Witamy to Poland!
A couple of weeks ago, I went on an API-sponsored excursion to the Polish city of Kraków. We took a night train embarking from Budapest and everyone was so excited since it reminded us of the Hogwarts Express train except with bunks in each cable car. Imagine a sleepover with a bunch of your friends on a train!
After the 7.5 hour train ride, we checked into our hotel and immediately went straight onto a walking tour of Kraków. According to legend, Kraków was founded on the slaying of a dragon so you can see dragons incorporated in some way, shape or form throughout the city. There is even a dragon statue near the river that breathes fire every several minutes. We toured sites like the historic Florian gate, St. Mary’s Basilica, Wawel Castle, and the huge Old Town square. We also got to visit the university where noted figures such as Nicholas Copernicus and Pope John Paul II attended!
That night, we had dinner with the API Kraków students at a really nice restaurant. It was awesome to meet them and bond over amazing Polish cuisine. It was interesting to learn that they were taking Polish language classes just like how we API Budapest students are learning Hungarian. What a great way to immerse yourself into your city’s culture.
Next morning, we all went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camps. Everyone was nervous about this part of the trip. It is so surreal to think that such heinous crimes happened there. For anyone hesitant about deciding to go, I say do it. You’ve read about it in your books, but it is another thing to be standing in the same spot that so many unfortunate people did. It is really an eye-opening experience.
Our last day in Kraków, we went on a crazy Communism tour. This was another major time in history that the Polish people had to endure and suffer. We drove to Nowa Huta, Stalin’s version of the perfect Communist town. We learned much about the Communist times and visited bomb shelters.
Before we left for the train, my friend and I really wanted to visit Oskar Schindler’s factory so we made it happen! The factory- turned- museum was great in the way that it made learning about Schindler and his Jewish workers that he saved engaging. It was crazy how the museum paid so much attention to detail. Schindler was a great man and a savior to many Jews, whom he protected from the Nazis. I highly recommend visiting Schindler’s factory as it can end your trip on a positive note with the thought that many Jews did escape from the Nazis.
Big thanks to API for organizing this trip! I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. I never would have thought to check out Kraków, but I am so glad that I got this opportunity!
Quinn Kim is a student at California State University, Fullerton and an official API Blogger. Quinn is studying abroad with API in Budapest, Hungary.