Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Polish Days :)


I woke up early to get ready for Auschwitz Tour. The breakfast served at Hostel 70's was neatly served since there were only seven of us staying in the hostel. The employees were also super nice and called Krakow Shuttle for me to confirm my Auschwitz-Birkenau Tour. At 9 am, I waited outside for the driver to pick me up from Hostel 70's. At 9:10 am, I became very nervous but I found the driver in front of Zodiakus Hostel - my original hostel.

So the drive to Auschwitz began - an hour away from Krakow. There were two other people in the van with me. The driver has only worked for the company for a month, and he seemed nice enough. On our way to Auschwitz, there were cops everywhere and people on the side of motorways. People were also pulling over to try and see if they can get a glance of someone important. Yes, Sunday was the burial of the Polish president so it was chaotic. I was a bit worried that I would be the only one at Auschwitz but there were plenty enough people. The other two people with me were very intrigued by each other's company that I was invisible to them. One was from Canada and the other one from Australia - yes, I can understand every little thing they talked about.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous to be spending it at such a depressing place. We watched a short film first, then on to the English tour guide. There was an English tour guide at 11:30 and my group joined them. However, the tour guide kicked us out because we were in the wrong group - not once, but twice and stated that it was impossible that we were supposed to be with her.

So we went with another tour guide. Auschwitz I is incredible. It was so surreal to see those words in the entrance gate "Arbeit Macht Frei." I took tons of pictures, but none with me because I didn't know what kind of facial expression I should have. We went in the different block buildings where the hospital used to be, the "death building," and so much more. We saw proof of evidence such as lots and lots of hair from the prisoners. It was disgusting. I took pictures even when we weren't supposed to. We also went into the basement where the first experiment of Cyclone B happened. The basement also included tons of torture rooms which really creeped me out.

The last thing we visited in Auschwitz was a crematorium and a gas chamber. I couldn't even take pictures inside because I thought it would be disrespectful. In that gas chamber, you could see the small openings on the roof where the SS put in the Cyclone B to kill the prisoners.

Then, we went to Birkenau aka Auschwitz II. I never realized just how big it was, and it surprised me that there is a neighborhood full of houses next to it. Of course, those houses didn't exist during WWII, but it's still creepy to think that you are living next to a camp where millions of people died. There are no words to describe the feelings I had while walking around Auschwitz II. Our tour guide took us to what used to be the bathroom and where 400 people lived in a barn. The living conditions were devastating. Then, she also showed us where the SS did their selections, where the moms, kids, and older people walked to their death, and the destroyed crematoriums. There were four of them in Auschwitz II.

I also had a chance to go to the building where registration took place - where the Jews were tattooed, shaved, disinfected, etc. For the first time during the tour, I felt really uneasy and scared as if someone was with me. Nobody died in that building but the feeling I got while inside was plain creepy.

The tour took 6 hours in total and it was worth every penny that I spent. It was also a good decision to go to Auschwitz instead of going to the funeral of the Polish president. When I returned to Krakow, I did manage to stand with tons of people waiting for the burial to take place in the castle. The crowds of people were amazing. I took tons of pictures.

Ooh, I had a really hard time distinguishing between still and sparkled water. I am disgusted by sparkled water and that's what I kept buying because I didn't know how to tell the difference. Ugh.

As I was walking home from the center of Krakow, I got pooped on by a bird. It was a great sign to show that I would not be having a great night in Krakow. When I checked my email, I found a cancellation email from my airline. My trip to Romania was now cancelled due to the volcanic ash. I frantically tried to look for alternative (but cheap) ways to get to Romania and there weren't any. I was beyond upset. This was the third time that my flight has been cancelled while traveling in Europe. Ugh. I spent the rest of the night trying to see if there were any way that I could go to Romania --- epic fail.


I woke up early looking forward to the breakfast. After the delicious breakfast, I went to the post office to mail my family a postcard from Poland. I also explored other parts of Krakow that I hadn't had a chance to look at. I went into this church - by far my favorite Catholic Church that I have seen. It was absolutely breath-taking. I also walked through a park, bought chocolates and souvenirs, and walked back to the hostel. I got on Tram 19 to go to the bus station, and did not have to pay for my ride there. I don't know how people are checked if they paid or not. I know it's wrong, but I was totally out of Zlotys.

Since I still had an hour left before my bus leaves, I went to the mall. The mall was three stories high and it was huge! Nothing compared to the malls in the US. When I wasted enough time at the mall, I headed to the bus station. My back was hurting because my bookbag was so heavy - full of liquor to bring back home. :)

My bus back to Rotterdam was of course late. There were a couple of people freaking out about the bus. At this point, I was just over Europe and wished I could go back to the US. However, with all the volcanic ash from Iceland - it seems impossible. I did meet this really cool girl on the bus. She's from Hong Kong, but studying in the UK. So the trip to Berlin wasn't as bad. We did take a lot of breaks, and traffic was horrible in Poland. Oh, and the roads are really bad too.

When we finally arrived in Berlin, I transferred to another bus where I met a girl from South Africa who is working in the UK. It seemed that almost everyone on the bus was riding the bus because their flight was cancelled.

Riding the bus isn't bad at all. I don't mind it a bit. I was really uncomfortable but whatever. Travelling these past couple of days was very stressful. Everyone and everything were chaotic and everyone seemed to be complaining.

I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm ready to go back to the US.

My flight to Romania is cancelled over all - there's nothing I can do. That leaves me with one week left in Rotterdam - I wonder what I'll do.

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