My trip back to the United States began at 7:30 AM (Warsaw time, aka 12:30 AM Midwest time) on Friday, April 24th. Our group did our final museums and then our big group dinner. While Warsaw rained on us, it still didn't get us down.
Upon arriving back to the hotel, most of us stayed up. I showered and packed and returned to the lobby at 3:30 AM. It's now Saturday, April 25th in Warsaw (and only 8:30 PM on Friday in the Midwest). We were driven to the Warsaw airport and boarded a plane around 6:30 AM. I was so tired that I fell asleep before the flight attendant explained how your seat belt works and where the oxygen masks are located and woke up about half way through the flight to receive my complimentary glass of water and warm pretzel and then finally woke up as the door to the plane was opening and people were taking off their seatbelts. I didn't even feel us landing! Our group had a three hour layover in Berlin and then it was time to fly to Chicago.
I slept less on that flight; watched a few movies (can't go wrong with James Bond Skyfall) and started reading a part of Primo Levi's memoir (he was a survivor of Auschwitz).
So hello Chicago! It was about 12:30 and we had exactly an hour and a half to get through customs and security to make our flight to Cedar Rapids. Let's just say things got a little tight and I got to experience running through O'Hare and jumping most of the security line to get to our terminal.
The entire group made it on the flight and by 3 PM, I was safely back in Cedar Rapids. My good buddy Alison W. picked me up and drove me back to campus. I did a bit of unpacking, threw in a load of laundry, and caught up with my roommate, Millie. Alison and I went out to grab a frozen pizza and spent the night in my apartment catching up. We both got to bed early because we had a big Sunday.
If I wasn't crazy busy enough, after I return home from my international travels, I hopped into a car on Sunday to see Elise, my clarinet buddy and friend at Coe, get married in north western Iowa. Alison and I were buddies and made it there to see the ceremony and then eat and dance at the reception! It was a lovely time and we even snapped a photo of the Coe kids who were there:
Alison and I headed back to Coe on Sunday night. I got a few hours of sleep in and then went to class this morning. It was sort of weird seeing my group in Hickok Hall instead of the lobby of our hotel. We watched Downfall, a German made movie that shows the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich. It was a fascinating movie and after writing this blog post, I'm planning on doing some in-depth research about the movie and the criticism it received. I have the rest of this rainy Memorial Day off and hope to get some good work done. After a semester of working on NYPL's Veterans Oral History and after this May Term, Memorial Day looks a little different in my eyes. It becomes a more powerful day in my eyes and I thank all the veterans who gave their lives for our freedom.
I hope to crank out a few more blog posts this upcoming week. Keep reading!
Say it isn't so! It just seems we got settled in Warsaw and now I'm sitting in the hotel lobby waiting to leave for a plane back to Iowa.
Typical Hailley plan, the train ride to Warsaw was too pretty to ignore. I spent most of the three hour ride either admiring the green landscape or catching up on a few journal entries for the class. The weather was lovely on the train; if only it stayed that way when we arrived.
What has been great about this trip is that each city is very different from the others. Berlin was hip and had so many options for public transportation. Krakow was a bit touristy, had the small city feeling (despite the fact the population is 800,000), and was easy to navigate by foot. And then Warsaw. Definitely the most "Western," this city has high skyscrapers to dominate the landscape and a shopping mall right next to our hotel. Our hotel is WONDERFUL and we had numerous options for breakfast today.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. When we arrived in Warsaw, Professor Keenan's friend, Mary, met us at the train station. Mary has been living in Warsaw since September and has a pretty good grasp on the city. She walked us to our hotel (it was just a block away from the train station) and we were able to check out. Another guide named Greg met us in the lobby to take us on a walking tour of Jewish memorials in the city.
That's when it started raining on us. It wasn't horrible, but walking in the rain for four hours does start to grate on you. But nevertheless, there were still interesting memorials to see. Greg was great and knew a lot. Our night ended with dinner in the mall and ice cream.
Today we has our final two museums. First up was the Warsaw Rising Museum. This is dedicated to the city uprising in 1944. It was a fascinating museum and enjoyed by everyone in the group. This was another fairly interactive museum, which is a fan favorite. Since we loved our kebabs on this trip, that was lunch, and we ended our trip with a visit to the recently opened Polish Jewish Museum. The main exhibit isn't quite complete yet, so we were only able to tour the space and hear about what it will look like in a couple of months. We decided a May Term reunion trip was needed next May to go back! This museum details the past 1,000 of Jews living in Poland. The space is great and boy, do they have big plans.
Our final dinner was provided by the college and was made up of very authentic Polish food. It was several courses long and delicious. A great way to remember to the trip and spend time with the nine other students I've gotten to know.
I'll try to write more on the airplane to help fill in some of my gaps. But moral if this post: I've had a good trip and learned so much. The last two days in Warsaw were some of the best! Mother Nature can't keep me down!
As expected, this May Term has been amazing thus far. We have had several early days in Krakow and these long days of walking (and random rain showers) have tired me out. Add talking to my roommates Kelsey and Kallie each night before bed, and there leaves little time to blog! But tomorrow we are taking a train to Warsaw, the final leg of our journey. Our ride will be three hours long through the Polish countryside and that means it's time for Hailley to catch up on her journals and blogging!
So, since I don't want to keep you waiting forever, I'm including a brief recap of what I've seen the past two days. I'll go into more detail in the upcoming posts along with some additional posts about our group and the wonderful people we have met along the way.
On the 21st, aka Tuesday, the group went to Plaszow, a concentration camp outside of Krakow. Unlike Sachsenhausen, nothing remains at Plaszow. It's simply fields of grasses and the edge of the camp butts up to a local highway. There are a few memorials, some ruins, and a stunning statue made of stone from the local quarry. We then headed back to the city and saw a Jewish pharmacy that was crucial when the Krakow Ghetto was around. Our morning ended with a guided tour through the Schlinder Museum whose exhibit focuses on the Nazi occupation in Krakow. Our final destination for the day was the Galicia Museum and speaking with a Holocaust survivor. For dinner, Brian, Professor Keenan, and I had potatoes pancakes and walked around the city before grabbing some delicious Polish ice cream.
Then today was Auschwitz. It was an hour bus ride to the camp. We had a guided tour through both Auschwitz I and Birkenau (the site of five gas chambers and where most of the mass murdering occurred). A very moving and emotional tour which I'll go into more detail in another post. This concentration death camp is actually located right outside the city Oszwiecm. We saw the city and made a visit to the synagogue which is the oldest one still standing after Nazi occupation.
And there you have it! A brief overview so you know what I've been up too. So much more to come!
The group managed to get out of bed and out of the hotel by 6 AM. Julie, our Berlin guru and guide helped us back to the airport and then said goodbye. We kept telling her to hop on a plane to Krakow and she said she would have if she could have.
Our flight was only an hour long and suddenly, we were in Poland! Our new guru and guide, Ania, met us in the airport and a bus picked us up. We went to our hotel to check in and drop off our luggage and then it was off to explore Krakow.
The city is beautiful. It has a population of around 800,000 people and there are many students who attend universities scattered throughout Krakow. The most iconic section of the city is the marketplace. It's one huge square and you can most likely find anything there. What we found when we first arrived in the square was St. Mary's Basilica. It was built in the 14th century (woah!) and throughout the years has collected artifacts. It was a beautiful church and very colorful. We spent almost an hour in there, listening to Ania tell us more about the history and taking in the art.
Our exploration of Krakow took about 4 hours. Along the way we stopped for lunch and later ice cream. We visited a castle in one part of town as well as the Jewish quarter. I think everyone can agree that we prefer Krakow over Berlin. While Berlin was fun, Krakow calls to us in a different way.
Of course, four hours was a long time to be walking. Professor Keenan gave us a 45 minute break (lots of the guys took a nap) before going to diner. We decided to try the Polish cuisine which turned out to be an excellent choice. I opted for grilled chicken with tomatoes, cheese, rice, potatoes, and sauerkraut. Delicious.
This was our lightest day in terms of material. The day was simply ours to explore, which was nice. The next two days will cover some of our heaviest topics and conversations. While I'm looking forward to it, I also know it will be incredibly draining, both physically and mentally. I'm looking forward to a good nights sleep!
Unfortunately, today was our last full day in Berlin. We have an early flight to Krakow tomorrow and we have to leave the hotel at 5:50 AM. A little early!
After our typical breakfast, our tour guide for the day, Carlos, met us outside the hotel. Our destination was Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp used during the Holocaust. This was more of a labor camp and not a camp specifically designed for mass killing, like Auschwitz was. Still, between the years of 1936-1945, Sachsenhausen housed around 200,000 prisoners and tens of thousands of those prisoners perished. Carlos had done his masters thesis on this camp, so ideally he was the best guide we could have received.
At times, it was surreal to be in the camp. After the camp was liberated in 1945, it was still used as a Soviet detention camp until 1950. Then it sat vacant until East Berlin decided to turn it into a national memorial, with the "thesis," so to speak, being about the victory of anti-Fascism over Fascism. Finally, in 1993, the camp was changed into the memorial museum it is today. While most of the barracks were torn down over the years, several were rebuilt to house exhibits and then every torn down barrack is symbolized by a box of pebbles where the barrack once stood. I know myself and other members of the group spent a lot of time trying to visually what this camp looked like when all the buildings were up.
It was also a good thing we were use to walking because this museum uses a decentralized museum concept. The exhibits were scattered around the huge camp. Carlos took us around and I usually strayed because I was taking photos or reading the various plaques. I found the camp fascinating and enjoyed how the information was laid out. It was a tough camp to view and there were times I just couldn't breathe. The museum wasn't afraid to show gruesome photos and Carlos was willing to share lots of stories and facts he had learned while writing his thesis. This visit confirmed my thoughts on the importance of visiting places like that. A camp such as Sachsenhausen forces me to really look the Holocaust in the eye and try to really wrap my brain around the numbers and the victims. It forces me to ask questions and challenge my thinking.
Because on of my finals projects is a scrapbook, I've been taking more photos than usual. Most of them are on my camera, but I did manage to nab a few panoramas (remember the Lake District?!?). Here they are:
It was a long day and we left the museum around 2:30 PM. It was back on a train to the center of the city. We stopped at the New Synagogue, which was bombed and destroyed during the November Pogrom of 1938. Luckily, a local police officer was able to minimize damage, but nevertheless the synagogue was in tough shape after that night. Our visit was short and sweet.
At 5 PM, we had a tour scheduled. Our spot was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It's right smack dab in the middle of Berlin and surrounded by a lot of important German history. It's an abstract art piece, composed of 2,711 stelae, the Greek word for grave marker. Every stelae is different height and along with an uneven ground, it makes for a pretty spectacular memorial. Our guide explained the history behind this art and then allowed us time to explore. Once our exploring time was up, we had a brief group discussion before checking out the museum underneath the stelae.
The museum blew me out of the water. The narrative was focused on the escalation of the Holocaust and also tried to focus on the individuals who perished. Fourteen families were highlighted, along with countless video and brief oral histories, letters, poems, diary entries, and information on the Holocaust as a whole and the main extermination camps. What many of us forget that Auschwitz wasn't the only place where systematic killings occurred. There were seven other extermination camps throughout Poland that murdered Jews 1940-1945.
By this point, our group was very emotionally drained. We went to a gift shop nearby and lightened our moods by checking our cheesy "I love Berlin" items and then heading to a restaurant for doner kebabs (aka chicken and garlic sauce and lettuce in a pita). Delicious.
Well, better finish up my journal entries and packing so I'm ready to go bright and early tomorrow!
While we had been blessed with beautiful, warm weather, we weren't so lucky on Saturday. It was overcast and lightly drizzling throughout the day. My bright pink raincoat (the one I used in NYC) came in handy along with my backpack cover to keep my items safe.
Our first stop was the Topography of Terror. This is not a memorial, but a museum, as our tour guide was quick to point out. The building stands on what use to be the headquarters of the Gestapo and Secret Police (also known as the SS and it wasn't really secret). The point of the exhibit is to document what the perpetrators did during the Nazi reign and the consequences.
When you walk in, you're greeted with a white and slate gray floor and walls. You immediately feel chills and there is also a stateliness of the place. After checking our bags, our tour guide arrived to show us around. He was an excellent docent and we actually looked at the exhibit backwards. He was quick to point out the problems of photographs. We had to question who took the photograph and what was missing. He had us deeply analyze a photo of a mass killing and it was fascinating to watch the gears in everyone's heads turn.
The tour ended up being two hours long. While excellent, it didn't give us much chance to explore the exhibit on our own. We got about twenty minutes and I tried to take in as many photographs and documents as I could. The group reunited and we had lunch at Curry at the Wall. It was a hopping place, mainly used my tourists and I had the chance to try a curry wurst. Basically it's sausage with ketchup and curry powder. Tasty. It was still raining and so we ventured onward.
The group made a quick stop at Neue Wache. It's a statue of a mother and her dying solider son. This statue sits on top of a tomb of a forgotten solider and a victim of a concentration camp. It sits in a mostly enclosed area except for an open circle directly above the statue. We've been told that in the winter, snow falls on the statue and it's left like that. This site has been dedicated to the victims of tyranny and war.
Our final stop was the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The purpose was to see Diversity Destroyed, an 2013 exhibit about the Holocaust. This coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Nazi rise to power (1933). As well as this central exhibit, there are statues placed throughout the city. This exhibit reviewed much of the information we have already heavily discussed while in Berlin, but the valuable primary sources really excited me. Once our guide was done explaining things, we got the opportunity to view the rest of the museum.
The museum is to showcase German history. Once again, there was so much to cover. I was content with simply wandering and looking. This museum, architecture and feeling wise, felt like the Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, and the Met combined.
By this point, we were all tired and cold. Professor Keenan treated us to coffee and a treat at a local coffeeshop. We chatted about what impressed and disappointed us the most thus far and if we had any ideas about the topic of our final paper.
Warm and happy, it was back to our hotel to freshen up and then ate at an authentic German restaurant. Once full, we went back to the hotel to catch up on our journals and get some sleep.
It probably won't surprise you that I have been go-go-go since I've landed in Berlin. And once again, this post will be short and sweet. We have today (Saturday) and tomorrow in Berlin before we hop on an airplane for Krakow. I'm hoping on the plane ride I can write down some more posts and fill in the holes I know I'm leaving.
Anywho, yesterday we had breakfast in our hotel and then Julie arrived and we were off! Our first stop was the Jewish Memorial Berlin. The architecture of this building is particularly interesting and works well to evoke emotions and critical/deep thinking. This museum not only contained artifacts from the Holocaust, but also an extensive look of Jewish history. We only had two hours to explore, which definitely was not enough time. But of course, more on this later.
We nabbed lunch on the street (I had a falafel) and then headed to the Otto Weidt Museum. Weidt was the boss of a brush making company and mainly employed the deaf and blind. As WWII progressed, he became a safe haven for blind Jews and also illegally housed a few families in the various nooks and crannies of his house/factory. Unfortunately, most of his employees were taken away and put in Theresienstadt Ghetto, which was considered to be a "better" place to be, even though that was a lie. He did his best to smuggle in food and supplies to his workers through cleverly worded postcards. A few of his workers did survive and one particular survivor was the one who helped really get this museum off the ground (it originally started as a college project and not meant to last).
After that tour, it was on a train for about a half hour ride. Our final destination was the Wannsee Conference House and the spot most known for the "Final Solution" (the total destruction of the Jews). There we had the most informative and opinionated tour guide who did an amazing job. There were so many fascinating aspects of this museum. I had several favorite parts, but I most particularly liked listening to translated trial transcripts of Reinhard Heydrich, who took notes at this 90 minute meeting. I could have spent a lot of time there, but unfortunately, the museum was closing and we had to go.
The group took the train back and then split up for dinner. Most of us went to place nearby and then got to navigate transportation back to our hotel. Lucky for us, I love mass public transportation so despite not knowing much German, we got back safe and sound.
As you can read, another busy day. Need to grab breakfast before heading out again! Much more to come!!!!!
Hello readers! As I discovered in England last year, Internet is harder to come by in Europe. Add this to the fact that our group left Cedar Rapids on Wednesday around noon and arrived in Berlin at 7 AM on Thursday. But we didn't sleep and instead, roamed around Berlin, taking in the sites. Needless to say, we were all pretty tired last night.
While I have several great blog post titles and stories running through my head,I'll just give you a quick overview first. I'm writing this post in the Wifi lounge of my hotel and need to grab breakfast before we take off for more memorials at 9 AM Berlin time.
Yesterday, we got off the plane and met up with our guide, Julie. Brian and I got a little separated from the group (more to come but don't worry, we're all fine, and it's actually pretty funny now!) and then we checked in at our hotel.
From there, we grabbed breakfast at a place nearby and got to attempt some German. It's funny because I want to speak French and French phrases keep bouncing around in my head. Luckily, Julie was there to help us out.
We then met up with our tour guide, Rick, who took us on a three hour walking tour of some of the major memorial sites in central Berlin. We saw the Reichstag (the parliament building for the German government), the memorial to the Russian Soviets killed in WWII, especially during the Battle of Berlin (the final battle in Berlin in 1945), the Memorial to the Roma and Seniti, the Memorial to the Homosexuals, the location where Hitler's bunker once was and where he eventually killed himself, and the remains of the train station where Berlin Jews were taken and sent off to work camps, concentration camps, and death camps.
The group thanked Rick and returned to our hotel to freshen up before heading out for dinner. After dinner, Julie took us to an area with pieces of the Berlin Wall and lots of picture, text, audio, and visual pieces to help better understand what the Berlin Wall was all about. It was fantastic.
And there you have it, a brief overview. I'll try to write more later today with more information. But moral of this post: I'm safe in Berlin, having a good time, and learning a lot!!
Hello readers! I've returned to Cedar Rapids and man, does it feel good!
Yesterday, my dad, sister, and I made the trek to Coe just in time to see graduation. Mother Nature decided to only be windy yesterday so while it was a little chilly, the ceremony could still be outside, which was nice. So great to see so many familiar faces and many of them moving onto go do amazing things. Later that afternoon, I was able to move into some temporary summer housing since I'm taking off for Europe on Wednesday. Lucky for me, I get to stay in the same apartment I lived in this fall.
Today I had my first May Term class with our professor and the nine other students. It was a good first class and I'm ready to take off for Europe. Also made an appearance in Admissions and cannot wait to be there full time this summer!
More to come later this week! Get ready for another Hailley adventure!!!
Well hey there readers!
So I think I've finally settled back into Midwest life. I still walk across the street like a New Yorker and ache to ride a subway, but other than that, it feels good to be back in Wisconsin. I've made a few trips to Coe, my most recent one to attend the Leadership Convocation. It was nice to see so many familiar faces and celebrate all the great leadership we have on campus. President Phifer gave the keynote speech and stressed the importance of having a vision when being a leader. His message was moving and for me, a message that extends past my years at Coe to all my future endeavors.
AND, in TWO weeks, I'll be on a plane headed for Berlin! Woah, time seems to be FLYING by. Still working on my packing list. On top of that, I'm working on pulling the rest of my things together so I can move back to Coe. I am really excited for this summer and then my senior year!
I just wanted to check in, say hello, and let you know more regular blogging will begin once I'm back on campus and off to Europe.