Okay where I left off at was en route to Poland, stopping in Berlin for a few hours to wait for the train to Warsaw. After a night of very little sleep, it was painful… and freezing. Once I got on the train and we got our seats, I was out for the majority of the 6 hour train ride. Once we got in, a driver picked us up and took us to the hotel. Unlike the hotel that I booked in Paris, Brandy picked this one and it was high class with wireless Internet and nice showers, etc. We ate a nice meal and passed out.
The next morning we did our tour of Warsaw, Poland. Brandy’s interest was in the World War II Jewish aspects. We saw what was left of the Warsaw Ghetto and several buildings and areas that were left from the war. Very little is left since the city was nearly demolished and raised almost to the ground in rubble by the Nazi’s and then the communists. On a funny note, we wandered right into a film shoot and a grip truck.
From Warsaw we went to Krakow, and from there we went to several smaller towns around southern Poland, including Krosno. Mostly we went to sites where the Nazi’s committed atrocities. In Krakow, we went to all the real locations of Oskar Schindler and the set locations of Schindler’s List. Krakow strikes me as the tourist & vagabond location of Europe that Prague used to be 10 years ago. It’s incredibly inexpensive, there are over 100,000 students there and most young people speak English very well.
Later we went to Auschwitz and the concentration camps. Now this was a humbling and eye opening experience. I barely spoke for over 6 hours. The tour begins in Auschwitz II Birkenau, the larger part of the camp. It was huge. The entire process of debarking of people and their systematic elimination or torture into slave labor, plus the “living” conditions in which they were forced to live – it all boggled my mind. One oddity was that the tour guide seemed to be saying things as if to convince us that this all actually took place. I wound up doing research on the whole “Holocaust deniers” movement, which is baseless since there is plenty of verified documentation that these death camps were in fact death camps.
Next was the original camp, of the three, where they had exhibitions of really bizarre and yet compelling evidence from the concentration camp. There were shoes, human hair, luggage, teeth, photos, records, and many other things left over from the camp when it ran full tilt. In the end, the Nazi’s had tried to erase any proof of the camps, but Auschwitz was just too large to completely destroy. All they managed to get done was mostly the gas chambers and some of the wooden buildings. Only one of the gas chambers survived, but they had to re-create the ovens, which is of some controversy because it was not original.
What permeated in my mind the whole day was that the systematic eradication of millions of people took place. That someone in the 20th century could devalue any human life, regardless of creed and belief system, to the point of genocide. I don’t understand the motive, or even worse, the will to make this a horrible reality. How and why could human beings tolerate this injustice? What motivated these atrocities? I have no real answers. Nothing I could ever read will make enough sense to me to make any of this feel comprehensible. I’m not a very spiritual person, but the weight of the ghosts and what happened there could be heavy on the shoulders. We chose to take very few photos out of respect.
After that, we went through a few smaller towns and made our way to Gliwiz, an important part of Brandy’s research. The hotel has a Pizza Hut in the lobby. We checked it out for fun, and much to our dismay it was really classy. I mean high brow with candelabras and crown molding. The pizza was even classy and well made.
From here it was basically a 3 day trek back to home. We did a train to Warsaw that arrived at Noon, and then we had a day to kill before a night train to Berlin. We put everything in a locker and wandered the city. There was a brand new HARD ROCK CAFÉ in Warsaw and we ate near the Prince Cloud Guitar. That night we actually got a bed on the train, my first ever on a Eurorail. I slept well, but Brandy was annoyed with the snoring.
The next day was a 14 hour layover in Berlin before another night train. Berlin was boring for us because we had a limited time and everything was more modern and metropolitan, less historical or fun. We found out later we needed to go to the former East Berlin to see what we wanted. Oh well, we were dragging by this point in the trip from lack of sleep and a lot of walking around.
Another night train, all night, this time in a regular 6 person room along with a German who worked for Wikipedia and a Greek guy who is convinced the secret service of every country is after him. We discussed politics (again) and eventually I had to sleep. We arrived in Paris and pretty much went straight to the airport to come home. That means we were 3 days without a shower by the time we got home.
It’s good to be home again, but good god, I have learned to hate our President and how America is viewed in Europe. I missed the cats. A few people checked in on them while we were gone, but I was curious how “V” was going to react. Cousette has been through this a few times. She understands. “V” is too young and has never had his humans leave for an extended period. He’s so spoiled, I thought he might freak out.
He did. Upon our return, it took almost an hour before he’d let me pet him or tough him. By the time I went to sleep, he was on my shoulder & purring. I was happy. We’re back, and we’re engaged, and it’s all good.
Time to get to work….