Friday, June 3, 2011

I Left My Heart in Krakow

Well, part of it anways.  I already know I want to go back again someday.  It was unlike anywhere I´ve been so far.  The streets are all cobblestone and filled with shops and markets and cafes.  It has almost a midevil feeling to it.  The first day I just sort of wandered around and had lunch in the square.  Later I went back to the hostel to take a shower and get ready to go out that night.  When I got back to my room there was a very handsome young Australian man unloading his stuff into the bunk next to me.  The conversation started the same as in every dorm room so far. "Hi. I'm so and so.  Where are you from?"  We started talking and an hour into the conversation he asked if I wanted to go out for a beer.  (Conversations typically lead to going out for a drink)  So we found a tiny little bar down the road.  There was only one bartender and a handful of people in the place.  We drank the local beer and after a few hours had passed he asked if I wanted to get dinner.  So we wandered around through the tiny streets, through an iron gate and walked up to what looked like it could be a restaurant.  We sat down at one of the four tables and proceeded to have the best dinner of my life.  We talked about everything.  About our family, our lives, our goals.  He was funny, charming and sincere.  I've met and gone out with alot of different guys but there was something different about him.  It was all incredilbly romantic.

The next day I decided to go out on my own and go to Auschwitz.   I´ve lost track of how many documentaries I´ve watched and books that I´ve read regarding the Holocaust.  I´ve always been compelled to learn more about the atrocities the victims endured.  I took the hour long bus ride through the Polish countryside and once I arrived  I was assigned to a group with a guide.  It was a beautiful day outside.  Warm, sunny and green grass all around the barracks.  It looked nothing like how I had imagined it in my mind.  The guide walked us through barrack after barrack.  Some were completely untouched since before liberation.  There were pictures of the victims.  Walls and walls lined with photos of women and children.  One of the buildings held nothing but belongings of the people.  The Nazis tried to burn all of the evidence but what is just a small portion of what was left was still able to fill entire rooms to ceiling.  A room filled with suitcases, a room filled with brushes, a room filled with kitchenware, a room filled with eyeglasses.  It was proof that these people really believed that they were being relocated to another city and had no idea what their fate would soon be.  I finally started to tear up when I walked towards the window looking into a room filled with human hair.  Most people know that everyone had their heads shaved upon arrival at the camps, but to see an entire room filled to the ceiling with what was physically a part of these people was almost too much to take.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  We continued walking and went through one of the gas chambers.  Out of respect for the victims it is asked to be absolutely silent while walking through.  It was so hard to believe that I was standing in the place where so many lost their lives.  I almost felt guilty for having the freedom to walk through there.  It was an experience I will never forget.

When I made it back into town I decided I was going to take it easy that night and just relax.  I walked into the hostel kitchen to sit down and use the internet but as soon as I walked in the owner handed me a cocktail.  "You'll be the first one to try."  She was very pretty, petite and blond but something told me to not dare try to say no to her.  It turns out it was Polish Vodka Tasting Night.  So I sat down at the table with a group of guys.  We were listening to music, drinking and laughing when in walked my handsome new friend.  We all went out on the town and it ended up being another amazing night.  The details though I'll have to keep for myself.  I had to leave for the train the next morning and was wondering how our goodbye would play out.  I was a little surprised when he asked if I wanted to go out for breakfast.  We ate and then he said he'd walk me to the train station.  We got to the station and he said he'd help me find my train.  And then it was just like the movies---We got to the platform right before the train was leaving.  He kissed me, said a few sweet things and then I had to watch him walk away.  I'm not usually one to believe in fairytale romances or even believe that you can have real feelings for someone after just a few days.  But there was a definitely a connection between us and I'll never forget the time we got to spend together.  I just wish it could have been more.

Then came another 12 hour train trip. I owe my arrival in Prague to the kindness of a few strangers.  I had to transfer trains three times and without their help I could possibly be sleeping on some Polish farm right now.  Some stations are modern and have neon reader boards like the airport to help you find your way a bit more easily.  Not on this particular trip. You'd have to have some sort of degree in world travel to not have reached the level of confusion I did.  But once again I found my way and ended up in Prague.  I have to mention that getting to your desired train station is only half the battle.  Once you get there you have to figure the local transportation; Whether you need to take the tram, metro or the bus.  Once you have that figured out you have to decipher how to purchase a ticket.  There's usually 10 tickets to choose from.  And if I need to take the metro and then transfer to the tram I just accept the fact that I will probably end up paying twice as much for what I actually need to get me where I'm going.  After I've traveled for over 10 hours all I care about is finding the hostel and getting something to eat no matter how much it costs.

Another fun thing has been trying to calculate how much I'm spending in actual dollars.  I've used three different currencies so far.  Once I reached the Czech Republic I had given up on trying to figure it all out.  I paid for what I needed and that was that.  It's so nice to be back in the land of the Euro.

Sir Toby's Hostel was one of the coolest places I've stayed at so far but I think the city of Prague is over rated.  My second day there one of the locals, Richard, took us on a free walking tour of the city.  It was more like a sweat-your-ass-off-hike-as-fast-as-you-can-race.  He was insane but extremely funny and intelligent.  He sweated profusely and didn't wear deodorant but I felt like in those four hours he showed us the entire city and I learned more about it than I could ever really need to know.  There were only three other people with me.  A journalist from Australia, folk singer from Australia and a strange Ukranian girl from New York.  We were all starving so we went to a cafe Richard recommended.  It was absolutely delicious.  The Australian girl and I walked around and talked for a while.  She's taking the same sort of trip that I am.  She wanted to leave home and see the world for a few months while she figures out what she wants to do with her life.  We of course started to talk about men and she said she's already had two romances on the road so far.  She said she wanted no more just because of how sad it is when you eventually have to part ways.  Lately I've been wondering how to handle meeting all of these amazing people knowing that you only have a few days to spend together.  At first I thought that this would be the perfect circumstance for me.  Although it can be more of a fault than a strength I can usually disconnect myself from people pretty easily.  I'm not even three weeks into my trip and have lost count of how many wonderful people I've met who I would love to spend more time with.  There are just as many good-byes as there are good times.  I'm learning that it goes with the territory of taking a trip like this.  It's kind of sad knowing that the friendships you make have an expiration date.  Don't get me wrong---I am having the time of my life and still can't wait to see what happens next and who I spend time with. 

I've been sick since I left Prague but it's been nice to keep to myself for a few days.  Traveling like this is absolutely exhausting and I think it's nearly impossible to avoid getting sick at some point.  You have to share a room with up to 20 other people, you share small closed in compartments on some trains and Europeans have never heard of a little thing called a toilet seat cover.  I'm starting to feel a little bit better though and decided I can't leave the City of Music without actually hearing some live music.  So tonight I'm getting all dressed up and going to the Mozart Symphony.  Tomorrow morning I'm off to Budapest!


  1. OMG Jackie!!! I love you and this is so amazing!!! There are no words really .. amazing!

  2. You are such an amazing writer. I check for updates all the time. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself. Such an amazing adventure! You will be such a changed person when this journey in complete. Can't help wondering to what heights it will lead you in life!