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Eastern Gem - Poland

GLOBE batch 16 has been reunited for the last time –in Denmark-, for the last semester together.

Of course the Americans and Hong Kongers have planned many trips throughout Europe, and are jet-setting the capitals. But we all know, what’s best about traveling is experiencing the culture and finding hidden gems and local spots. That is why we were all super excited when one of the Danish batchmates invited many of us to his home country- Poland.

All of us flew to Warsaw after our classes on Friday, and had an amazing evening going to Zachodni Brzeg- Hala Koszyki, a food hall with dishes from all cultures, and also explored the financial district.

The next morning, we took a train to go to Poland’s country side. We stayed in a summerhouse and cabins, and played badminton, made traditional Polish perogies and even ended up doing hide and seek in the woods by night.

Finally, we made our way back to Warsaw, and explored the botanical garden, Ujazdów Castle, walking all the way up to the old town for dinner. On our way, we experienced a sun shower and even saw a rainbow.

Jessica from the UNC batch:

The Americans prolonged their stay in Poland to visit the historical site of Auschwitz and to travel to South Poland. Wojtek planned a trip to Zakopane, where we split off into two different hiking groups to hike Tatra National Park. One group hiked approximately 11 kilometers which took around 5 hours. We saw beautiful lakes and mountains. Luckily the weather was perfect! The other group continued on a more challenging hike for 5 more hours that required better equipment and more rock climbing skills. After Zakopane, we went to Prague for the weekend, continuing to enjoy Eastern Europe.

Chloe from the CUHK batch:

My visit to Kraków, Poland was a brief but enriching experience. In just 2.5-day time, we have walked through (literally) the history of Kraków from the Den of the legendary Dragon and the Wawel Royal Castle, a cross-century complex that features architectural styles of medieval, renaissance, and baroque, to the lively farmer market with 100 years of trading history — very fruitful and eye-opening. But if we are to talk about the most memorable moment of my trip, the Auschwitz concentration camp tour is no doubt the one.

It is saddening and thought-provoking to see what you learned in your middle school history lessons come to life. The tour guide walked us through the arrival concourse, living areas, and prisons (yes, prisons inside a prison.) of Auschwitz. One exhibition engraved in my mind was the collection of some 3,800 suitcases that once belonged to people deported to the death camp. These suitcases carried not only the valuables and sentimental possessions of those who were deported to the camp, but also the false promise of life by Nazi Germany. It was heart-breaking to experience the deep disappointment and hopelessness visually.

At our last spot, we stopped at the first gas chamber built by the Nazi to exterminate the Jews. Time seemed to be frozen inside there and everyone couldn’t help holding their breath standing inside the dark room. The tour guide told us that the camp prisoner and people living nearby could possibly see the grey smoke coming out of the chimney day after day, spiraling in fear and uncertainty. As I looked up at the chimney, the grey smoke could no longer be seen. There grew a tall tree behind and rising up was now a green note of hope and peace.

I have once heard from someone that “a monument is never about the fancy statues, but it is the place where people connect, mourn and heal”, and I experienced it in Auschwitz. There was no need for over-the-top eye-catching displays or deliberately emotion-evoking presentations. People behind the Auschwitz Team were there only to engage us with the unvarnished history, and I really appreciated the way they presented this heavy history in such a gentle way. We should forgive but never forget so that history does not repeat itself. It was a thought-provoking, saddening and, surprisingly, peaceful experience.

Besides a taste of history, another highlight of my Krakow trip has to be the food. There was no lack of good, traditional cuisine in Krakow, including the bigos in a bread bowl, pierogies dumplings, and my personal favorite oscypek, a spindle-shaped, smoked cheese. To my surprise, Krakow, apart from being the Heritage hub for Central and Eastern Europe, was also a place for authentic Asian, particularly Taiwanese, food, and I enjoyed one of my best Taiwanese noodles in Europe there. The cherry on top — prices in Poland were just so much friendlier than those in Denmark!


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