March 29, 2010—A little about some other parts of the world—Poland/Ukraine Version
In case you wondering what i looked like when I think about what to write on my blog entries:
And this is what I look like when I actually write them:
So the last post I mentioned that I had managed to get myself into a spontaneous trip to Poland and Ukraine, both of which we amazing and exactly the vacation that I/we all need more often in our lives.
This particular vacation began with a pleasurable overnight bus ride (13 hours, originally thought to be 20—relief), pleasurable because it is ok to drink on public transportation otherwise I would have not been a happy camper. The first day was spent in L’Viv in a sleepless delirium which seems to be the cool thing for me to do on every vacation as of late. I believe you must see both the day/nightlife of a city to truly enjoy it, so if you are on a budget and must package your vacations into short excursions, sleep simply put is the first thing to go.
Tons of cool architecture:
L’Viv is a gorgeous city with all the things to love about Eastern Europe with the additional flair of a Western Europe feel to it. Something that nearly always makes an impression on me in a new country or city is how as foreigner or at least someone with the all too familiar look of being lost is treated by the yokels. My personal favorite experience like this was in Vancouver BC when I was helped by a slew of people when my car broke down and still made it to one of the greatest concerts I have seen in my life. The first 5 minutes in L’Viv brought back this memory. I asked for directions from one person and was immediately approached by a young woman who told us she was headed in the same direction and could show us exactly where to go. After talking for a bit, we found out she knew people at the hostel we were staying at and that progressed to her and her sister kindly showing us the lay of the land in L’Viv a city they are proud of for good reason. We managed to make it to scenic lookout locations, markets that were perfect for buying ex-soviet awesomeness, a shooting range, and a variety of clubs that can only be described as unique and requisite on a trip to Ukraine.
Hostile takeover of the hostel:
Neal being cliche:
As for the rest of the journey, we continued on to Krakow where there is plethora of gorgeous architecture and a very cool city square with plenty of opportunities for whatever kinds of mischief/adventure you want to delve into. It was a little bit more expensive than L’Viv but we made due, by subjecting ourselves to mass of amounts of cheap and amazing kebabs, something that Washington really needs to realize the beauty of—probably the best late night snack ever. Would you honestly ever get late-night hot dog or McDonalds again, if there was a kebab stand in town? The answer is only yes if you are dumb or crazy J.
A very alert taxi cab driver:
View of Krakow from a castle:
Something I must say in general about traveling is how great staying in hostels can be. It is amazing how many like-minded individuals you can meet on a vacation. Staying at a hostel is much like your first day in college or at a job where everyone is new. It provides an incredibly comfortable atmosphere where it is not acceptable to talk to everyone, it is encouraged and you end up making some of the best sorts of friends even if it may only be for a day or two. Something about a hotel reminds me gated community, trying to avoid the contact that needs to be made with the outside world.
For all the smiling and good times had throughout the trip, we definitely toned it down for one day in particular, the day we visited Auschwitz. On the way to the concentration camp, I believe I did what I do nearly every time there is a serious event that I am actually a little nervous about in my future--we laughed and told jokes in an effort to not have to deal with the reality of it. The mood turned to somber and serious the second that we arrived in the town. It is weird to me to think of growing up in a city of town that possesses one of the darker histories of humanity. I wonder how it would change your perspective on things being so close. I am sure for some people it would strike pretty deeply into their character, but I could also see how some might choose to repress the thought of it.
Much like the most beautiful and most ugly things in the world, words do little to describe the experience of being there. I think one of the things that affected me the most was the familiarity of it all. The wooden buildings, the dull-color painted walls, the dirt roads connecting it all. We have all seen these basics before, but what sets these particular things apart is simply the fact that countless atrocities on humanity that were committed there. It reminds us of the frailties of humanity and the decency of humanity that is sometimes swept aside in cruel times. Seeing a child’s shoe can bring a tear to your eye for many reasons, whereas a room full of children’s shoes that were all of their last pairs brings a different sort of weight to your mind where you can find yourself floundering in your emotions.
The last impression of Auschwitz as we walked away.
Entrance to Auschwitz "Work Sets You Free"