Thursday, December 13, 2012



I am back in Germany after a short trip to the motherland, aka, Poland.

Sunday afternoon I hopped on a train to Berlin with Malia and Tom, we met David there. We went straight from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Berlin Tegel airport. Berlin Tegel sucks. Berlin has been building a new airport and Tegel and the other one will apparently close whenever they get around to finishing it. There were some protesters at the airport on Sunday waving signs and shouting in German. All I caught was 'destroy' soooooo that seemed promising. Our flight was cancelled for Sunday night because of weather conditions, so air berlin gave us vouchers for food and hooked us up with a hotel near the airport. we spent the vouchers on burgers(fries for me) and beer and then went to the holiday inn(sing the song) The hotel ended up being pretty nice, we got two rooms, there was a pool, sauna, steam room and most importantly a bar with snacks.

Monday we went back to the airport early in the morning for our new flight to Krakow. more rough times at the Tegel airport as there was an impromptu security strike which led to a 3 hour delay. Finally we arrived in Krakow, got a bus to the city center from the airport and managed to find our hostel. Quick hostel plug, if anyone is going to Krakow I would highly recommend the Mosquito Hostel. It had all the things that I like in a hostel: large lockers, personal lights and outlets, tall bunks so you don't hit your head, 24 hour reception, full kitchen, free breakfast(with cheese, so you could totally make a sandwich for lunch), multiple showers/bathrooms with soap, board games, organized free events every night with super nice hostel workers, and quality organized tours. I want to open a hostel now. 

We dropped off our things and went to go eat pierogies. NOMZ. The pierogi restaurant was 24 hours. That was another great thing about Poland, they had a ton of 24 hour stores and restaurants. There are roughly zero 24 hour places in Germany. The pierogies were delicious, despite not being fried like I make them at home. america. We then walked around the freezing cold, but beautiful winter wonderland. Everything is prettier covered with fresh snow, until it turns to slush and gets gross. We stopped at a few christmas markets and then found a cool underground pub and had some more pierogies and hot wine. We went back to the hostel and caught up with the group just as they were leaving for a pub crawl. We first stopped by a little place with a bazillion flavors of polish vodka then went to a club. Drinking in Poland is dirt-cheap. 

cut to Tuesday morning. 

I scratched my eyeball again, which is apparently something I am doing now, so I tried to keep my left eye shut for a few hours while Malia, Tom and David wandered around some more. I joined everyone at 4 to go to the salt mines. The hostel organized a driver and tickets for the English language guided tour through the Wieliczka Salt Mines. They were amazing. We went through three of the nine levels, apaprently to see all the things there would take a week, we spent 3 hours looking at stuff. Our tour guide was hilarious and knew a lot about everything salt related. He also reminded us that the price of the ticket included licking as much salt as we wanted. All the walls were made of salt. Actually, everything down there was made of salt. Statues, chandeliers, walls, floors, ceilings, everything. I got a few pieces of salt to bring back if anyone wants a lick. My pictures turned out pretty crappy because it was so dark and creepy down there, but the whole thing was very impressive. Seeing giant old construction-type things always impresses me. People carved out HUGE salt rooms and statues and things a loooooooong time ago. only one of the rooms we saw was excavated using dynamite. The rest was with hand-tools and horses. amazing.

We weren't allowed to take pictures in the main chapel room, but here is one I stole from the internet(borrowed from here):

Wednesday morning we packed up our things, checked out of the hostel and headed to the main market square to meet up with a free walking tour of the jewish quarter. I think the tour was with this company: freewalkingtour It was an excellent tour. Our tour guide was funny, and knowledgeable. She was telling us about how difficult it is to get a tour guide license in Poland because the exam is in Polish, but most of the tours are given in English. So ex-pats have a hard time passing the exam. She said she worked for roughly a year to get her license. Also the tour company has worked really hard to prepare a new 'winter edition' of their Krakow map. It was full of great tips and information about the city. We were there for the grand release of the winter map, she was sooooo pumped about it and had her friend come and take pictures of the group smiling and looking at the map. adorable. She also was telling me about her method for learning things about the different states in the US. She only knows the states that are featured prominently in US tv shows. Ohio-Glee, New York-HIMYM, Friends, Castle, Wisconsin-That 70s Show, etc. I thought that was the best way to learn anything because I am OBSESSED with television. 

We also learned a bunch of historical things on the tour. It was rather Schindler's List focused as the story is based on events that happened in Krakow. Must watch movie now. I liked hearing about how each part of the city had changed with time, from the main Jewish area, to Nazi warehouses, to the Jewish ghetto, to a modern student area complete with the most popular bars and restaurants. We saw the memorial on the main square in the old Jewish ghetto:

The chairs were arranged with most of them facing the concentration camps and death camps, with a few others facing Schindler's factory and the various factories people were sent to work. The Nazis believed that people were hiding valuables in the legs of their chairs and after the liquidation of the ghetto, the buildings were ransacked and this main square was full of broken furniture. 

The building in the back right of that photo also has an interesting history. That building was a pharmacy run by a non-jewish polish man, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, it was kept open after he bribed the Nazis. Him and the few women who worked with him provided medications, hair dye(to help people look younger and more fit for labor and concentration camps vs death camps) as well as calming pills to help the infants remain quiet so they could be smuggled out of the ghetto, and to help people retain their dignity while they waited to learn their fate.

Overall a very well organized and factual tour. 

After the tour we headed to a restaurant to warm up(thaw out) and eat more pierogies. Then went to the main christmas market to buy some gifts for people, hopefully they survive the flight home! 

Pierogi total: 40 eaten in 2.5 days. not too shabby.

We got to the Krakow airport, our flight only had a 30 minute delay, what luxury. We made it to Berlin and got the bus back to the Hauptbahnhof and made our train back to Hamburg in time. We flew out of Berlin because it was way cheaper FYI. 

Krakow was great, now I am tired though. Tonight is the Landor Hamburg Christmas party. Theme: wear something green or blue. 

I need to start packing, but I keep procrastinating. I am excited to come home, but I know I will really miss my life here and everyone I have met. I am now used to being able to hop on a train/plain and go somewhere new, easily, whenever I want. It will take some adjusting to be back in school and in Cincinnati where public transportation is essentially a joke.

Happy Thursday! See you all in 6 days.


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