Spring Break pt. 2 – Poland

Dzień Dobry! After spending one night in Prague, Kiera and I woke up early on Thursday morning to catch a train to Krakow, Poland. The trip ended up being around 8 hours with a short layover which involved us sprinting through a train station and large parking lot in order to find the correct bus. Throughout the journey, I noticed how much the Czech Republic and Poland resemble the Midwest, so it makes sense that so many people from Central/Eastern Europe migrated to the center of the U.S. In Krakow, we found our hostel and met some U.S. students studying abroad in London this semester; they recommended a restaurant with traditional Polish food for dinner, so we ventured to the city center and checked it out. Krakow’s central square or “Stare Miasto” is the largest medieval square in Europe and reminded me a lot of Prague.

After checking out the major attractions in the center, including a campanile-like structure, a gorgeous cathedral, and a marketplace, we went to an amazing pierogi dumpling restaurant. I had never had pierogies before coming to Poland, and I am now in love with them. Check out the photo of them below 🙂 mine had bacon, barley, and onion.

We spent the rest of the night walking around the city and enjoying the weather. In contrast to Prague where the center is full of tourists, Krakow had a great combination of both tourists and residents hanging out downtown and by the river.

On Friday morning, my roommate and I took a bus to Oświęcim, Poland, where Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camps are located. We missed the opportunity to sign up for a tour, so we bought a guidebook and then walked around by ourselves. I don’t really have words to describe what it felt like to visit a place where such awful abuse and horrendous murders took place.

About eight years ago, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on my 7th grade Washington D.C. trip. Since then, I have read numerous memoirs of survivors and visited both Dachau in Germany and Terezín in the Czech Republic. Nothing, however, could prepare me for a trip to Auschwitz, the death camp at which 1.1 million people were murdered during WWII.

I barely took any photos because it felt disrespectful to the victims of the holocaust. The photos below, however, depict the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (German for work sets you free) gate, he memorial plaques, and the fences around the camp.

I will never forget the eeriness of this place and pray for all of those who endured imprisonment or lost their lives at this hellish site.

Even though it was a sad addition to spring break, I am glad that we were able to see such a historical place and plan to use the information I learned to educate my peers back in Iowa.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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