Auschwitz and Warsaw...the lows and highs

Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
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19
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Trip End Aug 10, 2013


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Flag of Poland  , Central Poland,
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We were up very early this morning, bags to the bus at 715am so we could start our drive to Warsaw. We had two major stops along the way and we knew it was going to be a long emotional day. Our first stop was one I had been dreading since I booked the trip...not because I didn’t believe that a visit to Auschwitz wasn’t important, but I was worried about how I would be able to cope when faced with the site of so much sadness and death. We arrived as a pretty sombre crew and were divided into our tour groups and ushered into the theatre to watch what seemed to be a video filmed just after the war which told in very simple facts with accompanying video clips of the horrors the allies discovered when they liberated the camp. The video was presented in such an informative way that I found I could try and separate my emotions from the historical facts. Our Polish guide then took us through the gates with the famous words “work makes freedom” in an arch over top. Our guide was perfect; very informative and I appreciated his bluntness and direct approach to the facts of the horrors that happened in this camp. Because of the blunt facts I was looking at it more like a museum and was able to keep it together. This place drains you...knowing so many people died here...an amount so large that it is actually hard to get your head around it. What is worse though is knowing the suffering. The pain, the fear, the hunger, the loss. It makes you feel awful and strangely guilty. The camp as a museum now was so important to visit and I am glad I decided to go, despite how I am feeling tonight. I didn’t take many pictures inside as I felt that it might be disrespectful, but you can see the few I took of the outer buildings and the beautiful artwork left to commemorate those who gave up so much.

It was a very sad, drained group that climbed back on the bus. My friend Renata was having very mixed emotions because the next stop we were to visit was the hometown of her father and she was so excited to see the church he used to worship in but was still so sad from our last stop. We got stuck in massive traffic and we finally arrived three hours later at the church which houses the famous Black Madonna feeling a little better and happy to get off the bus. The church and the Black Madonna are the third most visited religious site in the world, and it was quite amazing to see it. There was a Mass going on when we arrived so I didn’t get a picture of the Madonna herself, but the church was stunning. After the pitstop we loaded back on the bus and headed to Warsaw, arriving late in the evening.

Our Contiki leader took a few of us into the old town on the tram to grab a late dinner. Mel, Yolo, Ren, Alexis, Nicky, Sarah and I headed to a cute patio restaurant with an ancient old man in a chefs outfit standing out front muttering in Polish! We ordered a round of “apple pies”, which consists of buffalo grass vodka and apple juice, and a few beers. I splurged and got the Venison which was absolutely delicious and I got to see my first vegetable in a good while! The drinks kept coming and we were getting more and more boisterous, resorting to toilet humour and laughing until our sides ached. A round of Baileys on ice had me happy as can be and the Aussie girl with the raunchiest stories to tell had us all in pain from laughing so hard. This evening ended up being a delightful surprise at the end of a long emotional day and I am so grateful that I have these girls to bring the light and help banish the dark dreams that threatened tonight. Forgive, but never forget.
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Comments

twodrifters07
twodrifters07 on

Keely, when Dad and I were in Copacabana, Bolivia, we saw the original Black Madonna, one that people from all over the world make a sacred pilgrimage to see. She was beautiful, I have photos at home I'll show you on your return.
Your day described here was an emotional roller coaster, but, as you say, one that you will reflect on and cherish for years to come. We are blessed with where we live, who we live with, strong family bonds and good friends to love and laugh with, and lean on in sad times. Indeed, forgive, but never forget...

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