Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Krakow, Poland

This time it was Paula’s birthday and not to break a year of tradition we planned to spend it overseas. Since Paula’s always been a keen punter for everybody else’s birthday trips we decided we’d pull together and shout her a surprise trip. Eastern European countries are so fun to travel as they’re still relatively cheap, have loads of unbelievable architecture and diversity in the cultures. For these reasons Poland seemed the logical choice. We only had one small technicality in our otherwise flawless surprise party…. Poor Paula didn’t have a passport as she was re-applying for her UK visa. Oh no! Nevermind the rest of us went and had a ball.

Arriving quite late in the day we met up with Linda and Layla who had flown in from Holland. It was really bloody cold (mid December) and we found the best way to keep warm was to drink the vodka mulled wine being sold from horse carts all over the square. This inevitably led to quite a big first night and we managed to find ourselves well acquainted in some lovely Polish pubs. For Saturday we decided to go to Auschwitz even though we knew it would be heavy.

If we forget the lessons of history we’re doomed to repeat

Auschwitz, for those who don’t know, is probably the most famous camp from WWII. Over one million Jews were murdered there, most in the last few months of the war. It’s difficult to explain how I felt visiting Auschwitz. When we are told figures of the tragedy it’s always difficult to comprehend, however on visiting the site there is certainly no hiding it.I’m not going to describe the details of the place, but it certainly keeps in perspective the things in life that actually matter. It shows just how lucky our generation in the developed world is to have never experienced war. I can honestly say all of us were struggling to hold back the tears with what we saw that day, it was so very humbling...

The following day we went to Europe’s biggest salt mine (although now is only used for tourism). Pretty cool going 300m underground and seeing all the contraptions the ages used to move salt out of the mine. You can go to mass on Sunday’s in the chapel (150m below the surface), or even get married down! What else was weird was the temperature remains a constant 15deg regardless of the seasons.

All in all the trip was a total success and I would highly recommend Poland. And when we finally got back London we all joined Paula out for birthday din’s to tell tales.