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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Maputo, Africa

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Tofo section of my African adventure, well it now time to share with you my adventures through the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo.

A bit of historic background

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony that then became a Portuguese province and state of Portugal, finally gaining its independence in 1975. The country which is 9 years from celebrating its half a century anniversary of independence, continues to be working through its political circumstances and according to many locals, there is still a great disparity in conditions offered to both classes in society. In fact a class system is very much still in place which is sometimes quite an odd experience.

In architectural terms, it is like walking into 70’s Lisbon with a mix of modern buildings. Ruins everywhere, buildings falling apart at the seems, but always reminding you that it was a colonial area. It is absolutely a home away from home for me, it felt so familiar yet so distant from everything I know and love.

Museums

I had the chance to visit two beautiful museums whilst out there. Granted in London we have some of the biggest and most renowned museums, the National Art Gallery, the Tate, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, the Science Museum and I could go on and on until we have covered every nook and cranny of history and culture in the capital. However, nothing is more charming and original than the Art Museum in Maputo.

We are not allowed to take photos of any of the paintings inside, but it was stunning. Many of the paintings depicted the struggle and strife of the black community with dreary dark colours that made the spectator sense the suppression. Others were very bright and reminiscing of the colours of Africa, the bright and varied scheme depicting traditional scenes as well as modern African life. A small but truly fantastic and captivating selection of art.Below you can see a small selection of photos of its exterior.

I also got the opportunity to go to the Natural History museum, which I could completely recommend to everyone for the following 2 reasons:

  1. The ONLY museum in the world that shows the fetus progression of an elephant – with real fetuses
  2. The entire section of the museum which shows the development of Tribes in Mocambique. Honestly the most interesting section with real objects of their lives.

All the animals in the museum are stuffed, as in actually using their skin and skeleton, toes and teeth. It is a fascinating jungle to visit and learn about the species that roamed the Mozambican territory.

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Gardens

As I mentioned on my previous post about Tofo, I did not expect Mozambique to be such a green country. Naturally one of the things I enjoyed most during my stay was to roam to city gardens and get lost in their beauty. I got the opportunity to visit the Jardim Tunduru and the Jardim dos Namorados (lovers garden.) Note, do not go to the lovers gardens with two other couples, I found myself playing photographer for four hours and seriously considering jumping off the cliff in which the garden is located down to rocky seas below. The Jardim dos Namorados is also located close to the Miradouro – which is at the top of a cliff with a spectacular view of both the city and sea surrounding it.

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Historical Buildings

Aside from the museums, I always like to visit historical buildings. They often hold small exhibitions in these spaces that give you some context and sense of political history and how it has shaped the country you are currently visiting. Here are a few of the buildings I loved and would recommend you visit:

  1. Fortaleza – the fortress built by the Portuguese settlers. It is small but ripe with Portuguese influence and pieces of history. Canyons and ammunition galore as well. Also an awesome place for gorgeous views to the sea.
  2. Caminhos Ferreos de Maputo (CFM) – this building is STUNNING. It is the old railway, home to still some functioning train lines, but now mostly used for merchant lines rather than service lines. It has some old steam trains on display, a little history section and some awesome restaurants, check it out.
  3. A Casa de Metal – the metal house, one of 7 around the world by Gustave Eiffel, it is said that these buildings were all built and transported exactly as they are across the world. It is a tin house basically but it is very cool and again there is a small museum section that shares the history of the house itself as well as the city of Maputo – located next to the Tunduru Gardens
  4. Igreja da Polana – Polana church, very close to Feima (Feira de Maputo) it has a unique structure and it just a beautiful building. At night the light shines through its 8 axis of stained glass windows and it looks mesmerising.

Taking Africa home with you

If you are the sort of person who visits a place and absolutely has to take it home with you, you have to visit FEIMA, the arts and crafts fair with EVERYTHING Mozambique. I visited during the holiday period and felt it was only right to take presents home that were Mozambican themed, plus a batique or two (the paintings in tapestry that you see below) to hang on my walls. Our home is such an eclectic mixture of decorations as my parents and I are all globe trotters, that a bit of southern African artisan pieces fit very nicely.

GO TO MOZAMBIQUE

It is historical, it is gorgeous, green and full of inviting people. I think it was mostly made by the fact that I was surrounded with friends who are locals and knew exactly what they were talking about. I could not believe how little money I spent there, so in terms of a flight and visa it might cost a bit of money but staying in Mozambique and enjoying Mozambique to its fullest, eating out etc, it works out as a very accessible and cheap holiday full of opportunities for everyone to experience. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people and I don’t feel I got my complete fill of it. So I am already plotting my return in 2017/2018. Keep your eyes peeled for two more posts on Mozambique before I put this adventure behind me for a while and move on to the next travel adventure. 

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Mozambique – discovering Africa for the first time

So 2015 ended with a bang and 2016 started with one! I embarked on an awesome adventure to visit my best friend in Mozambique this year, so we could spend our 3rd consecutive New Year’s Eve together. (Now if that is not love, I do not know what is!)

After months of preparing to head over to the land down under, taking additional jabs (not as many as anticipated as apparently Asians have very similar diseases floating about) sending out visa requests, my passport going in a brown envelope with a ton of sellotape and me thinking it would never come back, mentally preparing myself to have hallucinations and daily sickness on malaria tablets (did not happen HOORAY!), packing and re-packing to consider winter to summer conditions, and trying to find clothes to suit the weather conditions considering it is UGG boots season in England. FINALLY I was ready!

So I boarded a plane, expecting nothing at all but an awesome time and warm weather. Instead, I had love affair with Mozambique.

Tofo, Inhambane

The first section of the trip took place about 10 hours after a 500 km drive up North… or further north in the southern region of the country… details.

There is not much to describe this place, but absolute paradise. It is hot, the cleanest whitest, softest sandy beaches, warm and wavey waters and not to mention the friendliest people ever. The music in Mozambique is amazing, and we were staying in a little backpackers inn, with live music and a club every day that really did just make you want to dance along. Other things that added to the atmosphere was the incredible amount of vegetation, lots of coconut trees and mangoes galore.

Fatima’s, the little backpackers inn, is a really cool quirky place to stay in, and the huts are awesome, but I would suggest going in one of the larger shared rooms as the huts are SO HOT in the morning, even with a fan switched on inside – not to mention these are definitely not sound proof, hello club music in my sleep!

Near Tofo we also had the opportunity to walk to other locations such as Tofinho, which is a small secluded beach with some rocky structures and a few more pebbles but otherwise continues to be the same, gorgeous water and picturesque view.

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In terms of costs, etc, getting here from Maputo is not so bad, Fatima’s has a shuttle bus that takes you straight there and it is 800 Meticais for the ticket, that is £12.30 for a 500 km ride. Take it. Food and drink costs nothing, but Fatima’s has kitchens so you can take a bunch of groceries and cook for yourself majority of the time which is a HELL of a lot cheaper. We found a place near by called Branko’s which had pizzas for 190 Mets – yes that works out at 3 quid for a HUGE thin crust fresh home made stone oven cooked pizza SO DO IT! and Here you can also try to eat the Bife na Pedra, which is stone cooked beef and it is truly divine. The rest of the time just eat as much fresh fruit as you can, because it is sweeter, bigger and nicer than in any European country, and forget your dreams of cheese, cheddar cheese, until you get back to Europe. Also, I would just accept the fact that you will swallow one or two microscopic ants, just don’t look, it is protein after all.

Aside from all the travelling details, the absolute highlight of this quick escape to the beach was getting to know this incredible group of people. My best friend is happy and I felt like I had spent a lifetime with these people, I felt like I was in a home away from home. I made a whole new family and group of friends that I hope to come and see again. I think that a huge part of travelling the world, in whatever terms you do it in, is that you have the opportunity to start affecting lives elsewhere, and see that your life is affected by these people too. I do not want to set these people aside or forget the amazing time I had with them, and I will keep in touch and I will see them again… in 2017/18 according to the best friend. Still, it is always good to come home to the loved ones, leaving little threads of your heart in other places in the world.

Going here was just beautiful and an absolute delight, a true place of relaxation. So today I leave you with photos of this beatiful side of the world, and in a few days, will you be ready to see Maputo? We will see!

Happy reading, writing and travelling!

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Discovery Friday – Sugarcane juice and Coconut water

So, this week’s Discovery Friday pays tribute to my very recent first ever trip to Africa. I had some amazing experiences out there, met amazing people and was faced with such a fascinating history and culture. Mozambique is truly a mess of a historical country, with so many outer, Asian and European influences bombarding it left right and centre, you are sometimes at a loss to where exactly you are. Still at its root, it is full of African charm, warmth and bright, colourful and happy people who make the experience ten times more than any European country I have been to so far.

For me, a true part of experiencing a country to its full potential is embedding yourself in the culture and THE FOOD! This includes drink too. So here is my discovery for this Friday, Sugarcane juice and coconut water. I already knew that these things existed, of course, but these are discoveries for me as they were a total first.

Sugarcane juice is officially one of the most refreshing naturally sweet drinks I have ever drank. It is honestly beautiful. When people talk about drinking from the pool of life the water that will you make you live eternally, this is what I imagine it would taste like, pure, refreshing, untainted, sweet life. I took some photos of the guy preparing it too, he cut canes and squeezed the juice out of every single one. And if you have a cold, like my friend did you can even add some lemon and ginger. Glorious! Try it!

The coconut water was also fantastic. I love coconut milk, but I despise the texture of the actual coconut fruit, so I do not eat it. This was my first time trying coconut water, straight from the coconut might I add. Those things are so heavy, I genuinely was amazed by how heavy it was, which explains why people get seriously hurt if a coconut falls on them. I was also surprised by how much water there is inside the coconut, it was delicious. It tastes something like a cross of light and nutty… is nutty an adjective ever applied to a coconut? I wonder what you guys think, if you have ever tried it please tell me your thoughts.

Happy Friday and until the next one!