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Poland in a nutshell…or a pierogi!!

Haha…get it! PIEROGI! Okay, fine.

So I went to Poland a while ago, but since my life is a mess I have yet to write about my experience/impressions/etc. so better late than never, right?

I’m gonna premise this post by saying that if you ever have the opportunity to visit Poland you should most definitely take it. In fact, stop planning whatever other trip you’ve been planning and just go to Poland! When we landed in Kraków I felt so at home, it was weird. You know those moments in life where you feel breathless with wonder and as though you can accomplish anything (it usually happens when you’re in the shower and all epiphanies are realized), that’s how I felt walking off the plane at the Kraków airport. Maybe I was just really tired and delusional, who knows!

Anyway, here goes…

Kraków

This is the best city in Poland! I don’t know what it is, maybe the cobblestone streets, the quiet shops, or the architecture. It’s a city without the presence of masses of tourists (or maybe it was just the off-season) but October is a great time to visit since it’s cold but not freezing. I felt at home in Kraków, it was reminiscent of D.C in the fall. Sitting in the main square, I realized how one smell, ray of light, or breath of air can transport you to a place so comfortable and familiar.  I have not experienced the fall in years  so walking through the city feeling the cold penetrate my lungs, absorbing the sun shining through the trees, and watching as their leaves fell and littered the sidewalks in reds and yellows was a gift.

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Our first night there we ate at this adorable restaurant, Domowe Przysmaki (brownie points to anyone who can actually pronounce that!) and had an amazing dinner! Note: better pictures of food have been taken…I apologize for the terrible quality!

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Cream of mushroom soup to get us feeling warm and fuzzy again!

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FYI: pierogis are best with sour cream. Lots and lots of sour cream!

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Potato pancake with mushrooms and shredded carrots on the side (and sour cream of course!)

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz is as somber of a place as you could imagine it to be. It’s difficult to write about, mainly because it’s difficult to digest. My junior year of high school I had the honor of interviewing a Holocaust survivor, Mrs. Shapiro. Her story of survival has stuck with me throughout the years and I made my trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps  in her memory. Walking through the camp, it was hard to believe that everything around us was real. How could there have been a moment so dark in history? How could any survivor move on from such an atrocity? We have been told never to forget the human rights abuses and genocide that was the Holocaust, and President Clinton even said “never again,” but among the masses of tourists I wondered, why are we so ignorant to other acts of genocide and mass murder? It was President Clinton himself who ignored the genocide in Rwanda. Does anybody know or study the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields in Cambodia? What about Bosnia? And now Syria. This is just food for thought, or more like my thoughts that morning. I have no answers. It was a heavy day…

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The famous “work will set you free sign” at the entrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The original sign was stolen around 4 years ago, I remember Mrs. Shapiro telling me about it after our interview.

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The killing wall at the Auschwitz camp where prisoners were taken to be executed.

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Outside of the Auschwitz gas chamber. The walls and ceilings were lined with pipes that would release Zyklon B on prisoners who were locked in under the assumption of taking a shower. Some gas chambers could kill up to 2,000 people at once.

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Barbed wire surrounding the Birkenau camp

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Sleeping quarters of prisoners

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A single rose lies atop a wheel of one of the cattle cars used to transport prisoners directly to the Birkenau camp

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“To the memory of the men, women, and children who fell victim to the Nazi genocide. Here lie their ashes. May their souls rest in peace.”

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Warsaw

Warsaw was a more industrialized city with a big city feel. Even though we stayed in the Old Town part of Warsaw, it still felt cluttered and yet so bare. After dinner we walked around looking for a place to sit and hang out, but nobody was out and everything was closed. And it was early too! There was however a waffle place open, which was awesomely delicious. We were there for so little time it’s probably unfair to make any judgments, but the city felt a little dismal. It was almost as if there were a weight pressing on the city, perhaps the lingering scars of bombings,  uprisings, and Soviet occupation. It was clear that the city had been destroyed and rebuilt, since the architecture was much more modern. From what I saw, this definitely wasn’t my favorite city in Poland but that’s not to say that there weren’t beautiful parts of it, I mean just look at the colors of the buildings below!

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Weddings for Warsaw!

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The house on the right looks like something Klimt would paint…

Toruń

This was such a cute little town! It was almost like a mini Kraków. We went for a Human Rights conference which focused on the life and legacy of Jan Karski, a Polish man who spread messages from the underground movement during WWII to the exiled Polish government and the allies. He witnessed the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, was smuggled into concentration camps, and escaped from guarded hospitals. What was most admirable about Karski is that he never regarded himself as a hero, in fact he thought he had failed. He saw himself acting as a citizen of a state of war, doing his duty to his country  and his people. One interesting question asked during the conference was if the allies would have acted to liberate the camps sooner if twitter and other forms of social media were present. Again, I don’t have an answer, just think about it amongst yourselves.

Our last day in Toruń, I sat on a bench in a small square and drew the houses I saw in front of me. It was so nice to be able to step back and take some time to myself, especially after experiencing and thinking about so many things that were bigger than me and that could not be answered.

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So apparently this is Nicolas Copericus’ town. He was the one who said the sun was the center of the solar system. And the church said “BLASPHEMY!” Oh the Renaissance, those were the good days.

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There he is! Good ‘ol Perni!

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This kid doesn’t have my phobia of pigeons.

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The houses of Toruń

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So yeah, this post was a long time coming but it was kind of worth it, right?! Hope y’all enjoyed the photos and such, thanks for checking out my blog🙂

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