History, pirogi and zlotys: these are three words that describe the study trip that fourteen M&M students took to Kraków, Poland Mid-April. They visited the historical city and its surroundings to study the Jewish community, visit musea and enjoy the local cuisine of Polish/Jewish soul food. Cato Piek, a first-year student and member of Multi’s Travel Committee, wrote a travel report in which she managed to capture the essence of the trip.
“On Friday 12th of April, the M&M students met in front of the ‘Peerd of Ome Loeks’ statue and flew from Eindhoven to Krakow. The goal for the trip, apart from having fun, was for the students to have a better understanding of the Jewish community in Poland and the events of the Holocaust. In the evening, we arrived at the bizarre ‘goodbye Lenin’ hostel: a place that showed us the absurdity of communism ‘through colorful and optimistic glasses’. We played some games until we all crawled into bed after the long travel, we still had a full programme ahead of us.
The second day of our trip was dedicated to the Jewish community in Krakow, as Poland was home to the largest community of Jews for centuries. We kicked Saturday off with a 2 hour walking tour of the beautiful and old city centre. The tour ended at the most important church/castle of the city with a breathtaking view of the city. Luckily the weather was better than expected!
In the evening, we went to have dinner in the Jewish Quarter, which our hostel was also situated in, at a traditional Jewish Restaurant called ‘Once Upon a Time at Kazimierz’. Before the second world war, Kazimierz was a busy neighborhood, filled with small Polish and Jewish businesses. A long time after the devastation of the war, the town is now becoming popular again because of a renewed interest in Jewish culture.
The cuisine was amazing and the atmosphere even better. The restaurant resembled a museum more than it did a diner, and the antiques and knick-knacks, accompanied by Jewish music made it feel like we just walked into an early-20th century Jewish home.
Sunday was the most important day of our trip: we planned an 8 hour tour of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The tour through ex-working camp Auschwitz was led by a knowledgeable historian, who had dedicated most of his life to study the history of the camp. This lead to him telling us impressive personal stories of several survivors that he has been in close contact with.
The former barracks of the camp were transformed into various exhibitions on World War II. They led us to realise how many people suffered from the holocaust. The most imposing aspect was walking in the former gas chambers, were the temperature seemed to have dropped 10 degrees.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau, there was not much left to see (most was destroyed after the war to get rid of evidence). We were all impressed by the size of the camp, the chimneys reached as far as we could see. Our guide emphasised that the most important thing to take away from the tour is not how horrible the events were, but that we should look at humankind and ourselves to make sure that this does not happen again. He conveyed how important it was that we payed respect to the camp and its history.
While we were looking at a couple taking ‘funny’ pictures on the train tracks, he mentioned how often he saw this happen. The realization that Auschwitz often is seen as a ‘tourist attraction’ gave us a lot to think about during a quiet and reflective bus tour back to the hostel.
After people had the time to give all the impressions a space, we went to dinner at ‘the spaghetti’ and the food was glorious. Even though we had an intense day, we were able to enjoy the last evening together.
On Monday morning, most people went to the city for a last look, buy some extra Pirogi (Polish dumplings, very tasty), before arriving safely in Groningen and back to ‘real life’.
This trip was interesting and mind-opening, it had the right combination of serious and fun aspects. We, as M&M students, got to know each other better, as well as the history of this wonderful country. It was a good way to finish block three, and hopefully gave the students extra motivation for the last block!”