First Extermination Camp

Trip Start Jul 01, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, January 8, 2007

January 8

So the bus ride from Warsaw to Lublin was still a few hours and I was quite tired of the previous night with its lack of sleep, so as there was plenty of space I could sleep easily. And the bus, even if being an old western europe coach bus wasn't too bad and still comfortable enough.

Later on, I also kept on looking at the flat polish landscape which was pretty interesting as we were heading South-East where there was less and less big cities more natural and farming landscape.

Finally, we arrived in Lublin station after dark at hell of busy bus station. Now I needed to get in contact with my host. Not long after they called me and after some complication we managed to meet near the little white church and finally get to their car. So I was about to stay at Chris and Ada, a middle aged couple who is expecting a baby pretty soon. They still needed to work, as they own a shop. So They took my bag and drove me into town near the historic part and they were going to pick me again later so that I could have a night walk for few hours.

Lublin was quite a wonderful city, it was obvious that it had never been destroyed compare to all other Polish cities I had seen so far who were more 'new' or completely rebuilt after the war. Lublin still had a fully charming historic downtown. The lighting in the city in this dark winter day was giving quite a feeling on the old square and the old buildings with the odd painting on them. It was amazing and I became really surprised by the quality of the architecture.

Lublin was also a city well compact, and well developped to welcome tourists willing to discover it; plenty of historic path going through town and its surrounding, all well marked. And all the signs were also written in english, so it was no complicated to read about the history of a building or the city. I loved it!

Later on, I walked back to the meeting point and after a while Chris and Ada took me back to go to their place. I spent some times discussing with them and having lunch before getting to sleep.
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January 9

In early morning, Chris drove me to Majdanek Extermination camp just outside of town. For me it was the first time ever I was about to visit an Nazi extermination camp. The view as we approached the site was amazing. First noticing this huge massive concrete monument that was overhanging at the entrance to the site. The morning sun and grey clouds were also giving a lugubrious feeling.

Chris left me there and I walked towards the monument, taking some pictures and admiring the whole site where the camp once stood and the big mausoleum standing at the back. Then I went through the concrete block to walk in direction of the camp, following the fence till it's end.

The sun was hitting through the clouds and there was plenty of black birds... basically I was completely alone in this mid-January day visiting the camp.
Being there alone and visiting the whole place and imagining what had once been its use, was quite bringing lots of emotions.

So visiting Majdanek was my first ever Nazi Extermination Camp, the second in size in the whole Europe. I have to say that it was really touching, impressing and troubling... Majdanek had been partially destroyed by the end of the war but you can still easily feel the 'grey' spirit weight above the ground and the whole place... the temperature and weather was accentuating that feeling.

The Marty Monument (the first thing you notice upon arrival) was monumentally impressive, a huge concrete block gothic-gaudi alike standing high above the ground. It gives a real morbid feeling when you enter the site, which properly fit the past events.

After having walked beneath it, I followed the fence road of the camp until the Mausoleum, there stood the crematorium and several execution trenches. I climbed the little hill of the Mausoleum to arrive face to face with a dome containing the ashes of the victim... in fact the whole hill was made of...
I felt pretty unease and th need to puke, either feeling came as well when visiting the crematorium and the oven... especially due to the fact that every single details of the atrocities is describe on a board.
This feeling kept on going on when I visited the camp and the 'bad & disinfektion hall'... basically the gas chambers.

Now I especially which of the remaining buildings were a reconstitution and which had seen the sweat and fear of thousand of inmates in its history ...
The sun finally pierced through... adding to the atmosphere; it looked like if it says 'There's still hope'

On one of the hall, there stood the remains of the shoes (in quite an horrible condition) of the cremated bodies. A full hangar overpacked with shoes where you could simply walk between. Anyhow, walking through that building you felt a certain weight falling on you, mainly a weight created by the smelly dust and humidity but it still catch up with your emotion. In a word, the atmosphere gives you the creep.
Especially while keeping in mind that in this grey day of January I was the only living person visiting the camp, no visitor, no tourist, no guard... you feel quite lonely and can think easily. The only presence was the high number of crows and ravens on the site itself.

One think I do wonder, is that when I was walking away from the camp at the end of the day... if I did imagine that singing melody that came from the dead camp... and the dogs barking... all this made it surreal!
A last glimpse over it while I was walking back in direction of Lublin.

Later, I met with Chris and Ada and we met with some friend of them (one being a foreigner too) to go out of town to eat in a traditionnal restaurant. I got some potatoes pancakes for pretty cheap... but gosh that the plate was so huge, I couldn't even eat it all! It was tasty but slightly dry and greasy.
That lumberjack meal certainly made me sleep easily.

By the evening, I especially started thinking of several elements of my life... like 'Why actually I was spending so long on the road'... and why I was back in Europe. Tough Question, but one answer came to mind. I had to admit it; I fell in love with the continent and someone, I really seem to not accept it rejection and want to hang around as long as I can. In a stupid way it proves that I could have stayed here... in another way it put me in the mist about what I should do with my life. (Part to be continued)


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January 10

A great travel mood is back... though I had not really any time to write down in the last days and so most things are written afterwards... lots happened though!

Today, I left and spent the day in town. First walking around in the old town from late morning, it was a great sunny day again feeling like chill autumn sun.
Later in the afternoon, I was meeting with Monika who was polish speaking french and whom had done an internship in Quebec city. So we walked around and stopped for a tea in the old town to discuss a little. It was a great relaxing time.

I actually met with Monika through another member whom I didnt manage to meet in Lublin (HC: sylvester74), he also was in Montreal by the past and wished to eventually have the chance to go back one day. Therefore he wrote to me while I was in town.
It was great to meet up and talk about Quebec and different other things, later on we went together to the association she is also working for... a pretty well known one at home: Les Petits Freres des Pauvres.

I used the Internet there, and later Asia called me as she was in town for a really short time if we would meet up. But I was now I bit out downtown and I would need to leave now in a hurry, so it has not happened. Only later on by the end of the afternoon, I went back to the meeting point where Chris picked me to go back home at dusk

Then we went to do some grocery in a mega mall supermarket, (which look like all western ones) and eat at the Greenway restaurant that was there too.
Back home, I used the computer for a certain time before going to sleep.
One funny thing about this great couple is that Chris was more often remaining silent, while Ada was talking a lot... of course to me to hear the polish schssshschchsshshchchs was sounding like the complaint of a bird. Funny in a way :D.
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