Friday, April 25, 2014


The day was one of nervous anticipation. Today we were going to "experience the human side of history" though Auschwitz-Birkenau. The morning we had a walking tour of Krakow with our EF guide Ele. She took us to the castle in the old part of town and showed us the Cathedral. 

The town of Krakow has an attraction to dragons - they call him the Krakow Dragon. There was a statue in front of the castle that blew fire. The story went that there was once a dragon that stole young girls from town to eat them.  The King got upset and hired men to kill the dragon. They were unsuccessful until a shoemaker suggested that they fill a sheep full of sulfur. The dragon ate it and became very thirsty. He began to drink a lot of water and then blew up!!!  To which one of our American friends in the group says "oh the old sulfur in the sheep trick"!

This is also the place where Pope John Paul II had his home church.  We walked through and also saw the balcony where he addressed the people.  There still burns candles everyday in front of that balcony. 

After the short tour we had free time to explore. Many went to the chocolate factory and then tried to grab some souvenirs. We also bought some flowers for a ceremony at the memorial spot.  Joni from Boston and also brought some rocks from her beach that she wanted us to place in Auschwitz.  The tradition of placing rocks on gravesites is a Jewish tradition that was carried on from history when they placed rocks on gravesites to protect the corpses from the animals. 

Our lunch was amazing. We went to a spot down some back streets of Krakow where they served us home made tomato soup with rice, potatoe pancakes with chicken and their version of cheesecake topped with chocolate. Needless to say we are eating well in Krakow!!!  Ele has promised to book one of the better restaurants in Warsaw that serve baked perogies - our kids are excited. 

The next part of our day was spent at Auschwitz. I am not going to expand on the details of the tour but will post the pictures to speak for themselves.  Auschwitz I was the work camp and had the displays which were very moving and shocking.  We had a guide that walked us through the barracks.  The crowds were large but we managed to take in a lot. Afterward we had a 3 km drive to Birkenau which is the famous camp with the gate. This was the death camp. It was a gigantic open air museum. It caught us off guard to see the immensity of the place. After our guide showed us some more barracks and the crematorium we had a short remembrance ceremony.  At the end of the tour there was a modern structure built to honor the victims of the Holocaust.  Canadas Forein Affairs minister had just recently visited this same site. Our group laid flowers and rocks on the English marker. Victor cited a traditional prayer and sang an honor song for the group. Ending with a short group prayer by Ian from Boston and some personal time to reflect on their experience. 

Before arriving for supper we made a stop at Oskar Schindler's factory that was on Schindler's List. The factory that he started using Jewish labour then began saving them. 

Next we had an evening of Jewish music and food which is a nice way to end an emotional day. The meal was amazing and the traditional music was a great way to end a very meaningful day. 

Tomorrow the kids are excited as they get a bit of a sleep in day. We leave the hotel at 9. We are headed for Warsaw with a quick stop at the Krakow Salt Mines. 

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