!

We thought when the dance was over that would be it, but he came back to the table and kept asking the rest of us to dance! He was so drunk it was starting to make us nervous! But his friends finally came and took him away!

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and Tashia, Madison, McCall, Lauren, Catherine, and I had a girls night where we stayed up and talked super late about all the stereotypical "girl talk" things. It was one of the most fun nights, just talking and laughing about everything! I can't believe how fast we all got to be friends, but I guess it makes sense since there were only 30 of us and we were all together 24/7 for 5 weeks! Only a few days more in Europe!

Posted by cedevault 21:04 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 32: On the road again! Heading to Poland

Bratislava, Punkva caves, and Krakow!

I don't anyone was happy to be leaving Vienna. It was such a magical city! When I get back to Europe I will definitely be visiting again. But we had an interesting itinerary waiting for us so we couldn't be too sad!

We all piled into the bus and drove to Bratislava, which is the capitol of Slovakia. Even though it was only about an hour's drive away, the entire feel of the city was completely different from Vienna! You could definitely tell that this area had ben under Soviet control, it gave the same vibe that East Berlin gave when I visited there later. And don't get me wrong, it wasn't like some cesspool of a city, it actually reminded me of the suburbs right outside of Chicago. We stopped so that Dr. D could give us a lecture on Soviet occupation and also so we could grab lunch! We walked around the downtown part of the city, but we weren't really finding anywhere great to eat (lots of pizza and burger booth-like places). Finally we stumbled on a Subway, which isn't the greatest thing to eat if you're abroad I realize but we weren't finding any traditional "slovakian" restaurants and we needed to eat quickly to get back on the road. There was this old gentleman that came into the subway after we had ordered and started talking to JJ (since he had served a mission in Hungary and the man knew some Hungarian or lived there for a little while or something? The old guy was so funny! He spoke some english but not a whole lot, so whenever the conversation sort of died off he would just stare at JJ and smile! Right before we were about to leave to meet back up with everyone, he told JJ, "You are fantastic young man, like Putin!" Made for some good stories!

After we left Slovakia we drove to the Punkva Caves in the Czech Republic! We parked the bus (or I should say Martin parked it haha) then we took a very short train ride to the mouth of the cave system where we met up with our tour guides. The caves were so cool! Tons of stalactites and stalagmites (I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I still don't know which one is which). There was this one stala..... um mineral formation that was called the like the Negro or something in english that was according to superstition if you touched the top of it and yelled out your wish for all to hear then it will come true. Being the nerd that I am (and not wanting to yell my actual deepest desires) I shouted that I wanted to get all A's. Plot twist- it actually worked! Czech stalagmdjadjgdfs actually do grant wishes! Too bad I didn't say what I actually wanted!

^^^ start of the cave system, spoooooooky! (as my friend Rachel would say)

^^^ There was one section that the ceiling collapsed in on itself a long time ago, so plants are now able to grow there since the sun can shine in. It looks like it's not that deep, but it was!

^^^ We got to ride on boats throughout the watery parts of the caves!

After the tour was over we had another somewhat long drive to get to our apartment hotel in Krakow. We had to eat dinner on the road because we were running late and we still had an hour of driving left, so we stopped at a polish (i think?) kentucky fried chicken after we were done taking the final.

We stayed at the Ventus Rosa, which I recommend to anyone traveling to Krakow! Very nice accommodations, large rooms, personable staff, delicious breakfasts, plus they had these AMAZING chocolate toffee candies in the lobby so whenever we came in or out we grabbed a handful!

McCall and I roomed with Lauren and Catherine (since we'd never stayed together) in one of the 4 person rooms. We decided (since it was already kind of late) to stay in and work on finishing our assignments that we procrastinated for the entire trip. Worth it! Since I finished most of my write-ups on the bus (and the final -_-, which actually wasn't terrible but even though that was exactly what I signed up for with a study abroad I've never been a fan of doing any deep thinking/writing in cars or buses) I didn't have many to do that night. So I facetimed with my family and enjoyed the company of friends!

Posted by cedevault 19:25 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Day 31: Sick Day pt 3: Vienna & Prater Amusement Park

Just my luck! I woke up almost as sick as when I was in Rome and Paris, but fortunately I had knowledge and LOTS of unwanted experience on my side. I immediately drank a ton of water hoping that perhaps if I super hydrate myself it would pass. I knew that as long as I only drank water and didn't eat anything I could make it through.Since it was a free day that day I at least didn't have to worry about missing a lecture that could be on the weekly quiz/final. But that also meant that I missed a day to roam around Vienna, one of my favorite cities that we went to.

McCall and Kayla left to explore the cities with their respective groups after making sure I wasn't going to die on them while they were gone. I told McCall to come back before they left for the Prater Amusement park that night, just in case I was feeling better.

It was sort of nice to be in bed all day, just resting up. I was able to start and finish one of the required books we had to read and write about, Night by Elie Wiesel. I had read it back in the 8th grade for English class, so I knew that it was a quick read (a really sad read, but quick). I slept for a while too so that I could maybe be feeling decent enough not to miss out on the amusement park.

When McCall came back to check on me I was happy to report that I was feeling well enough to join her and the others. Since I needed a little extra time to get ready she waited behind with me and told everyone that we would meet up with them there. So grateful for her help!!

We made our way to the big ferris wheel in the park where they filmed one of the most famous movies of all time, "The Third Man", and where one of the characters, Harry Lime said (a famous line) right after exiting the ferris wheel,

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.

We watched that movie on the way to Vienna to acquaint ourselves with the history of it. Here's a link to the main character on the ferris wheel and a link to the famous line video.

^^^ The park at dusk, you can see the ferris wheel in the background.

Before we rode on the Ferris Wheel Dr. D gave us all an allowance for some other rides (the deal with Prater was that admission is free, but it costs money to ride on individual rides), so when we were high enough to be able to see the rides in the park we picked out some of them that we wanted to hit (after enjoying the view of course!).

The first ride we went to was go-karts. Honestly, best go-karts. Ever. In the US there are all these rules that restrict you from hitting the other karts or the sides and if you don't follow that they shut off your car, but in Vienna? They didn't care! We had so much racing each other and knocking our karts into one another! By the end I ended up completely backwards and driving in reverse! The second was just a swings ride, but this one was also better than in the US bc we got to go SO fast and high! Then we went on this mini-rollercoaster that was INSANE! It was definitely the most expensive, but worth it! The safety restrictions are DEFINITELY lower there, pretty sure half of the ride could be near broken and they would run it anyway... but it worked for us! On the way to our fourth and final ride we met up with Martin, who had joined us after dropping his wife off at the airport. What a great guy! The fourth ride was probably the most dangerous because it kind of tossed you around like a rag doll and most of our group complained of hurt necks after. I liked it just because of the sign right outside entering the ride!


We wandered around for a little longer after trying to decide if we wanted to go on another ride or not, but we ended up just going to get fries at this place at the front of the park and then walking back to the hotel.

Posted by cedevault 16:10 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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