Despite last Thursday’s snow, ice, and horrifying plane-skidding incident at LaGuardia, we made it to Poland (almost) on schedule! We were a little delayed, but the four of us were happy to have dinner at our favorite EWR restaurant: terminal B’s McGinley’s Pub <3. We all slept most of the 8½ hour flight before arriving in Munich, where we’d missed our earlier connection but hopped on another a little while later.
Krakow, our final destination, blew me away. We landed and made it to our apartment by around 5PM on Friday, just in time to galavant around the city before sunset. Its center is spotless and incredibly charming; to me, it felt like a mix of Verona and Vienna, though inevitably laced with a more Eastern European don’t-bother-asking-anyone-for-help feel. We fell in love instantly.
The main purpose of the trip was to tour nearby concentration camps and ghettos. Chrissy and Briana are WWII buffs, and Les and I took a Holocaust class as juniors at the Mount. We’ve kept an eye on flights to Krakow for years but have never been able to find anything for under $950 or so. Warsaw is occasionally cheaper, but it’s much farther from Auschwitz and therefore wouldn’t make sense for our short weekend trips. By some act of God, however – and by “act of God” I mean a miracle called “Cyber Monday” – I unexpectedly came across flights for ~$600! I called Briana immediately (which is obviously indicative of some sort of crisis or emergency since I hate the phone), and we booked it on the spot, no hesitation. Les and Chrissy quickly followed suit. Is this what addiction feels like?! The rush of clicking “confirm booking” is undoubtedly like no other. 😉
I will spare you of a history lesson and let the photos below speak for themselves. I do want to include, however, a few facets of our trip that stuck with me most:
- When prompted, our incredible tour guide and film director Paulina shared with us the survivor story that’s had the greatest impact on her. Specifically, she talked about the neighbor of a Polish man who’d been intellectually disabled (formerly “mentally retarded”) and picked on most of his life. One day, while the two were both in front of their homes, they saw an alarming amount of black crows screaming overhead. The boy remarked, “Oh no, how sad… the birds just told me that the soldiers are coming to kill all the children of Israel.” Over a month before there was even a slight indication of what was to come, his neighbor was more confused than disturbed: “What are you talking about?” He persisted: “Yes, how horribly sad. The birds just told me, they’re coming to murder the descendants of Abraham.” Che cazzo ?
- In Krakow alone, there were over 70,000 Jews before the Holocaust. Now, there are maybe a few thousand. The actual amount is difficult to confirm because many Jewish people celebrate their faith in private, for they are afraid history will repeat itself. Truthfully, I don’t blame them.
- 2015 marks 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, which means that all this occurred not that f’ing long ago AT ALL. This isn’t some distant, horrific event that dates back to before Christ. The accounts haven’t been translated and interpreted by ancient scholars over the course of centuries. There were no carrier pigeons or slaves. There were televisions, cars, technology, and airplanes. This was Europe, not some barbaric, uninhabitable third-world country. The Holocaust happened in our grandparents’ lifetime; my grandmother was my age when Auschwitz was liberated.
Płaszów Camp Memorial:
Creepy Amon Goeth’s House (the man who’d shoot people from his balcony in Schindler’s List):
Auschwitz 1 Grounds & Crematorium:
Belongings of Auschwitz 1 Victims (shoes, prosthetics, suitcases):
Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau):
PS: The trip wasn’t completely somber and educational. We also tried Krakow’s top fun activity: Lost Souls Alley. It was so terrifying that Les had to use the code word to exit mid-way. One missing Ugg, three panic attacks, and eight bruised shins later, we made it to safety. Be on the lookout for night-vision footage. B)
PPS: I did extend my trip (of course), but since I gave up sweets for Lent, I opted for some sun instead of tempting myself in the gelato capital of the world. Italy, I’ll see you exactly one month from today – after Easter. ❤