In April I got the chance to spend seven days travelling to three different countries. First I visited Berlin with my class. Then from there myself and my housemate/ friend Kaitlyn (how are you my mans), travelled to Krakow in Poland and Prague in the Czech Republic.
I had the most incredible time and maybe this post will give you some inspiration of you’re looking for somewhere new to visit!
On our first day in Berlin we were brought to the Parliament building and the Berlin Gates. From there we did a short stroll to the Holocaust Memorial. The memorial represents all the Jews who perished in Europe during the war and is a chilling sight to see.
Made of concrete blocks, looking from afar they seem to be all the same height, but this is only a clever illusion. It’s only when you begin walking through the labyrinth of stone, that you realise the ground lifts into small hills and then dips back down. This means the blocks tower above you, taking with them most of the natural light. Walking around the maze can only be described as a chilling feeling, like you’re in a graveyard surrounded by tombs.
Our lecturers explained to us that a big issue with the memorial, is that it has become a tourist attraction. What comes with this is the problem of people taking selfies, others sitting on the blocks and some even jumping from block to block like it’s some kind of fun game.
While we were there I saw people doing all of the above. The representation of these blocks were infuriatingly lost on these strangers. They were literally, in my eyes, standing on peoples graves.
As I was in Berlin for a class trip, the days I was there was spent doing walking tours around the city. We learnt about Berlin’s creative industry and we also visited numerous art galleries.
I also had assignments that needed to be done while I there. One assignment involved the review of a temporary exhibition. I chose a photo gallery that I found named I Never Said Goodbye | Women in Exile. If you like, you can read my review on the art gallery here
My other article was an interview with the co-owner of PANKE, a café/ bar and music venue that “supports edgy creativity that happens away from mainstream culture.”
While in Berlin Kaitlyn arrived and we tried to pack in as much as we could, before we left for our next destination. We went to the Berlin Wall Memorial, somehow ended up in a Jerusalem museum and also saw the East Side Gallery (which was my personal highlight).
Done on a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall, the gallery consists of a series of murals that stretch across 1316 metres. The place is great for some really cool photos. The artwork also tells the story of the wall and the way it effected the lives of people living in Berlin at the time.
Out of the three places, Krakow was by far my favourite.
The city was like a fairy tale, which was something I hadn’t been expecting. Myself and Kaitlyn had booked Krakow with the intention of visiting Auschwitz, so I had no expectations for the city.
Krakow was more like a big town compared to a city. Coming from Berlin it was hard not to notice how relaxed everyone was. Even though there was quite a few tourists around, it didn’t feel busy or chaotic. Everyone’s pace was slow and content and it rubbed off on myself and Kaitlyn.
We had brunch in a gorgeous café called Camelot, that served great coffee and gave you a side of fresh fruit with your meal.
Something I didn’t know about Poland is that everything is dirt cheap. They use zloty as their currency and when converted to euro, the price difference can be crazy. I’ll give you an example. Myself and Kaitlyn stayed in a lovely hostel ran by an hilarious filthy mouthed lady. One night in the hostel cost around 22 zloty… or in our case 5 euro a night. These kind of crazy prices were everywhere we went. We were able to eat out for under eight euro (a student travellers dream!) One great restaurant I”d recommend is Glonojad which served very fresh vegan/vegetarian meals 🙂
We spent a lot of our time walking the grounds of the Wawel Castle, which was just enchanting. The castle is right by the river and on one of the evenings, Kaitlyn and I sat on the grassy banks and watched the sun setting.
The next day we visited Auschwitz. Visiting a concentration camp was something I’ve always felt like I needed to do. It’s not something that’s meant to be enjoyed but something that should be experienced.
The camp is about an hour and a half away from Krakow, with buses running regularly from the bus station. Myself and Kaitlyn booked a guided tour, though you are able to visit the museum for free.
The place is bleached of colour. Walking around the former concentration camp, under the bright sun, felt like a surreal contrast to the suffocating sadness. The term “death hung in the air” had honestly never felt so real.
Inside various buildings we saw images from the camp and were told stories of how the Nazi’s treated their victims. We were also brought into rooms that contained the belongings of the victims. I’ll say no more as I don’t want to give too much away, because I feel it’s important if you intend on going, to have a first hand experience.
The tour behind us was made up of a group of Unorthodox Jews, as they left the room we had just entered, they were silently weeping to each other. The sadness I felt for them ached my heart. I can’t even comprehend what it must have been like for them, to see how their ancestors suffered. Learning what really went on in the concentration camps up close is not an easy thing to do, but I highly recommend you visit Auschwitz if you go to Krakow.
Our last stop was Prague. My friend had done her Erasmus here a few years previous, so I was excited to see the city she had called home.
I hadn’t been expecting Prague to be filled with so many tourists. If I go again I think I’d stay away from the centre of the city and adventure further afield.
We only had a day and a half in Prague and because we heard only good things about organised pub crawls in the city, we decided to sign up for one. It was a very fun night and well worth doing if you visit Prague with friends.
The next day, feeling a little bit fragile, we explored the city. We made our way across the Charles Bridge which was full of performers, buskers and brightly coloured doves.
Then we made, what felt like, the very long ascent up the cities steep streets to the castle. Along the way we stopped at a little restaurant on the side of the street and sat in the sun eating our lunch. You know those little moments during a holiday, where you pause for a moment and think “this is a memory” ? This was one of them.
The view of the city from the castle was spectacular and was well worth the climb.
So far our travels had been drama free but of course something had to happen. The next day while heading home, I managed to miss the last two steps going to the metro and fall. I knew immediately that I had messed up my ankle because the pain was unbelievable. Within a few minutes it had already started swelling, but since I’ve broken my ankle before, I was pretty sure it wasn’t broken. After a lot of deep breathing and willing myself not to faint, I grabbed on to Kaitlyn and I hopped my way to the airport (there was no way I was missing our flight).
I’ll like to take a moment to give a massive shout out to Kaitlyn for acting as my crutch and for not rushing me in the slightest.
We got on the metro, the bus, went through security, got on the plane, landed in Eindhoven, got another bus, a train and finally another bus before we arrived back at our apartment. I was never so happy to be back in my own bed.
My ankle healed up after a week, and even though it had terrible swelling and hurt a lot, it thankfully wasn’t broken.
So, there you have it. My week of travelling around Europe. Have you been to any of these countries? Any place you’d recommend me visiting in the future?