An Emotional Visit to Auschwitz

On March 18th, 2016, I went to Auschwitz a concentration camp in Poland. The experience of visiting this concentration camp opened a door that showed the un-beautiful and evil side of humanity. I still can’t believe how recent the crimes that took place here happened. It was nearly 71 years ago when Auschwitz closed on January 27, 1945. The Red Army (the Soviets) liberated the prisoners of Auschwitz. I’ve read a lot on this topic.    Plus, I’ve watched many documentaries about World War II and Auschwitz. I have learned a lot, but all the learning I have done didn’t prepare me emotionally for my visit.  There isn’t anyway to emotionally prepare for a visit to Auschwitz. The emotions one will experience will be dark, depressing, and just shock.

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I experienced all kinds of different emotions while at Auschwitz. I was mainly in a state of shock during my visit. It’s one thing to watch or read about Auschwitz, but to be present at the crime scene where such evil was committed is a totally different level of emotion and realism. I couldn’t believe around nearly 1.1 million people were murdered at this concentration camp at the hands of the Nazis. It’s a massive camp with smaller sister camps nearby. For me two exhibits set everything into reality: the room with all the shoes and the room with women’s hair of the murdered victims.The hair and shoes once belonged to a living person. A person with a name and life story that disappeared from this Earth in less than two hours to ash. No more and lost to time. GONE. To think this happened is a very eerie feeling and bone chilling.

All the torn and dusty objects on display still can’t help someone comprehend the large scale, for the mass destruction that took place at Auschwitz is unfathomable. One in six Jews who died in the Holocaust were murdered here, and more people died here than the British  and American lives lost during World War II combined. The life lost here is the highest in the history of mankind. It’s so high that I had a hard time trying to imagine the people lost. It’s impossible.

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As I was touring Auschwitz, I felt a heavy emotion of sadness over come me. I felt this way the whole time as I was walking around the concentration camp. This heavy emotion was like a dark rain cloud above me. Kinda of like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh with his little rain cloud that follows him around in the cartoon series. I can’t remember another time in my life where I felt such strong heartache and misery at one time. These emotions were deeper than spells of depression I have experienced in my life. When I was in my late teens to my early 20s, I had some very dark spells of depression that I had to wrestle through. It’s hard to describe such senses in writing. To feel these depressing emotions and to fully understand what I am explaining, one needs to make the trip to Auschwitz.

Many people call Auschwitz a museum, but to me it is more than a museum or memorial. It’s a cemetery to those who were murdered by the Nazis. There are no individual tombstones marking every single victim killed, but there are building remains from 1940-1945 and memorials setup as reminders of what happened to all the victims. The victims’ ashes were thrown in the nearby river or placed on the soil.

Going to Auschwitz is a form of paying your respects to the victims of the Holocaust and remembering the evil that was committed there. As mankind as a whole, we mustn’t forget these evil crimes committed. We need to remember what happened and never repeat such crimes. If we forget, we have set a destiny of repeating such tragic and horrendous crimes again to our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race.

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One thing that really annoyed me while I was at Auschwitz was the lack of respect had people had for this place. I saw a lot of people taken selfies with selfie sticks. Let me ask. Would you take a selfie with a dead loved one in their casket? The answer is probably no.I think it’s unacceptable to take selfies with selfie sticks at such a place.

I recall seeing people taking selfies with the entrance gate with the famous words Arbeit Macht Frei sign. Just made me sick seeing people take these pictures. Another incident was a person climbing over a chained off area to get a selfie with the remains of one of the crematoriums. Absolutely totally no respect for the victims of the Holocaust. Seeing people have no respect, made my stomach twist and turn. I was very sick seeing these people take out a selfie sticks and take pictures at Auschwitz. I definitely believe selfie stick should be banned at this location because it is a cemetery and memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

I do realize that humans react differently to events, stories, and ect. However, I still believe many people would experience the same kind of emotions I described above. I just do not understand how people could think it’s a great idea to take a selfie with the remains of a crematorium where innocent peoples’ corpses where burned and turned to ash. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think it’s very disrespectful to take pictures of this nature here.This was the only thing that made me very upset about others at this concentration camp. This is my only complaint. Now on to why everyone should visit Auschwitz.

I believe everyone should make the trip to Auschwitz. Why? Auschwitz shows mankind how evil and dark the human race has been. It’s an important reminder that humankind mustn’t tread in those waters again. Seeing Auschwitz shows the soul the dark side of human nature that is possible if one is allowed to do such horrid acts against their fellow brothers and sisters of the human race. We mustn’t forget where we have come from because if we forget we are doomed to repeat such atrocious acts. History can and will repeat itself, so it is our duty to be educated about the events of the past and not to forget what mankind has done.

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After this trip, I feel that I am better human because I have seen the remains of what happened at Auschwitz. Going to Auschwitz has been on the major life changing highlights of my life.  I am aware of the dark side of humankind and how this evil can act towards fellow humans. I pray we never enter this realm again. We must never forget what happened during the Holocaust.

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Stockholm on the Cheap Side

Most travellers I have encountered, will say that going to Scandinavia is very expensive compared to Eastern Europe. I will agree that Scandinavia is very expensive, but a two day trip to Stockholm is more affordable than one would think. There are many tricks to keeping a two day holiday to Stockholm on the side of affordable.

First of all, I stayed a hostel in the city centre on the main island called Gamla Stan (Old Town). Seriously, it was worth sacrificing some privacy to have more money to spend on things like transport, museum admission, food, and souvenirs.  I spent close to €60.00 for two nights for the hostel. I spent about €30.00 for 2 days worth of food, student admission to the Vasa Museum €10.oo, street food €10.00, tip for the walking tour €3.00, admission to the Swedish History Museum €0.00, and 3 transport cards €8.00, roundtrip to and from the airport by coach €15.00, and €25.00 on souvenirs. That’s a total of €160.00 for two days in Stockholm, Sweden. I think that’s not too bad for a very expensive city in Europe.

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Stockholm is affordably if you buy food at the grocery store and cook mostly at your hostel.  If you want to eat out in Stockholm for cheap, forget looking at any of the menus placed outside the restaurants in Gamla Stan you will become shocked with the price. A low costing meal in this area will be about 200 Swedish Krona = Euros €21.54 for a basic lunch (sandwich and crisps) without a drink. It’s best to eat at your accommodation or pack your lunch for your day of exploring.

Another way to eat out and not feel the burn in your wallet is to buy a hotdog or a doner kebab at a food stall on the street. Hotdogs or a doner kebabs should cost around 79- 120 Swedish Krona=  €8.51- €12.92 Euros. Not too bad for someone else preparing your food, but the bottom line is that food and drinks are super expensive in Stockholm.

During my time in Stockholm, I did not order alcoholic drinks at all. Going out in Stockholm is super expensive, so if you want to save money don’t go out here and save going out for another city that’s cheaper. Maybe Lisbon? Bucharest? Prague? Krakow? Super cheap compared to Stockholm.

Attractions in this city can be expensive too, so research and pick wisely what you want to do. I went to two museums the Vasa Museum and the Swedish History Museum. The Vasa Museum houses a preserved 17th century ship and artefacts from the ship wreck. Very nice museum to visit. The Swedish History Museum gave me a lot of insight about the history of Sweden. Plus, it’s free to visit and a five minute walk from the Vasa Museum.  I love museums and history. I believe both museums are worth seeing.

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I explored the Old Town by myself. The best way to describe the Old Town is that it’s a glorious labyrinth of charming cobbled streets, alleyways, faded mustard and rust coloured town houses and meeting squares reflecting north German architecture. I love the Old Town because of how old it is, the small cobbled streets, and the architecture. I went to the royal palace, the German Church,  the world’s oldest bank, the Nobel Prize Museum, and many other highlights. I still find it hard to believe that the Old Town was once considered the slum of Stockholm (from mid 19th-20th century)  and how it is now a highly sought after address.

I went on a free walking tour too. I love free walking tours because you tip based on what you think the tour was worth to you. Plus, your tour guide usually is a local and keeps you entertained for the duration of the walking tour. Usually, the tour guide has a lot of information about the city he/she is guiding you around in.  I had a lovely guide that was a student and showed us a lot of major highlights that I would have never learned important facts about these spots on my own. He was great because he was very entertaining and had a lot to tell us about his hometown of Stockholm. Towards the end of the tour, he gave us great advice on affordable good coffee shops on Gamla Stan (old town) where all the locals go for coffee. Unfortunately, I did not have time to check out these coffee shops. I think getting coffee in the Old Town would have been lovely.  I always recommend free walking tours.

Stockholm by far is one of the safest European cities I have been to by myself. I can’t rave enough how safe I felt in Stockholm. I would defiantly recommend this city to any solo female traveller out there. I never felt that I was in danger of being  harmed or harassed. It was so nice to walk around the streets and feel comfortable.  There are other reasons why I love this city and want to go back someday.

Stockholm is a unique city because the city centre is built on 14 small islands on the Baltic Sea. I think Stockholm looks amazing in any season. I think it’s fascinating how you have to use ferries to get to some other parts of the city. Stockholm is a small city compared to Paris, London, or Barcelona.  According to my online search, there are around 909,976 people living in the municipality ,approximately 1.4 million in the urban area,and 2.2 million in the metropolitan area of Stockholm.

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I believe the city is very walkable, well connected, and easy to navigate. I did not get lost at all during my time in Stockholm. I will also note that my mobile phone’s SIM card was locked and so I didn’t have a working mobile for most of my holiday (I will write more about that experience in another blog). I knew my way around Stockholm in a couple hours after the free walking tour and just exploring on my own. Stockholm is amazing on foot or by ferry. I had a wonderful time exploring the city. I hope to return again in the future. When I return to Sweden, I want to get out of Stockholm and see Gothenburg and other places.