Arbeit nicht macht frei.
Never, ever forget the
Lessons of this place.

While all of you at home were celebrating freedom with fireworks and beer, I had the opportunity to (read: couldn't help but) think about what freedom really means. I hope that everyone who reads this takes time in his or her life to visit the concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau in Oświęcim, Polska. It's hard to think about the fact that I walked through rooms where hundreds of thousands of people died. I'm not a child of the war by any means; I was born more than 40 years after it ended, and as far as I know no one in my family was directly affected by it. I grew up in the US, I'm not Jewish... but that was probably the most terrifying place I've ever been to in my entire life. I don't really feel I can say anything else except, "go."

...Other than that, Kraków was pretty neat. There's a church there that has a tall tower with a clock (surprise, I know), but on every hour for 600 years there's been a bugler at the top who plays a tune. Kinda weird. There's also a huge mall, including a movie theatre currently playing Transformers (in Polish) and a McDonalds.

Poland is really cheap. They use a currency called the zloty, and they're about 4:1 on the euro and 3:1 on the US dollar. Alex and I went out for a nice dinner in the Jewish quarter of the city, and it cost about 100 PLN (that's the abbreviation for zloty) for the two of us. The train trip to Oświęcim from Kraków was 16 PLN roundtrip... though I would've been pissed if it had been more, mainly because the trains in Poland are ridiculously slow. I took a video, which I'll put up later today (theoretically) of just how absurd it was. Oświęcim is about 50 km from Kraków, and the ride was roughly 2 hours. On the express train.

That was okay, though, because we got a chance to meet some kids from Croatia. They were nice, and I actually don't think I'd met anyone from there before. One of them told a pretty excellent story about how he'd gone out and gotten trashed then woken up with a Swedish girl's business card in his pocket. We also got to admire several random Polish people alongside the train tracks who were notably underclad and gathered around bonfires. Oh, random.

The hostel that we stayed in was, you know, pretty nice, but the stay there was totally rockin', mainly because of the people. There was a man who we decided was probably God in disguise who took it as his onus to ensure everyone got where he needed to be. The morning we were leaving, there was a cadre of rather hungover boys in the same dorm room as we three (me, Alex, and God), and he basically threw them out of bed and told them to "get their shit together." He informed me that I was manic, and Alex that he was in the army. He gave us advice on every aspect of life, and he seemed to have been everywhere and to know everything. It was sort of ridiculous.

Total cost for the weekend? Under 50 euro, including hostel. Awesome.

I really want to go back to Poland someday, I think. We didn't get a chance to see the famed salt mines; time was too tight on Sunday morning when we had to go catch our flights. It won't be for a while, though. I need a bit more time to recover.


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