Auschwitz

It has taken me a while to think about how to write about an experience as harrowing, as disturbing as Auschwitz. It was our 3rd day in Krakow, we had seen some beautiful things, tasted some amazing food and enjoyed some glorious weather, when we decided we were prepared for the camps.

Auschwitz is actually divided into three camps, one of which was bombed by the Americans and no trace of it remains. The original site remains and the second site is Auschwitz Birkenau, an extension of the camps.

The first camp was built on refurbished military grounds, in which they changed the interiors to barely usable facilities that would house Polish, Hungarian Jews, enemies of state and many others. From scattered straw on the grounds, to toilets that would barely hold the entire camp, it is a disturbing sight to imagine all those lives, all those people there.

We were shown things such as people’s hair, which was supposed to be sold for wigs but was kept and has over the years lost its colour; people’s belongings, such as pans, hair brushes, shoes, suitcases, things they believed they needed as they were told they would be going to work and somewhere else to live. They were lied to.

They showed us torture cells, cells that were 1 metre by 1 metre wide, with a door that came no higher than my knees and 4 people were forced to crawl into it and stand there together. With an area as small as that they had no place to sit, no light of day, no air. They were called the standing cells. They showed us rooms where they first tested the gas later used in gas chambers.

In Birkenau, the conditions were even worse, with the camp separating families, men from women, and even racial division, it felt a desolate barren place, where housing was made for barn animals and not for people.

Both sights were horrifying. Walking in I had mentally prepared for it to be awful, but never for the photos, the evidence, the markings on walls, the scent of desperation lingering on the walls, the faces of so many that walked through those doors and suffered those horrors. I wasn’t prepared to have such a vivid imagination, to see it all play out in my head. I feel I have no right to claim the suffering that was felt here, I have no connection to this history. I do, however, feel like many others a sense of longing for the lost lives. I wanted to come to Auschwitz to pay my respects for the horrible things that happened here in the past, the things these peoples endured because of the madness and ideas of a xenophobe and dictator. This puritan that only spoilt the world.

I took only two photos of Auschwitz, the two you see featured here. Both from the original camp, below you will see the kitchen barracks and above the entrance to the camp, which feature the infamous gates that read ‘work makes you free!’. A lie, a lie that was told to so many who thought that they could indeed buy their freedom, one day. A truly sickening sentence for a despicable place and man that deceived so many people and convinced many more that what he was doing and propelling was the correct thing to do. What I saw will forever be etched into my mind, no photos are necessary as the memory will live vividly in me and the odour still follows me to certain places.

I can’t, my dear readers, describe to you in any more detail the horrible sight that I feel the whole world should come and see. It is truly a place to behold and take in, one aspect at the time, for that is the only way you will survive such a treacherous place, and even though you cannot understand fully the horrors that were here committed, the idea of it alone makes mt blood boil, nails curl and skin crawl. The pits of my stomach cry in agony for the pain that was inflicted in Auschwitz, but nothing could have, ironically, been more enlightening. A reminder of the madness that was committed during WWII that should serve as an example for the rest of the world, should they forget. I sincerely hope they do not forget and mistakes as such can never be performed again.

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Krakow, my new love

After my first African adventure ended early this year, I have been spending a lot of time getting to know Europe. My second European trip took me to Krakow, Poland where I had an amazing time. First of all I visited the beautiful city with my mother on a strictly no boys allowed holiday, as we left behind our men we were able to soak up the polish treasure that is Krakow.

This is the first city I have been to where I didn’t see a shred of rubbish on the pavements, it seemed almost clinically clean at first, however it is warm and welcoming. With a smile at every corner, people invite you into their premises for traditional food without bombarding you with information. All drivers stop to let you cross, and even the trams stop! The buildings are colourful and bright welcoming facades urge you to enter their doors and discover more.

There is so much that can be said of this beautiful city and so much we will explore together. Its location and history are complicated and devastatingly sad, but in no person do you see a hint of anger. Most of our tour guides spoke of the history with, yes, a hint of sadness but there is no bitterness and no thirst for revenge or a desire to right their wrongs. It is taken as a recent and awful history that needs to be remembered and respected so as to not be repeated. This beautiful population takes it as an unfortunate past but don’t look at anyone with any malice. Stunning and inspiring, they have really changed my perspective and I respected the polish before, but now, after visiting places like Schindler’s factory and Auschwitz, they hold a special place in my heart where they have tugged its strings and filled me with humility and a great appreciation for life.

Krakow, my new love, before we break down my trip into segments and places, I have to devout some time into simply admiring your beauty and how much you moved me. More so than Berlin, Krakow sang to me a song of sorrow and regret, but also of survival and peace. I cannot tell you guys how much I hope you take some time to visit this diamond city, and discover its treasures and secrets. One of my top contenders and current favourites, it will take a really special city to knock the admiration I hold towards Krakow.

So before we get into the trip here are some photos to wet your palate, the posts on Krakow start now!

Happy reading, writing and travelling.

The Hungarian Parliament #Budapest

The Hungarian Parliament is one of the most stunning and architecturally breath taking buildings. The sheer details both in the exterior and interior of the building make it a truly magnificent landmark and it is time I share some of its history with you.

In 1873 Budapest was born, as a unity of 3 cities that reside in the banks of the Danube. To celebrate this momentous occasion the Hungarian parliament decided to launch a competition to build a new building that represented the sovereignty of the nation. Imre Steindl emerged victorious from this competition and the new Parliament began construction soon after.

The building which is of renaissance revival style, is a symmetrical façade with a central dome that features in its perfect centre, the Holy Crown of Hungary. The Holy Crown of Hungary is the only crown that has EVER been used by the entire monarchy of Hungary. For this reason it is heavily protected and you are not allowed to stand closer than 2 metres from the glass case around it or take photos. there are two guards that stand either side of the glass case and move their swords every 5 minutes. Every 15 minutes they do a full circle around the crown and say a few words and move their swords once more. Guards are changed every hour. We were told by the guide that it a pleasure and honour for them to protect the crown… I wish she had seen the look on the guards’ faces. However, it is beautiful and the room it is in, the central point of the entire building, holds statues of each monarch of the Hungarian monarchy before.

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Other fun facts about this phenomenal grand building, are that almost every column and wall is decorated with real gold leaves from around 3 metres and above. They have used around 40 kg of gold to cover the columns and leaves in the thinnest and most delicate sheets of gold.

The Parliament was built on Pest side of the river to show the strength and unity of the newly formed and established republican structure of the government in contrast to the monarchy which is demonstrated by the castle on Buda side.

I would definitely encourage everyone to visit. It is one of the priciest monuments to visit, but the experience is well worth the 4000FT. It is so fascinating to see the room in which the debates are held and the grandeur of it all, and yet it is somewhat simple at the same time and therefore a familiar sight. I was often conflicted between feeling amazed and feeling as if this was a place I knew really well. Steindl’s simple structure for the building also makes it easy to navigate and keep your bearings, whilst admiring the intricate decoration and extravagance. A must see.

Happy reading, writing and travelling!

Travelling when you have to save!

I am so excited as you all know I am currently organising and booking up loads of tours to go on a 3 month trip across Central and South America. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and the wheels are finally set in motion and it is happening at the very end of 2015, precisely the 31st of December when I embark on a New Year’s flight to a new world. All of my excitement was shared with you back in February when my request for a sabbatical at work was accepted – read about it here! However, now the reality of this entire adventure has dawned on me, and as I usually lead quite an adventurous and somewhat expensive life due to my constant need to experience culture, things have had to change a little bit.

This is a sacrifice I am not sad about making, I know that 10 months of hard work and saving are going to pay off by giving me one of the most enriching experiences of my life, but yet other things happen in life with which you also have to engage and accommodate your finances for. Here is the issue with saving for travelling when you already have travel to pay for. At the very start of the year I had already organised my trip to Budapest – which you are currently following on the blog – and my city break to Krakow which is coming in May. Then I can’t help it if friends of mine get engaged and decide to tie the knot in Norway, obviously this is going to be another trip! Unbeknownst to me this entire time that the sabbatical request was going to be approved! But as with everything in life, things come with expenses. On top of that we all have rent to pay, bills, cars to maintain, our mouths to feed and sometimes family’s and general things that pop out of nowhere so where does all this money come from?!

Do not think I am here to give you any form of advice, I am not. This is my first time attempting to save this ridiculous an amount of money in a short space of time to invest it all in one thing. This is a learning curve for me and it is something I want to share with all of you in the hopes that you will answer some questions as well, such as, HOW DO YOU DO IT?!

Here is my simple plan of cut offs and keeps for my monthly pay to cover all my travel expenses:

CUT OFFS

  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Unnecessary weekly date nights
  • Cinema – yes we all stream films accept it
  • Books
  • Concerts and festivals – sad reality but the trip outweighs my need to go to festivals this year! Save it for 2017
  • Unnecessary food – like cakes, who needs cake!
  • Weekend trips and hotels for no apparent reason other than I can
  • Theatre trips – this hurts my feelings

KEEPS

  • Petrol
  • Daily food
  • Rent
  • Car maintenance stuff – like insurance, need to be safe and legal
  • Gym
  • Bills
  • Phone Contract
  • Any replacement items or stuff that I will need for the trip, like lightweight hiking boots/shoes

I for one have decided I do not want to pay for my trip out of my savings, the 3 month sabbatical will be completely funded from my monthly pay check leaving my savings ready for when I want to move out – yes I pay rent to my parents. And this has been a fascinating exercise of control, because I am quite a lavish gift giver, and as I said I usually indulge in quite a few cultural events. However if I want to be able to go on another 2 trips this year – Krakow and Norway to go – and still be able to pay off my 3 month travelling adventure by October, something has to give. I feel it is only fair that I give up, or temporarily abstain myself from weekends of unnecessary but pleasurable experiences to give way to three months of a once in a lifetime experience.

Everyone I know has told me this is a solid move and good decision, as I will return from abroad prepared to turn 25 and really take my life by its reigns. Before a house, marriage, kids and a serious career come to play, I will get to experience something that many will have done and many will want to do. It is my time. I am hoping my endeavours to save will prove fruitful and successful but who knows.

My question and search for any advice continues, so tell me dear travelling community, how do you do it?

How do you travel while saving for future travels? How do you save so much money in so little time?

Happy reading, writing and travelling!

Away for Easter! #Budapest

The 5 or so days leading up to a trip are always a bit of a blur for me. I find myself googling names of buildings, their locations, marking maps, finding what events are on the city I am visiting, the top ten things to see, the obscure things to see, looking at weather reports every day, constantly to-ing and fro-ing between comfort and style for the wardrobe, printing tickets, booking forms, emails with hotels, sorting out currency and mostly not sleeping in the excitement of arriving to my destination. And so here I go, off tomorrow morning to Budapest!

I am so excited to visit this city, which has become iconic due to its thermal baths and fascinating history. I have wanted to visit for a while and finally I will be going and Easter should be a phenomenal experience as they hold an annual Easter festival at the Buda Castle. There is so much I want to find and I am told our 5 days are more than enough time to experience it all fully.

I am looking forward to then giving you all details on this trip, tips and advice, and sharing with you why this should definitely be at the top of your city break list, or not, who knows I could have an awful Hungarian experience but I somehow doubt that! I am equally excited to be sharing this trip with my cousin, she is 14 and for two years we have been plotting where I could take her on her first trip abroad without her parents.

So off I go first thing in the morning and I will be back next week I am sure with plenty of stories, photos, wanderlust and travel inspiration for you all.

For now my dear readers, wishes of the happiest and chocolatiest of Easter’s!

Happy reading, writing and travels!