In 2012 I took my first ‘educational’ trip to Krakow in Poland, it was a high school trip that I found very culturally and historically enriching. I fell in love with Krakow square upon arrival, I couldn’t get over how clean the streets were, there is some amazing architecture that cannot be missed upon a visit to Europe. We visited Cloth Hall, a beautiful, renaissance, indoor market where I bought a red jewellery box that stands proudly on my bed side table today. I could have spent hours in this place, everything was really good value for money (we bought cans of soft drink for 2 zloty which works out to about 40 pence.) Much to my delight we ate tea in the Hard Rock Cafe (an extremely cheesy love of mine, I love Rock music- i can’t help myself!) (and yes I did buy a t-shirt)
On our second day we visited the Krakow Ghetto where 15,000 Jewish people had lived during the German invasion of Poland from 1940- 43. The majority of inhabitants were sent to concentration camps. Hearing about the way these people were mistreated was upsetting, however, the holocaust is a big part of history that we can’t ignore. We also visited Oskar Schindler’s factory which is something I had been really looking forward to. The Steel Chair memorial for those who suffered was beautiful and really moving, probably my favourite part of the day. For lunch we dined in a traditional Polish restaurant where we ate dumpling soup, it was surprisingly nice! The Remuh Synagogue and Cemetry in Kazimierz was especially interesting, during the Nazi invasion many gravestones were destroyed, today, the remaining fragments have been used to form the wall that surrounds the cemetery.
The Sunday of our visit was the biggest day, our trip to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I’d done a lot of research before hand as this has always been something of particular interest to me, the concept of such atrocious acts against humanity is something that took me a while to get my head round. A big part of Auschwitz I is now a museum documenting the horrors that went on here, there big glass cases filled with the items taken from prisoners such as glasses and shoes. Auschwitz- Birkenau was hauntingly eerie, there was no birds or insects in sight, everything was just still. I felt like I wasn’t really there at the time, like it was some sort of dream, i couldn’t grasp that only a few years earlier the death of 1.1 million Jews had happened where i was stood. Seeing the famous railways entrance was unbelievable, it was actually there right in front of me, the same entrance that so many had passed through unknowingly to their deaths. In Jewish culture they leave small rocks on graves instead of flowers, some say this is because rocks can’t die in the same way flowers can, this is a sentiment that i found quite moving. Before leaving we placed rocks on the memorial plaque in Auschwitz II in memory of those who had lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. I would love to return to Poland one day, especially Auschwitz, the visit changed my perspective on life and what we take for granted.