La Vita Bella

29 July 2008

Have It Your Way


Today was AMAZING! Mostly because we had our one final, and I think that all of us spent last night and early this morning freaking out about it. MAJOR ANXIETY!!! Turns out, we all freaked out for nothing because the final was super-easy. We had terms to identify and two essays to write, but he was really lenient about what he expected from us. I love summer study abroad!

Today Liz and I had some extra time so we went to the mall and got our hair cut. Angie, don't kill me! I promise it looks really cute; I totally fit in over here! But they have the weirdest way of cutting hair. They take a razor like you would use to shave a guy's head and pull your hair taught with a comb, then shave the ends off. It's extreme razoring. Now I can say that I've had my hair cut in Europe!

Tomorrow is our last day here in Krakow, and I think it's finally starting to hit me that I'm soon to be leaving this amazing place. I've had so many wonderful experiences here, and I hope that I can return someday.

We're going to try and go see the parts of Wawel Castle that we have not yet made it to, and then we're going to go paddle boating on the Vistula River. I'm sure tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for many of us.

But, I'm going to try and keep the mushiness to a minimum.

Sarah and I leave on Thursday for Munich, so tomorrow night I'm going to pack my stuff because we have to be at the airport by 4 am. Our flight leaves at 6:30, and we should be in Munich by about 8:00 am... I cannot wait! So, I'll try to email one last time tomorrow night; I don't think I'll have access to the internet while I'm in Deutschland. Much Love!

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28 July 2008

Without Love

Life is like a prom that won't invite us.


26 July 2008

Gnomes Rock! (No pun intended...)


Yesterday we went to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and I think it's most definitely one of the highlights of the trip! I have uploaded new pictures from there, but I'm not sure I liked how some of them turned out. Flash made the pictures too yellowish, so I had to hold the camera super-still since I decided not to use it. Anways, I think they're good enough for everyone to kind of get the point...

The mine is the second oldest in the world, and it still produces some salt, but only enough so that the mine can stay clear to be used as a tourist attraction. Legend has it that a beautiful Hungarian Princess, named Klinga, was to be married to the Polish Duke Boleslaw who ruled Poland from the royal Wawel Castle. Klinga wanted to help her new peoples to be a prosperous one, so she asked her father to give her a salt mine instead of the usual gold and jewelry. The King conceded and gave his daughter one of Hungary's richest salt mines, but since it was so far away from her new Polish home it would not be of much use to her. The Princess went to the mine before she left for Krakow and threw a valuable ring into the deepest shaft, and she prayed to St. Francis and St. Clare for their help.

In 1239 Klinga arrived in Krakow. She got to know her subjects very well, and her dreams of helping them prosper grew. So, one day, she and her new husband set off in search of a mine, and they discovered Wieliczka. Klinga's intuition told her that this was the perfect place to build the mine, and the next day the labor was started. She was so excited at their discovery that she went down into one of the mine shafts herself and brought some blocks of salt back to the surface. Inside one of those blocks was a glittering object-- it was none other than the ring that she had thrown into her salt mine in Bulgaria. From that moment on, Klinga knew that this place was indeed the perfect place to build her mine.

Of course, the above story is just legend, but the Princess Klinga did exist, and she did wish to help her people to be prosperous. She was canonized a few months before Pope John Paul II's death, and St. Klinga is now the patron St. of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Her chapel is the largest and most exquisite in the mine. I took quite a few pictures there, so y'all can see what I'm talking about. Everything in the chapel: the floors, the statues, the chandeliers, the steps and banisters, is made of rock salt. It took 4 different miners over 70 years to complete the carvings in the chapel, and services are still held there every Sunday. The only thing in the chapel that isn't made of salt are the chandelier's bulbs.

The salt mine has many chapels and statues, all of which have been carved by the miners which have worked in the mine over the decades. I think it is also interesting to note that there has never been any slave labor in the mines; they are always volunteers. It was actually considered on honor to work in the mine. Each work of art has been made out of rock salt, all of which was found within the mine, and none of the work was done by professional artists.

Wieliczka is said to be watched over by someone know as the Treasurer and his daughter, the white Lady. The are said to help the miners should they get lost and bring good fortune to the mine. It is also believed that they sent gnomes to help the miners with their work. Just thought I would add that little fact.

The mine became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, and I think it's a place that everyone should visit! It's quite amazing to see the time and effort that miners have put into making a salt mine one of the most awe-inspiring places in the world. I think this just proves that beauty can be found in all of God's creations-- even a salt mine!

Much love to you all. I have a paper to write for my Jews in Poland class, so I can't promise that I'll send another email today, but I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! And I'll try to write if I get a chance.

P.S.- Only 10 days and counting left in Europe, so I hope when I get back we can all get together so I can share some of my more interesting experiences in person!

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24 July 2008

Home is Where the Heart Is


I know the emails have been short lately, but I've settled into a sort of rhythm here. And I have to say that I like it. The closer it gets to our leaving here the sadder I become just thinking about it. I've had such an amazing time here. I've made some amazing friends and I've had the opportunity to live in what is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I know I'll never forget everything that has happened here, and I hope that maybe someday I can come back.

Everyday we get up, get ready, take the tram to the Teatre Bagatella stop, walk to the pastry shop, and go to class. And even though its the same thing everyday, there is something so incredibly amazing about waking up and realizing that you're halfway around the world in a city that has seen so many generations come and go. There are new sights and places to discover everyday, and even the most rundown building has played a part in a history that is bigger than us. What an amazing feeling!

And as crazy as this may sound, I'm really going to miss the public transportation system. I love driving, but it's nice to hop on a bus and go anywhere in the city you want. And it's so much cheaper than paying for gas. I hope that this is something that will become a bigger part of American culture. I know that many big cities have public transportation, but here even the rural areas have access to the bus system.

We watched a foreign film last night that was nominated for an Oscar this year. The film was made in Polish and it had to do with the mass murders commited by the KGB in a small Russian town called Katyn'. The film was incredibly moving-- of course it was related to the WWII period. But, all the places in the movie were places that we have actually been, so seeing them on the big screen in all their historical glory was nice.

So, I guess the point of this entire email was to attempt to say that I'm going to miss Krakow. At the beginning of a long trip like this it's always hard to adjust to being so far away from home; away from familiar sights, sounds, smells, and tastes... And I do miss everyone, but I'm so going to miss it here. After you're in a place for a while, you adjust and it isn't as hard as it was... It's going to be difficult coming back home now and reaclimating myself to driving... And to restaurants that don't post their menus outside (which is nice-- you can see how much their food costs and if they have anything you'll like)... And walking to the corner to pick up a tram... And going to class in a building that is 100s of years old.

But, I'll still be glad to come home and see my family, friends, and dogs. I love all of you, and I'm so glad that, in my own way, I was able to share my journey with you all. Much love. More tomorrow after our trip to the salt mines.

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21 July 2008

The World's Largest Petting Zoo


I'm back! I really missed e-mailing everyone over the weekend, and I have so much to tell that I'm afraid I'll forget something... So we left at 9:30 in the morning from the Piast for Lviv, and I think we made it there at around 9:30 at night. It's actually only a four hour driving trip, but the condition of the roads, Friday traffic, and being stuck at the border really put us behind schedule. Plus we had to make quite a few stops so that everyone could use the bathroom... haha Once we finally got to the border we made it through the Polish half in about 45 minutes. They had to come onto the bus and take everyone's passports. A bunch of us were sitting in the back joking and laughing, and I said that I wished we could take pictures of the guy who was on the bus inspecting us. One of the guys took his camera out and snapped a picture of the border patrol guy, and the guy looked really angry and said "No Picture!" So we were afraid that we were going to get in trouble. The guy came back and took Austin's camera, and he looked at the picture and told us that it was an ugly picture and we should have taken one of his partner who was a female. Well, as you can imagine, we died laughing.... After he got off the bus our teachers told us that is was fine to act that way with the Polish, but they told us not to even speak when the Ukrainians got on the bus. They said that they probably wouldn't understand English and would think that we were making fun of them....

We got to the Polish border and spent a little over two hours there. And once we made it into the Ukraine we had to endure roads that were even worse than the roads in the Polish countryside. But, what can you expect from a former communist country? It took us quite a while to make it to the little town we were staying in, Bibrka. And even longer to maneuver the bus to the place where we were staying. The Catholic church in Bibrka has a place where children from the town can come and stay, sort of like the Ukrainian version of the YMCA. The priest in charge was a very nice man who was fluent in Polish and he was very excited to have our group staying in their small village.

That night we had a late dinner, cooked by our very own Babushka, and since it was Friday we had fish. The food was pretty good, but we were all so tired from the long bus ride that it was really hard to enjoy. The next day we got up early and drove into Lviv, or Lwow as the Ukranians still call it. The city is only about 29 KM away, but the way the roads are lain out I think it took about an hour to get there.

Our tour guides name was Natalia, and she spoke English very well. I don't think Dr. Powell or the two Polish women who were with us appreciated her very much. She had a tendency to change facts about Ukranian history so that the Polish part was never mentioned. Poland actually played a big part in the history of the Ukraine-- Lviv was even part of Poland at one time. Anyways... Natalia took us around the entire city, and she was rather boring. Our professors were making fun of her and we all couldn't wait to take a lunch break and get away from her. We ate McDonalds, and it was amazing. Sometimes it's nice to get something and know exactly what you're eating. When I ordered my food the girl couldn't understand a word I was saying, but yet when the guy behind me ordered in English she understood exactly what he wanted. I don't think the Ukranians liked us...

In Lviv there is a really cool market that sells everything from traditional Ukranian embroidery to "antique" Communist artifacts. It was pretty awesome. Paul bought an ex-military hat with the Communist sickle on it; it's rather entertaining. I wish I had taken a picture. The guy he bought the hat from kept trying to tell us it was real and sell us some of the other communist leftovers that he had. I think he liked us. haha I did buy an old German childrens book from him, which is cool. I also finally found a set of nesting dolls that weren't super-expensive. Can't wait to show them to everyone!

When we got back to the place we were staying we had the best meal I've had since arriving in Europe. Mashed potatoes and some kind of fried meat (you don't ask what it is here; you just eat it... haha) and fried pumpkin and cucumber salad. YUMMMM. Is everyone hungry now? If you're not, then you should be.

We packed and left the next morning to head into Lviv for a day of touring before heading back to Krakow. We went to a museum of old peasant houses and churches from each region of the Ukraine. It's an outside museum that is set up to resemble the regions where the dwellings are originally from. Each homestead was actually physically moved from hundreds of miles away and many are over a hundred years old. It was neat, but we were all so fed up with our tour guide that we didn't really enjoy the multitude of thatched roofs.

Lviv has a very large cemetery with thousands of graves, so it was our last stop before heading back. Y'all know how much I love cemeteries, so I took tons of pictures.

The ride back didn't take quite as long as it did to get to Ukraine, but we still had to spend quite some time at the Ukranian border so they could inspect the bus and thoroughly check our passports. And I speak for the entire group when I say that going to class today was not an easy thing to accomplish. We didn't get much sleep this weekend, and the bus ride was exhausting; I think it'll be a while before I catch up on all this missed sleep. But, it was so worth it. Going to the Ukraine was an experience I won't soon forget.

Now, I'm off to bed. I think my lack of sleep has affected my motor skills. I just fell on Liz and almost took my laptop screen off in the process-- not good. haha So, go check out all the new pictures, and give me some feedback... As always, much love.

P.S.- In reference to the title of this email I would just like to say that Ukraine is, indeed, the world's largest petting zoo. Complete with cows, goats, horses, and pigs on leashes. The only thing they were missing was the chickens, on leashes that is. I do not jest.

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17 July 2008



Last night a bunch of us went downstairs to the club in the Piast and did karaoke. It was crazy! I think I had forgotten how much fun it is to just be crazy sometimes.

Today Jeff Palis, the director of the study abroad program, met with us during our evening class and we discussed how the program has been so far and some of the problems and adventures we've had since arriving here. I don't think we've done anything productive in that class, but I'm all for a free one hour credit!!!

Right now I'm trying to quickly type this e-mail so that I can finish packing. We leave for Lviv, Ukraine tomorrow at 9:00am, and I think we're all a little nervous. They said the bus ride will take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours, and to bring plenty of snacks. The border to the Ukraine was just opened earlier this year, so thankfully we didn't have to get special visas to go in, but they're still holding on to some post-communist tendencies. We could be stuck at the border for up to 5 hours waiting on them to let us through. There is also the problem of not knowing any Ukranian or Russian, but I'm up for the adventure.

I won't be sending any e-mails until sometime Monday night. I just thought I would let everyone know ahead of time. I know that it'll be hard to go 3 days without my fabulous e-mails, but I'm sure y'all will survive. I plan on coming back with tons of new pictures and stories. Sleep well.

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16 July 2008



Every time we go to a museum I leave thinking that it's the coolest museum I've ever been to... I guess each one just gets better and better. The Czartoryskich Museum is where we went today, and it has everything from famous paintings to ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian artifacts. I wish I could have taken some pictures, but as is usually the case, we weren't allowed.

We were trying to figure out how such a large collection of artifacts from ancient Rome made their way to Krakow, but I don't have any answers. They had urns telling ancient mythological stories like Hercules defeating the Lion and Penelope with her suitors, actual coins from the time of Julius Caesar and other subsequent emperors, and mummies with their sarcophagi from Egypt. I've never actually seen artifacts from ancient Egypt, so as one can imagine, I was practically drooling over them when we walked into the room. Liz and Paul thought it was pretty funny, but they also loved that I could tell them some interesting facts about the Roman and Egyptians artifacts and the myths that pertain to them (Jeff, excessive reading does come in handy!).

This museum also had a large collection of odds and ends. A medieval device used to make playing cards, ancient horse tails decorated for battle, and a Turkish military tent. I was very impressed. Not to mention, that the Czartoryskich Museum is one of only six in the world to house a work of art by the grand master Leonardo da Vinci. His painting: "Lady With an Ermine" is housed in the museum. It is considered to be the most well-preserved painting of his that exists. During the second World War the painting was actually stolen by the Nazis; after the war it was found in an ex-commander's Bavarian country house and returned to Krakow. The Poles are very proud to own this painting and almost every person living in Krakow has a copy hanging somewhere in their house.

I really wish I could have taken pictures so that you could see just how fabulous this museum was. It looks so unassuming on the outside, and Liz and I probably never would have gone if it weren't for Paul suggesting that we should go. So, next time you're in Krakow, check out the Czartoryskich Museum-- it's worth it!!! Much love to you all.

P.S.- I've attached a copy of the famous painting so that everyone can see what I am talking about.

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15 July 2008

So Long, Farewell


Today our "Jews in Poland" class went back to Kazimierz with Dr. Galas, our professor and he took us on a personal tour of the old synagogues and other important Jewish sites there. He is so knowledgeable about everything that it is kind of overwhelming. Every place we went he was able to get us in for free or next to nothing and he was constantly running into people who were praising him for his research. I am very blessed to be taking this class.

Most of the Jewish Temples were destroyed or used as storage houses during the second World War, so most of what we saw were the buildings that have been rebuilt to look as historically accurate as possible. I have quite a few pictures that I took today, and I'm rather proud of how they turned out.

The weather is getting better; it didn't rain today, but it was overcast and cool-- I'm not complaining.

I've made some amazing new friends since being here, and I hope that we all hang out after going back to Southern. One of the guys actually has family that lives in Brunswick, so for the past few weeks I've been hanging out with a Townie. Who knew??? And my roommate, Liz, is the coolest. I'm glad that she and I decided to room together; we get along really well and we have alot in common... I think we actually get along better than most roommates, and for that I am very glad. That's one less thing on the trip to worry about.

It has been hard to enjoy myself-- before we left I started having problems with my shoulder and collar bone, and since we got here the pain has intensified. I now have a huge knot on my shoulder, and I'm hoping that it doesn't get any worse in these last few weeks that we're here. So, if everyone would like to pray for me, it would be greatly appreciated.

I'm going to bed, hopefully my Aleve will kick in soon and my shoulder will stop throbbing. Much love.

Oh, and P.S.- I'm sorry my spelling and grammar are atrocious in most of my e-mails... It's late here when I write them and I get so entranced that I forget to pay attention to what I'm doing. :) That's my excuse.

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14 July 2008



So, mother, I'm sorry that it's only 6:15 in the pm y'alls time and I have not yet e-mailed. What a horrible person I am.... haha I've been up late playing cards; the weather has been kind of gross here, so we've had to be creative and come up with things to keep us entertained.

I feel like a loser for emailing and not having any cool stories or even new pictures to share. I know we're all glad for the rain because it means our classrooms and dorm rooms stay cooler, and that is a major plus when you're in a country that doesn't do air conditioning. So I guess I'll be thankful for small blessings, but I do hope the weather clears up for tomorrow. Our teacher, Dr. Galas, is taking the class back to Kazimierz, but we'll actually get to see the Jewish cemetery and synagogue. I believe he's taking us to a few other museums as well-- oh how I love non-traditional classes!

Since we have been staying in the past few days I have taken it as an opportunity to read and listen to some music. I wish I had brought more books; I brought two and I've read both of them already. *sigh* But, at least I have my iPod so I can listen to some good tuneage when I get a chance. It's funny the things you miss... Speaking of, here's a list of things that I miss:

1. Actually seeing my family and grandma and having face-to-face conversations

2. My BFF's To Def (you know who you are...)

3. Fletcher, Tobie, and Jack
4. Driving

5. Rocking out to my iPod while driving

6. Being able to turn up my music in my room and jam

7. Near-death experiences (for you Tori and Desh)

8. 813

9. Coffee

10. Mint Mojito Flavored Orbit

11. easy access to books

12. HGTV

13. cooking

14. my red tweezers which I seem to have lost

15. the beach

16. Pablos

17. free water at restaurants

18. summer movies in English

19. baths

20. did I mention air conditioning?????

I think that about sums it up. I'm not complaining; I really do LOVE it here, but it's funny what kinds of crazy things you can miss after being away from home. And the air conditioning thing isn't that bad; there have only been two days in which the temperature rose above 90 degrees. I can deal. So, until tomorrow. Much love.

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12 July 2008

Re- A Drop of Golden Sun


Today was the hottest day since we've been here! It was eighty-eight degrees, and walking around the city has never been so hard... Liz, Sarah, Grant and I spent the day trying to get to the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec which is a small mountain town about 15 minutes outside of Krakow'. Liz has a guidebook that is specifically for Krakow' and it told us that we would have to take a bus to get to Tyniec. So, we hopped on a tram and road all the way downtown where the guidebook told us the bus station was located. The book didn't actually give us any specifics-- it just said that the bus station was located behind the train station. Fabulous. We ended up on the other side of town and had to try and find someone to give us directions. Sarah attempted to ask an older man for directions, in Polish I might add, but he didn't understand what she was asking, so she just showed him the words in her phrase book and he pointed us in the right direction. haha

We had to trek all the way back to the train station, but we still couldn't figure out where we needed to go. So, Liz and I went inside one of the connected tourism kiosks and the guy gave us a map and told us which tram and bus we had to take to get there. (Now that we have our bus/tram passes we can go wherever we please, which is nice.) So, we took the tram and then couldn't figure out which bus stop we were supposed to wait at. We missed the first bus and sat at the stop for over an hour. Just when we had decided that it would probably be best to head back to town we met a family from Ireland who was trying to figure out how to get to Tyniec as well. We told them what bus they had to take and we figured out that in 15 minutes the next bus would be coming...

The mother and her two sons are here in Krakow' to sing for the monks, so we might go back to the Abbey tomorrow night to hear them. We did decide to go after all, and it was breathtaking! It's crazy how things work out. Just when we had decided to give up and go back home, God sent someone who was going to the exact same place as we were. It sure makes you appreciate the little things. We would have been so upset after spending out entire day trying to get to the Abbey only to have to give up and go back home.

Today Liz and I decided that we needed to do some laundry since our underwear supply was quickly dwindling. I took a few pictures, so go look, and have fun gloating. I know you will. It really wasn't that bad actually, except that now our underwear is crunchy from being line-dried. I won't tell you the alliteration that Liz and I made up to go along with it. haha

Well, that is all for tonight. I'll write more tomorrow. Love.

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11 July 2008

All The World's A Stage

Dzien Dobry,

Today was another amazing day. I think that the first week of being here was hard because there were so many new things to get used to: the food, language, people, places, sounds, and especially smells. I feel like I'm finally starting to figure things out, and today when someone tried to hand me a flyer (people pass out flyers for everything here, at all times of the day) I told them "Dziekuje Nie" (No Thanks) without batting an eyelash. I was so proud of myself. haha It sounds like such a minor accomplishment, but it's so very exciting to feel the culture and language taking root inside of you.

Friday is a field trip day, but due to some last-minute budget cuts the field trip for my "Jews in Poland" class was cancelled. Dr. Powell offered to let us come along with her class for their trip, and I'm so glad I did. We left early this morning and walked to the oldest market place in all of Poland. People from all over the state come to sell fruits, vegetables, cheeses, pastries, meats, and other handmade items. It was fascinating to walk around and sample all the different things that were there, especially since we had Dr. Powell to order for us.

After the market we walked to the Krakow National Museum. The museum is a conglomeration of many different items. Their current main exhibit is a large exhibition of modern art-- which even includes some portraits of famous Jewish people that Andy Warhol was commissioned to draw. But, the coolest part was their permanent collection of armor, swords, guns, and cavalry paraphernalia that has been donated/collected from the Germans, Polish, French, and Italians. I can't say enough about how cool this place was. They started in the 13th century and went all the way up to WWII items. They even has clothes and a large collection of antique furniture. I'm a geek, and for me this place was pretty close to perfect. I could have stayed all day, but I suppose 3 hours was okay too.

Tonight we actually stayed out late and hung around the theatre festival in the old square. There are tons of actors, comedians, and dancers that have traveled from all over the world to show Krakow just what they've got. We watched this guy from Canada who does a comedy routine by involving people from the audience. He was like a modern-day Charlie Chaplin. I don't think I've laughed as hard as I did tonight in a long time. Sarah, Liz, and I are planning on going back tomorrow night to watch him again, so I will try to video some of his routine. He is too funny not to share with everyone. After his routine we went and watched some fire jugglers/eaters for a little while and then we went to see a Ukrainian theatre troop do their hour-long presentation. It was very odd to say the least, and mostly involved people on stilts in nude body suits throwing paper at each other. Don't ask! The coolest part about that was meeting a younger couple, their children, and their adorable golden retriever, Charlie. They lived in New York City for eight years and moved back to Krakow one year ago. The woman is originally from Krakow and her husband is from the states. Charlie made the evening much more enjoyable, and I think seeing him made me miss Fletcher and Tobie even more. (Mom, Dad, Olivia, you better be taking good care of my kids!)

Obviously, today was a much better day than the past few have been, and we even got our bus passes! (This is quite a big deal...) So, I figured, since I'm writing this terribly long e-mail I could take a few moments to answer some of the questions that y'all have been asking...

No, there is not a Wal-Mart in Poland. They don't really do super-stores/all-in-one shops like that here. There are a few chain-style grocery stores, but most people go to the market or the huge mall to get whatever they may need. Speaking of the mall, it is so incredibly AWESOME! It's like the Polish version of the Mall of America.

The only American restaurants that we've seen here are: McDonalds (of course!), KFC, and Subway. Everything else is locally owned. There are a total of two laundries in this city, both of which are outrageously expensive, and most people don't have washers, much less, dryers in their flats. So, hand-washing and line-drying it is! It's considered rude to smile at people when you walk past them on the streets, especially the older people-- they think you're laughing at them.

When I think of more interesting tidbits I'll try to remember to put them in here. This country and everything about it is wonderful, and I hope that someday after this trip I'll be able to come back. Love you all. Goodnight.

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10 July 2008

Still Alive


So, yes, I am okay and still alive. I love how the fact that I didn't send an e-mail out yesterday had people wondering if I was okay. I do appreciate the thought, but I was exhausted yesterday so I fell asleep.

This weekend there is a class trip to Warsaw for people who paid extra and were interested. Some of us were trying to find train or plane tickets to other cities like Budapest or Vienna, but with the rise in gasoline it doesn't look like we'll be going anywhere. So, I'll get back to y'all on that....

Today we just did more random walking around. There is a theatre festival that started today in the middle of the old square and tons of people came to cook traditional Polish food and sell baskets, gingerbread, and goat cheese. It's pretty awesome. We had some amazing kebobs that were cooked over this huge open fire.

Last night a bunch of the guys stole a shopping cart from the grocery store that is right outside the Piast. They kept us up ALL night running down the hallway, and eventually they ran into a door and tore if off its hinges. Gees, no wonder everyone has a bad opinion of Americans. And don't even get me started on techo music... There is a karaoke bar downstairs and EVERY night they blast the techo music. That is one thing I will definitely not miss about Poland. And right now the crazy Germans down the hall are playing the bongo...

I decided that when I get back I should start walking more often. I guess I didn't realize how much of a workout it really is. Here everyone walks everywhere, or they take the tram. I really wish that public transportation was an option back home, because I would be all for it. I know that every day we walk for at least 8 hours, so I'm definitely getting my excercise in.

Tomorrow Dr. Powell (the GSU professor who is actually from Poland) is taking us to a local museum that is just about Krakow and to a local market that sells pastries, fruit, veggies, and homemade cheeses. I can't wait! Every day is something new and exciting, and I am really starting to learn my way around here.

I think another part of the reason I didn't write yesterday is because I was afraid of boring everyone. Even though not we don't go to places like Auschwitz every day, I still feel that life here, in general, is so exciting. So, I am going to go finish uploading my pictures. I hope everyone is enjoying them so far. And I cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Much love.

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07 July 2008

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful


Today was such a nice, relaxing day after yesterday. We had our second class meeting of the trip. I don't think any of us realized what a privilege it is to be taught by the professor that we have. Dr. Galas is the foremost scholar on Jewish History in Europe. So, I'm looking forward to this class...

We finally got a chance to go eat at a Milk Bar, which is a traditional Polish restaurant that has nothing to do with actual milk. Dr. Powell took us and since she is actually Polish, the ordering went a lot smoother than it would have if we had attempted to order. Our Polish is still in need of some major practice! haha

I took the most pictures today that I have so far on the entire trip, so they'll pretty much explain the kind of day we had. Most of them are of churches-- which just happen to be my favorite part of traveling; they're always so beautiful. Each church is like a present, you never know what you will find inside. My favorite church has been the Dominican church. I took quite a few pictures of it the other day, but today a couple of the guys wanted to see it. They said we bragged about it so much that it couldn't possibly live up to the standards we had set-- they loved it! So, I took some more picture of things I couldn't get to the other day.

Three of us took a walk down to the old town because the weather was so beautiful tonight. Even at 9 o'clock there is still a golden sunset over the city. We got there and managed to get a few shots in before the sky broke loose. So, after one bus ride back to the closet bus stop and a mile walk back to the dorm I am now sitting here sopping wet on my bed. Nice visual, I know.

The weather hasn't been quite what we expected. It has rained quite a bit, which stinks since I forgot to pack an umbrella and keep forgetting to buy one. On the days that it rains the temperature is perfect! It's 70* with no humidity. But, most days it's just as hot as Statesboro minus the humidity. I guess I can't complain. We have a few perfect days, and those make up for all the rainy, boiling ones.

The pictures just finished uploading, so I guess I should start ending this e-mail. Sorry I haven't been writing captions on the pictures; I've been so tired when I sit down to do all of this every night that it's all I can do to upload pictures and write these e-mails. Love you all.

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06 July 2008


Dzien Dobry,

I feel as though I have thousands of images floating around in my mind, and I wish that I could use words to accurately describe them, but I cannot. How does one visit a place where so many people were systematically and ruthlessly murdered?

Today was a long, hard day. I am both physically and emotionally drained. I know that most most of you know the history of WWII and the atrocities that were committed against the Jews (and the Roma, Russian Soldiers, and Gays as well), but until you have visited those places in which these horrid acts were carried out you can never truly understand.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is situated outside of a thriving Polish town that once had an extremely large Jewish population, and are actually two different concentration-death camps located about 2KM from each other. These two camps were the worst and largest in all of Europe, and are the sites of the largest systematic extermination of peoples that the world has ever seen. Auschwitz, many may recognize it from the main gate which reads: "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Will Set You Free). This camp started as a work camp only, but eventually it was the place where the very first gas chambers and crematoriums were built and used. The Germans then built bigger gas chambers and crematoriums inside of Birkenau when they discovered how much more efficient it was to exterminate the Jews this way. In Birkenau, up to 1,500 Jews could be executed at a time once placed within the gas chambers. Their bodies were then taken to the crematorium to be burned. Oftentimes, so many were killed daily that the German soldiers would gather up the bodies and throw them into huge pits in the ground. When you look at my pictures this can be seen in each of the pictures I took where a green lake is present. The ashes from the bodies causes the "lakes" to remain eternally green, and the area around them is extremely fertile ground. Two days before the camps were liberated the Germans destroyed the gas chambers and crematoriums, so the ruins in my pictures are what is left of these facilities. I also feel that I should add the sizes of these two camps: Auschwitz was 15 acres and Birkenau was 300 acres. Maybe that will give you some idea as to the vastness of Birkenau and how many people it was designed to hold and ultimately kill.

There is so much to tell, but I cannot fully express it in e-mail form. The sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau were truly moving places. Just to step into the cells, baracks, and hospital where the infamous Dr. Mengele performed his experiments has forever changed my life. Some may think I am over exaggerating, but I suppose everyone will just have to see for themselves.

The pictures are posted, and if anyone has any specific questions about any of them I'd be happy to answer them.

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05 July 2008



Today was quite a change from the past few days. This was our only free weekend, so I guess they decided to just let us enjoy ourselves.

We went on a tour of the Jewish District which is referred to as Kazimierz. Kazimierz used to be a completely separate city from Krakow. After a great fire burned down part of Krakow, the once welcome Jews were forced by the king to move to Kazimierz. The cities grew so big that eventually they both merged. The Jews lived there until WWII when they were forced by the Germans to move over the bridge to the ghetto, or taken to concentration camps. Most of the citizens from Kazimierz were never actually sent to Auschwitz. Just an FYI. Today and tomorrow are the last days of the Jewish Festival that goes on here every year. Tonight they had a huge concert with Jewish bands and musicians, some of whom were even flown in from Israel. Many people flocked to the area, and we met a lot of Jewish people who had flown in from America for the week.

Four of us girls actually spent most of the afternoon at a small Italian restaurant in the square listening to the music and befriending a British and a Scottish guy. They loved my accent, and kept asking me questions so that I would have to repeatedly say "y'all". I love that it's so easy to meet new people over here. It's such a different culture. And, despite the fact that I will never see those guys again, I feel like it was part of this whole experience. Meeting new people from different cultures and learning about each other. Brilliant! (as they would say)

Tomorrow we go to Auschwitz-Birkenau for what, I am sure, will be the most somber and life-changing experience of this entire trip. So, I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about and tons of pictures for everyone tomorrow afternoon (your time). I'm going to bed now.

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04 July 2008

P.S., I Love Y'all

today was SO much better than the past two days. We had our first day of class, which seems like it will be really interesting. None of the buildings here are air conditioned, so that means our class room isn't air conditioned, and the Professor talked without the lights on the whole time. Classes are two and a half hours long, and at halfway through he put a video in about Medieval Jewish history in Poland. The video was subtitled in Hebrew, Polish, and German. It's pretty bad when you are excited to hear German because it's a language you actually understand. To sum it up: lack of air conditioning + no lights + foreign language overload= naptime.

Class got out at 12:00 and Sarah, Liz, and I ate McDonalds to celebrate the fourth. We ate desert at an amazing cafe' on the main square. I even ordered in Polish! It's the first time I tried to speak the language and the waitress didn't laugh at me(even when I broke out the phrase book because I couldn't remember the correct pronunciation of a word)! Przepraszam. I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of the language, at least a little bit.

After our fabulous deserts we spent the rest of the day walking around the entire city. We saw some amazing cathedrals (I think we actually spent two hours in one; it was so beautiful we didn't want to leave), walked to the Vistula River, and the Jewish district Kazimierz. All of the pictures I took have been uploaded to Picasa, and I'll put the link at the bottom of the email like I did last time.

I wish the I could have put everyone in my suitcase and brought them with me-- no amount of pictures or e-mails can describe the beauty of this place. I'm still in awe of the fact that I was blessed with the opportunity to come here and study.

Tomorrow we'll spend the day touring Kazimierz with and actual tour guide, so I'm sure I'll have plenty more pictures to share.

I really appreciate every writing back! It's nice to know that people are actually interested in reading all of this stuff I write. I'm sorry I haven't replied, but I barely have time to write these e-mails and upload pictures. Our days are filled with lots of food, history, and walking. A girl can't complain. These ten+ hour days of walking and minimum food are certainly grueling, but I can't say that I won't be in shape when I return. LOL I'll e-mail tomorrow!

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Oh, Miles of Walking

Dobry Wieczor,

I can officially say that I have NEVER walked as much in my entire life as I did today. I think the Pols are trying to prove once and for all that Americans are lazy. Well, they succeeded. Most people spent the entire day whining about all the walking, which did include lots of stairs, hills, and cobblestones. Despite the excessive walking and the fact that today at dinner was the first time in three days I've had one full meal (I guess those jean shorts that I brought will fit after all), Krakow is a beautiful city! I got some amazing pictures, and saw some beautiful churches.

We went to the school today where we will be studying, and found out that they've had some problems with the teacher who is supposed to be teaching our Jews in Poland class. So, they had to rearrange the schedule. They also told us that prices for our bus passes went up, so we thought we were going to have to walk an hour to school everyday, but thankfully they are working on this situation. You can definately tell that we are the guinea pig group for this trip.

We had our first Polish Culture and Language quiz today, but Dr. Wellford was so tired and fed up with all the walking, bus, and scheduling problems that he pretty much just gave us the answers. So, I suppose something good did come out of today.

Tomorrow is our first actual day of class, and we all (the students) decided that the best way to deal with everything was to make the trip back to Jagiellonian together. Getting there is easier said than done, so I imagine we'll be leaving an hour early for our 9:30 class. We're all a little stressed about it-- we have an eight page paper to write and TONS of reading. But, we're in a beautiful city, so I suppose I can take the trade off.

Here is the link to the website where I uploaded the first set of Poland photos. They're not great, but I haven't had time to really stand around and take many pictures. Too much walking!

Sorry this e-mail was so whiny. I think I speak for the entire group when I say that it was a very trying day. And despite all of my protests, being in Europe is WONDERFUL!!! Love you all!

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First Day

Dzien' Dobry! (That means hey y'all in Polish...)
We made it safe and sound to Krakow (or Cracow as they spell it here) after three long and very grueling plane trips. The Chicago airport is absolutely awful and don't even get me started on the 2 propeller plane that we had to take (there was no air conditioning) from Warsaw to Krakow. I think it's probably a good thing that the breakfast they gave us on the plane was inedible, cause otherwise I might have had to use that lovely white bag they provided. It's 5:43 p.m. here and I am so ready to go to bed, but they told us to wait until around 9 o'clock so that we could "reset our internal clocks".
The drive into Krakow from the airport was amazing; it sort of reminded me of driving around the Tuscan countryside. We also caught a glimpse of Wawel Castle, which we'll get to see tomorrow when we get up bright and early for a 9:12 (yes, 9:12; crazy Polish people, what's wrong with 9:15????) tour of the city. So, all in all, it has been a good first few hours. I'm a little stressed at my lack of knowledge of the Polish language, but I'm working on it.
On a closing note, y'all know I can't go anywhere without embarrassing myself, so here goes:
My roommate and I went to the grocery store next to our dorm to buy some food (they food they serve in the cafeteria is pretty gross, so I imagine I'll be losing some weight), and we walked around and picked up a few heavy bottles of water. We decided that a shopping cart would probably be a good idea, but we could not figure out where everyone was getting them from. We finally found them hidden in a dispenser in the corner (you have to pay 2 zloty to get it out), and we didn't have any change. So, this Polish guy who spoke NO English was trying to help us, but we couldn't figure out a word he was saying. He finally gave up and started laughing at us, then walked off. This might not seem embarrassing, but trust me, it was.
I love everyone, and I'm so glad that I have people who care enough about me to listen to my crazy stories and adventures over the next five weeks. I can tell that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime (if only our dorms were air conditioned). I'll write more soon, and I promise next time there will be pictures. If you can believe it, I haven't taken any yet...

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03 July 2008


I am so dead tired from all this walking. The end.

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