Krakow Tour Thursday 26 – Sunday 30 March 2015
We set off from Belfast International Airport and flew direct to Krakow. There were twenty five pupils (only four girls) with three members of staff Mr Armstrong, Mrs Hollywood and Mr Robb. This was the first time our school has had a trip to Poland.
We had good flight and a coach took us from the airport straight into Krakow city centre. There we had a guided city tour and enjoyed some of the historic sights that Krakow has to offer. We had lunch and a bit of free time in the old town square and then met our tour guide who was called Marta and enjoyed seeing the architecture in the city and the Universaity District. The tour included entrance to St Mary’s Church and Wawel Catherdral.
Later that afternoon we booked into our hotel, enjoyed an evening meal and took part in a Quiz, Mr Robb was our Quizmaster.
The next morning on the way to Auschwitz-Birkenau we watched a documentary on the liberation of Auschwitz. Our trip coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the liberation and there was a lot media coverage leading up to our trip. We were all a little apprehensive as we weren’t sure how we would feel walking round the camp.
We were given head sets so that we could hear our tour guide clearly and the first glimpse of Auschwitz was when we walked through the iconic Arch which reads ARBEIT MACHT FREI, meaning WORK MAKES YOU FREE. The arch has been made infamous through new reports, documentaries and film. It drizzled with rain while we were walking round the camp so it felt like a ‘pathic fallacy’.
At the beginning of the tour were the red brick buildings which are now museums which house records, photos and belongings of prisoners. The images of the people’s faces were haunting, it was very sad and we were very quite as walked around. There were lists of names, individual records, piles of hairbrushes, glasses and suitcases which we realized would have once belonged to an actual person. There were very large piles of hair and shoes and there were children’s shoes included in the pile and I found this very emotional. You really got a sense that people had just packed their belongings and would not have imaged what was ahead. This first part of the Auschwitz tour included one of the remaining original Gas Chambers. We walked inside it and found it disturbing.
I know that none of us will ever forget that experience. After our tour we had an opportunity for lunch. That afternoon we spent in the Galicja Jewish Museum which was a photo exhibition showing the remnants of Jewish culture.
There was a lot to process that day and we were glad to have an evening of fun at the Aqua Park that night.
A visit to the Gestapo’s Headquarters at the Pomorksa Street Museum was next on the agenda and we were able to read official documents and visit cells of prisoners.
In the afternoon we went to visit Wleliczka Salt Mine. It was a very long way down a small lift shaft. A few of us weren’t comfortable with the lift but we all managed to get down. Down the salt mine you can see statues carved by the miners from the rock salt. They have also carved out a huge ballroom with high chandeliers all made from rock salt. This room can be hired for weddings and concerts. We were all amazed at the size of it.
After this we had some shopping time and in the evening enjoyed tenpin bowling.
The next day we met up with out tour guide Marta again and she took us round the Jewish Quarter, which was called Kazimierz. We visited the Remuh Synagugue and Eagle Pharmacy, which is beside the square that featured in the Schindler’s List film. We then visited the Schindler Museum, which is dedicated to the wartime experience in Krakow under the Nazi occupation. We saw real items which were from that time including some pots from the factory and Schindler’s own desk, which appeared in the film. Lots of us had watched the film before coming away.
To end the trip we had a bit of free time and enjoyed some lunch and retail therapy back in Krakow city center.
It was six o’clock in the evening when the coach collected us and took us to the airport and we arrived home in the early hours of Monday morning ready for our beds.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers for a great trip. All our travel arrangements went very smoothly and we all go on very well and thoroughly enjoyed our experience, it will be a trip I will never forget.
Aimee Finlay 12B