Fly RyanAir. Check.
Stay in my first hostel. Check.
Fall in love with Poland. Double check.
It was the first weekend without prior program plans in place for students, so I headed to Poland for the weekend with four others. Traveling within the time constraints of the weekend forces you to either make a plan, or be open to the unexpected discoveries you make while wandering an unfamiliar city just for the sake of taking it in. Fortunately, my weekend included both.
We stayed in Old Town Warsaw. Passing by a guided tour, we learned that the city was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt to model the original architecture as portrayed in 18th century paintings. At night, we wandered by light of the lamp post decorations, building projector shows, and street installation. In the daytime, the cobblestone streets and colorful, classical buildings were just as overwhelming.
Despite flying into and staying in Warsaw, our group wanted to go to Krakow to visit the Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museums. Our hostel supervisor advised us against it, as it would take a full day to travel there, visit, and travel back. But we were prepared to commit the time and planning, though.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotion and information that consumed me at Auschwitz. The ugly barracks still standing were converted into intricate museums that taught and showed more about the Nazi regime and the expanse of its impact during World War II than I ever knew before. Names, photographs, stories, artwork, shoes, and suitcases urge you to remember and learn about a heinous period of history and help ensure that those who lost their lives are kept alive in our memories.
They certainly have a place in mine. Poland, you were a beautiful heartache.