Blogging our way through Eastern Europe
Sunday, April 15, 2018--day 5
Today we had a brief respite from the exhausting past couple days and the exhausting days to come. We woke up at the civilized time of 8:45, had a leisurely breakfast and departed our hotel for the airport to fly to Poland.
After Ms. Freeman’s dire warnings the night before, we were all a bit nervous about the prospect of flying Ryanair. There was a good deal of anxious reshuffling of luggage and passing around of Ms. Foley’s luggage scale, but despite all the anxiety, all went smoothly at the airport and everyone got through check in and security just fine.
From there we boarded the plane and took off for Poland, landing in Krakow around an hour later. And while the flight was definitely an experience, all went well and we landed safely in Krakow! There we met our bus driver for the next couple of days, Alec, and left for the town of Oswiecim, the location of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
After dropping our things off at our new hotel, practically the Ritz Carlton after our last hotel and right across the street from Auschwitz itself, Ms. Freeman took us on a brief tour of a couple places around the edge of Auschwitz. We learned a lot about the restoration efforts there, as well as about how only certain part of the camps were preserved, while many others have been built over by homes and industry. We didn’t really get into much of the emotional stuff today, but tomorrow we’ll definitely be diving into all of those feelings and emotions when we go on our official tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau.
We ended the day off with an amazing full group dinner in our hotel and finished up early to get a good nights sleep for a long and taxing day tomorrow.
Hello everyone, it’s Nicole!
To sum up the day, it was filled with travel by bus and plane. On the bus, I sat in the very front to make sure that I got my last looks of beautiful Berlin. I was sad that we were leaving, but I was super excited to go to the “motherland”, aka Poland. I haven’t been in 3 years and I’ve never been without family, so this was an entirely new experience. Ms. Freeman made the joke that not only would I kiss the ground once we landed in Kraków, but also that I would feel as if I was in heaven....to say the least, she was right. I couldn’t wait, and when the pilot said 10 more minutes till landing, I couldn’t stop staring out of the window. And I know that this all may sound dramatic so far, but the fact that we arrived in Poland really made me feel in some sort of way that solidified my decision about moving to this beautiful country.
The best part about travelling with a large group is the fact that natives don’t expect you to speak their language, especially if they think you’re American. So whenever I would say “dzień dobry” (this means hello or good morning) to hotel staff members, our driver Alek, or Dorota, I would get shocked looks because they weren’t expecting me to speak Polish. However, those expressions turned into smiles and then into conversations :-)
Once we got to our hotel, we set down our luggage and met outside to take an unofficial tour of some parts of Auschwitz-I that a tour guide wouldn’t show us. Although I’ve visited this concentration camp 5 years ago, some memories came flooding back. Considering that I was 12 when I visited for the first time, I wasn’t shocked that I didn’t remember everything about the layout of Auschwitz or everything that was told to me, simply because I was unable to process it at such a young age. As we continued our walk and turned a corner, I noticed a pair of doves perched on the wires above us. As usually talked about throughout our trip so far, this was an extreme juxtaposition. At such a place where everything horrible you can think of happened, seeing the two birds that symbolize peace fly near us shows us the sentiment around the town and our group. As we visit more and more of these sites that make us all feel a certain type of way, we lean on each other’s shoulders to try and search for that peace.
I ended the day by eating dinner with my friends, and eventually being called to translate a conversation between Ms. Freeman and our bus driver, Alek. I enjoyed it so much and I can’t wait for more occasions where I can translate!
Dobra noc z Polski! :-)
I want to make a general comment, not just about this entry but for every single one so far. Which is that your entries are each, in their own way, immensely satisfying glimpses into your intense experiences. There's a really good balance between colorful anecdotes and descriptions, levity and somberness and honest feedback about one pretty amazing trip.
Great to hear Nicole breaking through language barriers. I am curious what locals at Auschwitz think of all the foreign visitors coming through? Do they think is Auschwitz good for some local businesses? Does Poland benefit on a broad national level from the foreign attention directed towards Auschwitz? No doubt its a complicated topic but I am curious to hear what localy say.
Nicole- you have been FABULOUS with speaking Polish and it is so uplifting and wonderful to watch you interact in such genuinely enthusiastic ways. You have made my experience with Poland so much more personal and unforgettable.
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