Below is a blog entry about Bishop Perowne CofE School's school trip to Krakow.
It was an early start for 50 students and 5 members of staff - meeting on the school car park at 2:00am. But on arrival to the car park, the atmosphere, although in the middle of the night was full of anticipation. The trip was really worth the early start! The students were all excited.
The flight was on time and smooth. All of us were looking forward to landing in sunny Krakow.
We arrived at our hotel an hour after landing. It was beautiful. We were given our keys and we went off to explore our rooms. The hotel manager was very welcoming. The rooms were well lit, airy, spacious, clean and comfortable. A very pleasing discovery in deed! All of our party were spaced over three floors, with staff on each floor to supervise.
Our first adventure was Krakow Square which was beautiful its medieval architecture really shows off how picturesque this city is. The most popular recreational activity amongst the students was riding on a Segway around the square. Many students also took a horse and carriage ride around the area, some explored the medieval cloth hall in the centre and others enjoyed viewing the brides getting married at the Cathedral, which is also incidentally where scenes from Schindler’s List were filmed.
The next morning was a leisurely start…breakfast at 8am. Breakfast was delicious, scrambled eggs, sausages, cold meats, fresh fruit, yoghurts, smoothies, pastries, juices, salads and chocolate spreads. But despite the delicious breakfast, there was a sinking feeling amongst the group as we prepared ourselves to visit Auschwitz. Before leaving we had a walk around the castle which was truly stunning greatly aided by the glorious sunshine. Many of us sat outside a café looking at the beauty that is Krakow.
Our guides were very good. They made the site come to life as we walked around the chilling barracks whilst listening to experiences of both victims and survivors of this harrowing area. It is hard to mentally prepare for what you will experience when you visit such a poignant historical site. It is also extremely difficult to process the information and horror that you learn about. Extreme acts of violence, unbelievable fear but still incredible bravery linger within the camp. Our group were stunned into silent reflection. To quote Winston Churchill, ‘Those that do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it’. We all realised that the reason why we were here was to stop anything like this ever happening again.
It was odd to have the blazing sun at Auschwitz II. It really brought home how hard it would have been living in such destitute conditions and being forced into slave labour all day in the extreme heat. Standing on the platform where millions were sent to be brutally murdered purely because of their religious heritage made us appreciate how important studying this topic is to raise awareness of the dangers of intolerance. Seeing the barracks which resembled sheds reinforced the shocking conditions that the victims were forced to live in. The group were all very touched by the experience of going into the children’s barrack where the inmates had painted paintings for children. It was a very emotionally moving experience. Furthermore, the rooms full of human hair, tiny baby shoes and children’s toys really enabled us to appreciate that these victims were ordinary families who had been transported here hoping that they were going to be able to settle and have a normal family life.
You could hear a pin drop as we travelled back to Krakow, we were all in deep thought as we recollected all that we had seen and experienced. We dined at a Jewish run restaurant in the Jewish quarter. We ate traditional Jewish food including cured cheese and potato dumplings. Despite the waiters apple cake throwing antics the meal was fantastic. We remembered how Krakow had once had a thriving Jewish population.
On the final day we left for the airport. We all wished we were there longer but missed our families. The experience made us realise how especially lucky we are to have loved ones, freedom and a democratic society to return to.
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