A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: chrisvasil

Auschwitz

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Auschwitz is big. Actually the name of 3 main camps and 40 sub-camps, and we spent time at Auschwitz 1 and 2. To look at the Auschwitz 1 complex from the outside (and ignore the electrified barbed wire) one could assume it's a fancy suburban boarding school or some such, but one would be wrong.

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This is where the guy would decide if people look fit enough to go to the labour camp, or if they would go straight to the gas chambers. 3/4 didn't make the cut.
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Those that did generally lasted anywhere from a couple weeks to a year and a half, no longer than that. The wall with pictures and dates of entry and exit (to slaughter) is particularly harrowing.

They took everything from the people that got into the concentration camp, and mostly sent them back to Germany for use by civilians.

Here are glasses
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prosthetics
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shoes
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hair and textiles made from hair. There's a room (no pic) with hair about 3 ft high, 3 ft deep, 20 ft across, that was going to be made into textiles.
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May they rest in peace, and may similar atrocities never again take place
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One thing that struck me is that the exhibits and (mandatory) guides didn't seem objective, there seemed to be an anti-Nazi slant to descriptions. Now this is clearly justified given the context, but is in contrast what I was used to in museums and readings of history (which strive to appear neutral while often subtly communicating bias).

Auschwitz 2 is bigger, with capacity apparently for 200,000 people before part of the complex was burned to the ground by retreating Germans. This is where most of the killings took place.
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The original barracks were built as stables, meant to hold 52 horses, but converted to hold over 200 people.
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Posted by chrisvasil 12:37 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Kocise, Slovakia - SNP 65th anniversary in a small town

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Aug 29 - Kocise, Slovakia - SNP 65th anniversary in a small town

We wanted to go to Slovakia because my dad's family is from there, and reading through Lonely Planet nowhere else looked interesting (except Bratislava, but everyone that's been there thought it a waste of time). So to Kosice we went.

It's a great place - supremely walkable, with a lovely main street and the whole of the downtown being under 1x1 km in the lonely planet map - we initially missed a few spots because what seemed far on the map was 100m away. The main street is wide and seems to be pedestrian-only, and most of the attractions can be seen going up and down main street - very close together. The buildings are all old but well-maintained, there's a lot of character in the town. The town can be seen and everything done in a couple hours, and I would recommend it for anyone that will be in Eastern Europe.

We happenned to be there on the 65th anniversary of SNP day, when Slovakia revolted against Nazi rule, which had the advantage of hosting festivities but the drawback of almost everything being closed.

The festivity we saw involved a group of people singing Slovak songs
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A Soviet monument to people that died in and around SNP day
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The main cathedral
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Also on the main street.
In the background, another church. In the midground, the musical fountain -- they play music, and the fountain height changes with the music. Kind of like the visualization thing in Media Player, only it actually moves with the music. In the foreground, is Sue.
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Other side of the same church - there's a stream constantly going in the middle of the main street.
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The underground city, a series of underground tunnels that are a few hundred years old and were used for a combination of military purposes and sewage. Doesn't quite compare with the underground city we saw in Turkey (this one was a long hallway, that one was 4 stories down and labyrinthine), but it was well worth the 50 euro cents admission.
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A side street we took
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Try as I might, I couldn't get this guy to see my point of view. Oh well. Maybe I can charm him instead.
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This town has the best ice cream and cake store, Cukraren Aida - 70 euro cents for a big slice of cake, 30 for an ice cream cone. Needless to say we had several of each.
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Posted by chrisvasil 12:32 Archived in Slovakia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Budapest - like Vienna, only less so

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Budapest was a lovely city, but our experience there started on a rough note - we pulled in at 8pm without a hostel booked, and everything closes early there - tourist information and most things around the train station were closed by then. We ended up finding a super-cheap hostel right by the train station, but it wasn't great (the guy running the place was really jumpy, the shower I took was cold, no window in our room, room was connected to another room with a wall that didn't go to the ceiling, so it was loud). After checking in we tried to get dinner, but everything near the station was closed and the locals generally looked suspicious.

We started the following morning at the top, at Heroes Square and the park surrounding it.

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Then we went to the main area, B3 on the local map, near the Opera House. The was almost not at all mentioned in Lonely Planet Eastern Europe, whereas the local tourist information maps focus on it as the heart of the city. Lonely Planet loses this match.

Here's a fat guy in that area, next to a statue. The view is up Andressy St, a UNESCO world heritage site ending at Heroes Square.

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Budapest is cool because it's split in two parts (Buda, with the castle, and Pest, with everything else) by the Danube river, so walking along the river we can see the skyline to half the city, including

Buda Castle
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Parliament (basically a white Big Ben)
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The Four Seasons we didn't stay at
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and more
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In the castle complex (which was big, but with no dominating castle-shaped building) we saw an outdoor performance of Hungarian dances by young dancers,
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On the way home - here is St Stephens church by night -- that night was the bluest night sky I've seen, and it's captured fairly well (though a bit grainily) in this pic
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Posted by chrisvasil 16:33 Archived in Hungary Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Vienna - charming, old, and rich

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The overnight train Venice > Vienna was great (after a couple hours where there was no AC - but even that was ok since it meant no one wanted to sit in our car), seats reclined together to become beds, and we had a 6-seat compartment to ourselves, so we had a good night sleep.
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We started the day with breakfast at Trzesniewski, an open-faced sandwich place that Kafka (my favorite writer, if someone that reads as little as I is allowed a favorite) used to frequent. Most of the spreads are egg- or pickle-based, though there are several of herring or other stuff. It was amazing -- it tasted very, very similar to 'pain au fromage', a French-Canadian holiday dish.
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There are a lot of sculptures, old well-preserved buildings, and rich (or at least fancy) people in Vienna. It is incredibly pleasant, and amazing to me how almost every building in the city is beautiful - no city council in the last 200 years allowed ugly developments, and none of the buildings are abandoned or otherwise decrepit.
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Adornment at the top of a building
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The only broken-down building in the city
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Look away, we're hideous!
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Looking scruffy (and out of place amid the city's opulence) after 5 days without a proper shower (slept rail stn > ferry x2 > overnight train)
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Posted by chrisvasil 16:30 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Venice - A truly unique city

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Venice is a beautiful town, albeit a little touristy. Something like a quarter of the streets are canals, which makes it easy to get lost and makes the city very unique - definitely worth seeing.
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There were lots and lots of these papier mache mask stores, whose connection to Venice I don't know but which made me think of my aunt Marie, who has a few similar masks at her place.
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Most of the driving is done on boats, so that the main local bus lines and the taxis are boats rather than cars or buses, as are delivery trucks (we saw an electronics shop getting their merchandise delivered by boat)
Here is a taxi
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Here is a fruit stand on a boat - good way to save on rent I suppose
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There's a massive square with a cathedral and some old shops (now the rich people shopping district).
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Posted by chrisvasil 16:28 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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