Poland Trip 2019
May 2019 Trip to Poland
From May 1st – 3rd two students and two members of staff went on a trip to Krakow in Poland. The reasons we embarked on this trip were varied. The trip was organised as a PSHE trip to encompass visiting the Concentration Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau which they had learned about during lessons when studying the Holocaust, but also to experience travelling to another country/culture. One of the girls, Jasmine had never been abroad and never flown on an aeroplane so for her this trip gave her many new experiences that she may never have had the opportunity to do.
We arrived in Krakow on the Wednesday afternoon and when we had unpacked at our apartment we went for a 20 minute walk to the Old Town where there was a large, beautiful square with lots of restaurants and bars and an indoor market right in the Centre. We ate in an Italian restaurant and after a walk around the Old Town we made our way back to the apartment for an early night.
At 8.30am on Thursday morning we were picked up by our Tour operator to take us to the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines. We had to walk down over 800 steps to a depth of 135 metres, but it was well worth the experience. What we saw was incredible, sculptures and pictures and chandeliers made out of salt and salt crystals. An underground church and function room and we saw the history of the mines laid out before us using models carved out of the salt. None of our photos could really capture and do justice to the amazing things that we saw down there. We were then dropped back at our apartment where we had lunch and then walked across the road to the Jewish Quarter. This is a really old part of Krakow steeped in History. There is amazing Graffiti on the walls but each one tells a story. There were really old Synagogues and churches too which we had a look inside. We did a tour of the Quarter and this included being shown where the ‘Ghetto’ was during the war and where Oskar Schindler’s famous factory was located, which was depicted in the film ‘Schindler’s List’. We managed to fit in a quick trip to a shopping Centre before returning to our apartment before dinner. On Thursday night we ate dinner in an Israeli/Mediterranean style restaurant where the food was delicious.
At 6.30am on the Friday morning we were picked up from apartment to go to Auschwitz, the whole purpose for the visit. On the one hour car journey we were all feeling a little apprehensive because we didn’t know how we were going to feel when we were there. We arrived in plenty of time for our tour and waited for it to begin. At the beginning of the tour you go through the famous gates of Auschwitz where above it the writing says ‘Arbeit macht frei’ which means in English ‘Work sets you free’ which is ironic for the people taken there! A lot of the buildings at Auschwitz have been turned into a museum with chilling artefacts like suitcases that belonged to people taken there with their names written on them their shoes and clothes and glasses that they had worn. There were lots of photographs showing what happened to these unsuspecting people when they arrived at the extermination camp and were ‘selected’ to live or die and were separated from their families never to see them again. The most chilling part was actually walking through the gas chambers and seeing the furnaces at the end of the building. Everyone is asked to stay silent when walking through this part out of respect. All in all an extremely emotional experience but one that we all felt everyone should have. The second part of the tour took us to Birkenau or Auschwitz II which was the Extermination camp built because they couldn’t burn the bodies quickly enough at Auschwitz as they only had 2 furnaces whereas at Birkenau they had 5. As you arrive at Birkenau you see the famous building with the Arch with the railway line running through it and the girls said that this is the image they always think of when they thing about the Concentration Camps that they have learned about. Visitors had left messages of condolence on the railway track and messages of hope for the future so that something like this never happens again. Birkenau was a much starker more chilling place than Auschwitz, you could imagine what it must have felt like during the bitter cold of winter. We saw a carriage of the ‘cattle’ trucks that they had transported the prisoners in to take them to the camp.
After we left Birkenau we went straight to the Airport for our flight home. We all agreed that today was the highlight of the trip and it gave us plenty to think about. The trip was a huge success and we look forward to doing many more, both girls felt that they got so much out of it on so many levels which made it really worthwhile.