Tag Archives: Auschwitz

Musings from my epic vacay pt. 1

As the casual observer of what is hip here in Finland and in Poland. I have been amazed at how much English is used in both the beauty and the crass. American icons seemingly long gone from popularity in the US are still strong here in the EU. Izod shoes, Nike, Adidas, etc. are still popular. Now Nike is still a statement in the US, to the point of addiction, here it seems the casual shoe or maybe an earlier brand. Curse words are the norm on t-shirts. What is rarely spelled out in the U.S. is all too common place on post cards, stickers, shirts, caps and magnets. 
I met a young lady, a student from Hong Kong, and was surprised how freely she used the “F” bomb, almost as if it was a part of her normal day to day language. Though I should not be surprised as it’s pretty common in the U.S. as well. I have enjoyed meeting new people from other countries, the few that I have spoken to, the waitresses, the others on vacation, the ones who work in shops, etc. While in Poland I met several from Australia, UK, Netherlands, Mexico, and a gal from China who teaches English as a second language whose parents live in Boulder.
I was surprised while shopping in Tikkurila, Finland, that “New York” ball caps with the NY spelled out in script, were being sold in the local Wal-Mart style store. I thought that I would wear local shirts from CO to stand out, like most of my clothes seem to make me anyway. Only quickly to realize that there is so much apparel from all over. I was trying for the tourist look and realized I fit right in. 
When I was in the airport heading to Poland I wore my “Blues from the Top” t-shirt, from Winter Park, CO. I think that those that could read or understand English could tell I was from the U.S. but most could not. I was standing amongst a crowd of Polish, Korean, Chinese, Russian and I am sure countless other countries.
Many women were dressed to the 9’s in the square, maybe it was close to dancing time, or maybe they just wanted to look nice. Either way they did get attention, the men, as usual. Most men were very casual and a few dressed up like their gals, a few in wedding attire.
From skin tight jeans to mini skirts, the fashion seems to be the same around the world. A friend suggested that I wear casual shoes and not tennis shoes but I have been most comfortable in my running shoes. I wore them to the airport and easily passed through security without the ring of the metal detector. Security seems more at ease here and I don’t know if that is good or bad. Less stringent, but still the X-ray etc that is constant throughout. 
I was disappointed to learn this morning during breakfast that another guest in my hotel had issues with his AC. What!!!!! AC??? I didn’t event know if i had it, and upon checking out saw that the concierge had my remote. Shame on me for not checking, I just assumed that I did not have it, as most days were comfortable and my window was open when I entered the door. Next time I will check for sure! so many things that I have learned this time, and I certainly packed too many warm things. I am thinking of sending a few items homes, or I can use my other luggage to break up my baggage.
The airport in Poland is nice too, so many thoughts I had about this country have been challenged and changed. I thought of this Cold War country with depression and dirt and quite the contrary. Beautiful structures and architecture I have experienced everywhere. Beautiful homes with nice yards and mini farm fields. Very large homes for the well to do, and nice cars for the same. The old style architecture from the historic buildings were just as majestic.
An effective light rail system for around town was clearly evident in Kraków, I would stay in the Old town Historic Market area again, plenty of hotels to choose from, and plenty of great places to eat. I did not take in the music, the churches and some other sites, I was either too tired from the late nights and early mornings that I figure I will wait until next time. There will be a next time as my visit here was incredible. The food fantastic, the beer quite good and everything from people watching to the nightlife was quite fun!
What are my take-aways from my first few days in Europe? I was blown away with my experiences at Auschwitz and Birkenau. I read the history before, but I experienced it here, now, and even though this all took place 70+ years ago, walking the same paths, looking in the same barracks, walking where people exited rail cars, passing through the same gates, that over a million people who perished did, was really an incredible experience. Overwhelming sadness for the ones who were killed for no reason, other than having been Jewish and deemed a race that should not have existed.
  

Epic vacation Chapt 2- Poland

I was concerned that the time of my arrival, in the evening would some how cause issues with my trip. Nothing could be further from the truth as not only did I make preparations but I knew God was on my side. I have been praying thoughout my trip that God would workout all the details and that he would keep me, and he has, even out of the trouble that could be in my way…

As I debarked from my plane, which was the second time in two days that I needed to walk down outside stairs and the first time that I  needed to board a bus, like I suppose many do in a foriegn country.  I was wondering if my driver made it or not, I did not confirm in advance and we were early. After customs there stood a man with my name on my piece of paper and all of a sudden I felt important, though he didn’t lift a finger to help me with my luggage down the stairs.  It was the first time that I had someone wait for me with a sign. It was a quick trip to downtown, about 15 minutes in a Mercedes taxi just for me.

The Classic Hotel, near the market square has been a nice hotel, though no AC, probably not usually needed but its been unusually hot these last few days! The first night I got settled and went to look around, to get acquainted, I found a pizza place and had a beer and pizza.

Glad I did, it helped me in my bearings and what was around and near my hotel Bars, bars, and more bars. A few strip clubs, and misc shops, a market, and plenty of women’s shops, shoes, clothing, etc. Banks too, people need to exchange their money, though their fairness has come into question. 

My first full day included a trip to Auschwitz- Birkenau.  The bus ride to it, included a most moving video from a Russian Army officer who was in the first group to liberate Auschwitz. I mostly listened as the actual video footage was very graphic. Not that I couldn’t take it, but I didn’t want to watch, I heard what was being observed. This Army officer documented the war for the Rusians and to be given this task was incredulous as it was. I thought about buying the tape but I am sure I can find something similar to it, if needed.

The tour lasted many hours in hot buildings in rooms with much protection from the sun and outdoors in the heat. It was exhausting really, both physically walking the same grounds that a million + Jews and prisioners walked  and also  from the historical  facts being displayed and explained by our live guided tour. She was very good, her English was ok, but we all knew wat she was saying even when she wasn’t saying  the words right. I was irritated at times with her lack of word knowledge but I knew what she meant, it was just my  issue. 1,000 prisoners on average in the barracks, the handicapped immediately gassed, childen and women had indescribable experiments done to them, gold extrapolated from the teeth of the gassed and murdered.  I faded in and out of the guided tour, anxious to leave and yet anxious to stay. I had seen components of the tour from other museum locations, but it was more real here. More devastating. I hurt deeply for the Jews that were killed for the faith, heroes almost, for individuals standing for what they believe even more than modern day America. 

I’m angry that the human race would stoop to such horrible acts of crime in the face of dignity. All that Hitler wanted was greed and power. He had the Jews killed for their teeth, their property, the wealth, and genocide.  Mothers and children were told that they needed to bathe before being assigned to a barracks and a majority of them were killed almost instantly.  I was thirsty but we had a few breaks and I was able to quench my thirst. The pictures I took with my camera are for my memory.  We visited Birkenau the same day after 4 pm and it was all outdoors with a few indoor apperances.   This was the camp where the Germans tried to hide and demolish everything, they were not successful and because much was documented by this Russian video team, many soldiers were held accountable. Forensic Scientists were brought in to try to determine what happened as well as normal doctors to try to save those that were already emancipated. Hundreds still died from malnutrition even though  Russian doctors tried to help.  It was just overwhelming tour, to be in the same place where this happened 73 years earlier. Most of the van riders were silent on the way back to town either sleeping or contemplating. I did a little of both, very tired from the long day.

The Salt mines took place on Sunday, July 5th and this was a most interesting trip that went 135 meters below the surface. The mine, owned by the state, doesn’t excavate anymore, as there are other methods for creating salt though with hundreds of people visiting each day, I would think they don’t need the mine for the salt.  This was a big walking tour as well and our instructor spoke English well. Everything inside was created with Salt; bricks, sculptures, steps, tiles. Of course wood is a good protector of salt. If you are ever in Krakow, don’t miss either visits.

 It’s my last night in Poland. I enjoyed a nice dinner of herring and a Cesare salad and some beer and then I was on a search for the 24 hour post office which I found. I realized that my postcards did not have enough postage on them, a good lesson learned.  Tonight I mailed off 41 post cards, to old and new friends and family. Relationships take work, even the little steps. To me its worth it. I do what i think is right. Now to finish packing, and get ready for the AM, it wil be a busy day!