A Renewed Central Europe

The last three weeks in our trip were just informative as the first three weeks. We started off in Dresden, where we viewed the remnants of destruction from the firebombing. I learned that many people left their homes when the bombing started, only to sink knee deep in boiling tar in the road. The Church of our Lady, newly renovated stands at the center of downtown, with one piece of the old wall remaining as a reminder of damages done.

After Dresden we were off to Berlin. Most of the students were at the breaking points so our professors surprised us by cancelling most of our appointments for Berlin and giving us a few days off to see the city and have fun. Perfect timing. Chris, my roommate from Madrid the previous summer, hadn’t been to Berlin for a very long time, and flew in to explore the city with me. We drank beer in the Berliner Tiergarten with Nicole and Kelly, went to a dance party at a German boy named Mio’s apartment, searched fruitlessly for the Tarantino Bar, and visited most of the cities major sites. I feel I should mention here that Kelly, Nicole, and I were ecstatic when we were able to see the Sex and the City movie in English in Potsdamerplatz.

Nicole and I in front of the Berlin Wall

From Berlin we were off to Poland. We spent one night in Wroclaw and then settled in Krakow. Here we were able to visit Auschwitz and Schindler’s Factory. I was afraid that I was becoming desensitized towards concentration camps because we had been to so many before. Auschwitz changed that. The scale of the camp is unbelievable. Standing on the separation platform with barracks as far as the eye could see left all of us speechless. It saddens me to say that this week, thieves stole the famous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the entrance to Auschwitz I. What they could possibly want with it I don’t think I will ever know.

Barracks of Auschwitz

Downtown Krakow deserves some serious praise. The number of bars and discos shoved into the man square was outrageous. Most of them were hidden from the public’s eye, but as you walked around and felt the ground start to tremble, you knew there was some serious bass going on nearby, above, or below you. I bought a necklace that I still wear regularly from the world’s oldest shopping mall in downtown Krakow. It was a city for which I had no expectations, and was pleasantly surprised.

Schindler's Factory in Krakow

Somewhere in this trip, and I can't remember when, we visited the remains of a town named Lidice that I think is worth mentioning. After the Czech people assassinated Heydrich, the Nazi put in charge of the Czech Republic, Hitler decimated the population of a Czech town picked at random, Lidice. The men were shot and killed on the spot, the women and children sent to concentration camps (this was not a Jewish town.) The memorial at the site is the most beautiful memorial I have seen. It is an actual portrayal of each child from the town who was killed during the war.

Memorial for children lost at Lidice

That was the end of our trip. We returned to Prague one last time. I had really begun to feel at home there, with the view of the Prague Cathedral in the distance, and the sense of independence in the Lennon Wall and Kafka memorial. It had such a strong culture and pride and as one of the only cities not totally devastated by World War II, retained its fairy tale-esque architecture and cobblestone streets. The local Czech beers, hearty cuisine, and underground taverns make it such a comforting city that it was really hard for me to leave. If I could describe Prague in one word, it would definitely be “magical.”

Lennon Wall in Prague

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