We’ve spent the last 12 days travelling through 4 towns in 3 different countries. It’s been pretty laid back and we’ve taken most days as they come.
Our first stop was Warsaw in Poland and there wasn’t a whole lot for us to do there which was okay because we only had one full day there. We had booked train tickets online and the Polish Railway Company sent our tickets to our hotel. I felt really organised as all the tickets matched what we bought and the train stations were all close to our hotels so we could easily catch buses or trams to our hotels and save money. After our day in Warsaw we packed our bags and I worked out how to get to the train station – everything was fitting in well; check out was at 11am and our train was at 12.06pm so if we left straight after check out we would have plenty of time. We did that and were so relaxed once we got to Warsaw train station, why wouldn’t we be? we had half an hour before our train was due to depart. We put all of our bags down and I took our tickets over to the departures board to work out what platform we were on. I was staring at the board and found our train but the time was showing as 12.15pm so I figured that it was delayed slightly. Just to check it was ours I looked at our tickets… Turns out it wasn’t our train. Our train didn’t depart at 12.06pm like I thought, it departed at 10.30am ON the 12th June (12.06). Yep, we missed our train. Turns out I wasn’t as organised as I thought. Mark just laughed the entire time so while he stood with our bags laughing I was lining up to buy new tickets which cost close to 3x the original ones and we had to wait over an hour. We had no real option though, we needed to get to Krakow so we waited at the train station and had a sneaky cheeseburger from McDonalds.
The train to Krakow was really straight forward and as soon as we arrived in Krakow we immediately liked it so much better than Warsaw. It was a lot prettier and everything seemed to have so much more character to it. Our main reason for being in Krakow was to travel out to Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II Birkenau Concentration Camps which we did on our third day there (we lost a whole day after our train error in Warsaw). We didn’t book a guided tour out there and just booked entry tickets for the afternoon. Before we left we caught up with some friends from back home and it was so nice to talk to friends about what was news with them back in Melbourne and also to have honest conversations about our travels and theirs. There was no need for small talk and we could just hang out. After catching up with them for lunch we caught a bus out to Auschwitz I. The camp has been turned into a museum using the old buildings and structures and contains exhibits displaying the daily struggles and atrocities that took place there. Because we weren’t part of a guided tour we did a bit of research before we went so that we knew what we would encounter. I think for this reason we weren’t as shocked as a lot of people say they are when they visit but of course there were a few things that shook me. There were rooms filled with possessions that were taken from people when they arrived at the camp, there were barracks set up with the beds that the prisoners were forced to sleep in (often 3 to a bed), there were photos of the starvation that occurred but the one display that got me was the window full of human hair that was cut and shaved off bodies after being murdered in the gas chambers. The amount of hair that still remains is just unbelievable and to make things even more unbelievable there are mats in the same room that are created from human hair. Often, the hair that was cut off was later sold for a small price and was made into fabrics. After seeing this nothing shocked me and we left soon after to go to the Auschwitz II – Birkenau camp which is about 2km away and was built after the first and held and murdered more people. Not many of the buildings and structures still remain here but because we arrived at Auschwitz I later in the day it meant that by the time we got to Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the last of the daily guided tours were finishing up and there were only a hand full of people at the camp. We waited until the last shuttle bus back and it wasn’t until we were walking out of the camp that we realised we were the only people there besides the security guards. It was eerily quiet and we just stood for a moment looking down the train tracks and thought of the terrible things that happened there.
After visiting Auschwitz we were ready to leave Krakow and did so on a train to Prague. I celebrated my 24th birthday in Prague and did so by nearly getting a fine at the metro station, walking 10kms because we didn’t know if we should attempt to use the metro again and then avoiding all train stations because of an ‘incident’ at the main terminal. By late afternoon I wanted the day to be over so that I could try to ignore all the signs that showed just how terrible turning 24 was. I will admit it wasn’t all that terrible though. My beautiful younger brother created a slide show for me with messages from my whole family and some family and friends sent me video messages saying Happy Birthday. My family did also sing Happy Birthday to me over FaceTime, we had a cake and all – I just had to pretend to blow out the candles while someone else did it for me and they all got to eat cake while Mark and I watched. Months ago Mark and I had talked about how it looked like we wouldn’t be able to afford to go to New York for New Years Eve and I was pretty devastated but did look at the bigger picture, for my birthday though Mark decided that it was possible after all and bought us tickets to New York. And because Mark felt bad that my birthday wasn’t as spectacular as his birthday he bought me banana cake in bed for breakfast the next day and downloaded a birthday cake app so I could blow out candles after he sang Happy Birthday to me, he also let me spend the day booking accommodation for New Years and looking at all the things we could do there without complaining once. I then spent the afternoon at the hairdressers cutting off half of my hair. Okay, not half but a lot of it! We left Prague the next day for Budapest.
When we arrived in Budapest the city was a complete mess. Hungary had just drawn the night before in the Euro against Iceland so we could definitely tell the whole city had been celebrating. There were bottles, broken and whole, everywhere, along with piles of rubbish so we spent most of our first day in Budapest inside avoiding the remaining dirt and drunks. This probably wasn’t a good idea because we starting watching Orange is the New Black S4. By the end of our time in Budapest we had watched the complete 4th season which had me heart broken at the end but also hoping that the inmates at Litchfield would rally together. It is prison though so I guess they can’t all trust each other, they are criminals after all. It is also a TV show so I can’t go around pretending it’s real…
Getting to the airport in Budapest was just a normal occasion until we went to check in and apparently our reservation number didn’t match our e-ticket number. Now because all of this information was in the airline’s system you could just assume that it was their problem and fault and not ours, but unfortunately the staff at the airport kept saying we had changed it. The whole problem just seemed crazy to us because the website would let us check in online when we tried but their system wouldn’t allow us to print baggage tags nor register that we should have been on the flight. Of course all of this could be fixed if we just paid the airport staff to change it in their system. Mark did not like this answer but because we had no other choice we paid up just so we could get to London and I am writing this as we sit at the airport waiting for our slightly delayed flight. Ahhh the joys of budget travel.