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Eastern Europe trip: part 1
what are you looking at, mine all mine, now what?
innie_darling
Hi, everybody!

So I got back from Eastern Europe, where I was sort of sick the entire time (my tummy does NOT travel well), on Sunday evening and then this week at work has been ridiculously busy (and of course, my stomach got even worse - with my period coming in as a bonus!). ANYWAY. I've been wanting to go through the 1000+ pics I took and thought I should start sharing them before I gave up entirely. So here we go.

We started in Warsaw.
Here's Venus (Wenus) on one of the concentric rings surrounding a statue of Copernicus, which in turn sits outside the Pałac Staszica (Staszic Palace, seat of the Polish Academy of Sciences). We walked along Nowy Świat/Krakowskie Przedmieście, apparently the route to take in Warsaw, and passed monuments and tourist sites and inexplicable things. Lots of beautiful things too. The day was grey and drizzly, but the main square was still a knockout. And then I went and took a silly fannish pic. Mr. Potato was not impressed. We ditched Warsaw early the next morning (we'd heard the sights were better elsewhere), and took an easy train into Krakow.

So, I don't know if you've heard anything about Krakow, but if you haven't, you should go! It was very beautiful, it's a great mix of cosmopolitan and folksy charm, it's extremely affordable, (nearly) everyone speaks English and likes to be helpful, and one of the most amazing sights in the world is tucked quietly away there. Anyway, enough of the hard sell. On to that wondrous place where I had pierogi twice (including potato with dill, topped with caramelized onions, mmmmmgasm - WHY can I not find dill pierogi in NYC?). We stayed at the Venetian House Aparthotel right on the main square, which was ideal, because that was where everyone gathered anyway. And wandering only a few streets in any direction was bound to get us somewhere cool. My favorite pub sign from the entire trip:
That first afternoon, we wandered, taking in the Jewish district and ending up at Oskar Schindler's factory.
(This factory is now a museum that is really well done, but there are no accommodations made for visitors - you have to be able-bodied and have to have quite a bit of stamina to get through the museum, because there are no seats, no quick exits, and a lot of shifting terrains.)

I'd been voted down about going on the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour (I didn't think I'd have the stomach for it, but my parents and my brother are keenly interested in twentieth-century history), so we went the next day. It actually was far less explicit than I had been fearing, and I did not have to stop or shut my eyes or anything like that. I'm only posting one pic from there, but have more if you're interested. (Actually, that goes for everything I'm posting today - if you want to see more pics of any particular thing, just ask and I'll do my best to oblige.) This was the main gate, where the Nazis had the prisoners make the slogan Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Makes Us Free") above it, and the prisoners' only expression of rebellion was to put in the B upside down. (It was definitely something the prisoners took pride in - that upside-down B is in all of their artwork of the place.) That tour (our guide was very good) took up most of the day, and once we were back in Krakow, I saw two sights that summed up the beauty and horror of the day.

This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/451774.html.
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When I was in high school in the 80's I was lucky enough to go on the sponsored school trip to Europe. Along with what seemed like every castle in the Germany-Austria-Switzerland-Liechtenstein area in less than a week, one of the places they took about 40 Canadian 15-17 year olds was Dachau.

I'd like to say that everyone in the group understood what they were seeing, but many didn't or couldn't process the reality of what had happened there. It was a very intense experience for those that did. I'd been aware of it all as a historical period and knew what the place was on an objective facts-and-figures level and did look it up before I left on the trip. When I was there I spent a lot of time standing at the "Never Again" memorial and processing the reality of it all.

They don't sanitize what happened there for the memorial sites and education centres, but they do present it in a way that will allow more people to access it and find ways to approach a horrific part of history, because making it approachable makes it simpler to find ways to know that this was a real thing that happened to real people, not just cold history and numbers of dead.

Yes, I think I'd underestimated how much reading I'd done about the Holocaust, and how much I already knew - nothing that was said on the tour surprised me. What did surprise me was how little was left to see (most of the crematoria were destroyed) and the most personal thing we saw was a room full of hair, but somehow, it didn't hit me the way I feared it might.

Thanks for chiming in.

Now I want to go to Krakow!

I'm sorry you had digestive troubles. I sometimes do when I travel, but they usually don't last long fortunately.

Oh, you should! Everybody should!

I tend to sleep poorly and have digestive problems even when I'm home, safe and sound, so traveling only exacerbates both issues. It was not pleasant.

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