Monday, July 6, 2009

Back Home!

This will be my last post for I am home. I would like to thank everyone for reading and to those of you that responded. Feedback is always great. I got home yesterday around 6. I needed some time to unwind and take care of some things before writing this last post.
Everything is still sinking in. I find myself thinking of my experiences and wish that I would have stayed longer to soak in the cities in which I visited. However it is nice to be home and I look forward to immersing myself into my studies and writing some excellent lesson plans for my students next year. I feel like I have so much to share. It is a question of condensing it all down and picking and choosing.
Some last things. The more I travel the more I realize that yes people are people. What I mean by that is no matter where you travel we as humans all have the same wants and desires. People are good at heart and want to help others. If it was not for the kindness, generosity and willingness of the people I met I would never have made it through Europe. There were many times that I felt powerless only to be lifted up by a kind stranger who showed me where to go or what train to take. That is why traveling has been so important to me. Not only do I gain a greater understanding of myself but it also reaffirms my faith in human beings.
Timothy Davis

Friday, July 3, 2009


They serenaded me upon my arrival to the castle. How did they know when I would be arriving?
Up at the castle overlooking the river.
That would be Wawel castle, symbol and place of pride for Poles.
Humongous square in Krakow. It is quite the place to just hang out and watch street performers.
The square at night
Street performer getting down. What you don't see is me jumping right after and showing him up. I have skills.
Entrance to Birkenau, enough said.
Killing wall where many people lost their lives.

Work will set you free? What a joke and insult.

After nearly three weeks of traveling in Europe it is about to come to an end. And let me tell you what a way to end the trip. I must admit after traveling in Hungary, Poland seems three notches above. I loved Budapest but I found the people sketchy and unwelcoming. Of course I am not saying this is how it is but this was my experience. As soon as I got to Poland their were young people welcoming off the train asking if I needed any assistance. I got this help from one man in Budapest but for the most part it was not this way. I immediately felt reassured when landing down in Poland. People here are amazing. Friendly, open, communicative, kind and interested in making your trip one to remember. If you have the chance visit Krakow. I of course had heard great things about Krakow. It is compared to Boston in the US. Well as some of you know Boston is my favorite American city. After visiting Krakow I now know that this is my favorite city. It is just absolutely gorgeous. I thought Lubeck, Schwerin, Heidelberg and Prague were incredible. Sorry but they take a back seat to this city. Not once have I felt safe or unwelcomed. I have walked around the whole city, or most of it, and not once did I get lost. A feat unto itself. The point I am trying to make is the city is well designed and easy to get around in. I am so happy after the ordeal of traveling through Hungary that I landed in a place like Krakow.

Yesterday as I mentioned I got in around nine. I walked around town for awhile got a cup of coffee and people watched. That is fun in itself. Now I know where I get my good looks from :)
I then headed off to Auschwitz which is about an hour and fifteen minuted drive from here. I went on a group tour that took us by bus and provided a guided tour with an expert. The whole tour was fantastic they show you a movie on your way and the guide was extremely informative. The movie was rather interesting on the way because it was about a Soviet cameraman that was one of the first to arrive at Auschwitz. His task was document visually the horrors of the camp. What was interesting was he said numerous times that it was the most horrific scenes he had scene during the war. Really? Of the war, what about your whole life. I sat their thinking to myself how could the Soviets come upon this camp see the sickness of this operation and then incorporate this practices in their gulags, torture chamber, interrogations and excecution rooms. I have a lot of mistrust of the Soviets as you can see. This issue I talked to with our Polish guide after our tour was through. Anyway, I digress. We first entered Auschwitz under the famous 'Work will set you free sign' that greeted deportees into Auschwitz. I really am in no mood to get into all the details about the experience as of now. I will just say this I have never felt so sickened and angry before. After spending two weeks in Germany I only think it is right that they feel ashamed for their transgressions during World War II. In fact they should be sickened for another thousand years. The actions by the German government and its people is one that in my mind can never be forgiven. We must not forget that not only did six million Jews die during this tragedy but many, many millions of others died during this horrific period known as the Holocaust. After Auschwitz we were taken to Birkenau right down the street. This camp was overwhelming. Acres upon acres of barricks. This was where the real killing took place. Auschwitz was originally setup for political dissidents, and Polish prisoners of war. Birkenau was established with the sole purpose of systematically killing millions of harmless people. 1 out of every 6 Jews was killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I will speak more about this later and if you have questions feel free to ask but even 24 hours later I am sick and angry. Never ever will I forget the scenes I saw yesterday and the emotions I felt.

This morning I got up early and walked around town to do some shopping. I left most of my luggage behind in Frankfurt so I needed to get some simple things. Socks, pair of shoes, Polish soccer jersey, gift for Sadie (niece), patch and magnet. You know my usual, ha. You would not believe how hard it is to get some socks around this place. Oh wait there was an adidas store across the street that I passed numerous times that had them. Logical place right, one would think to look there. I am looking in women department stores and high scale stores. Anyway I bought a new book to read while having a cup of coffee and lunch in the main square. I had a great time just chilling out reading this new book and enjoying the beautiful weather. This book is fascintating by the way it is called "The Mascot". It is about this Jewish boy, five years old, that escapes a mass murder in his town near Russia by running away. He lives in the woods for weeks by himself. Eventually gets found almost killed again and is adopted by a Latvian/German SS unit. To survive he does whatever it takes and becomes a member of one of the roving killing units. That is where I am at thus far, looking forward to reading more. After lunch I went up to the castle and checked that out. Rather impressive, especially the church which was rebuilt in 1364. Yeah that is rebuilt, it is originally from around 1000. Crazy history here. Fantastically charming city. Once again if you have a chance visit Krakow. Gotta run, dinner at the square with some reading then off to the train to hitch my ride back to Frankfurt. Till next time, bon voyage!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Budapest and the Journey to Krakow

Train station in the middle of nowhere where I finally hitched the ride to Krakow.
That would be me looking astonished. Don't worry I shaved today :)

t Gardens up near the castle. It was a beautiful day!
Kids playing soccer. Soccer is huge over here, it is played everywhere.
Up near the castle, overlooking the Danube and Chain bridge.

Buda castle. which is being restored or renovated. Pretty cool

Soviet theme, many Hungarians were sent to the gulags or forced labor camps. Sad chapter in Hungarian history.
The many people that lost their lives during the Soviet takeover. Grim reality!

Wow! I have finally arrived in Krakow, never thought I would get here, that is a story in itself. I have certainly learned a lot about myself in the last few days. I am a lot more resilient than I give myself credit for.
Alright first to yesterday morning in Budapest. I woke up early and had some breakfast at the hostel. The hostel was another great place, absolutely great service, clean and welcoming. I am very happy thus far with my choices as far as the hostels are concerned. I headed out to the terror museum in Budapest. I read about in Rick Steves book so I figured it was worth seeing. Also I needed to learn more about Hungary and its role in World War 2 and the communist era. The museum was a very sombering experience that really reaffirmed how terrible life was during the Soviet era. The thousands of people that lost their lives just for speaking out is a reminder to me that we need to be thankful for living the US. The Hungarians suffered a lot, however some of the their population contributed to the suffering. The museum was a great museum but sad. At the end of the tour they take you down into the cellar which are recreated prison cells, beating rooms and torture chambers. Each room has many pictures showing the people that lost their lives in rooms just like those. Somber to say the least. After the museum I decided to head to Buda castle, which is not much of a castle. However it does have some of the remaining structure and provides amazing views of the city. I took the metro up there then began my workout of walking for hours. First I had to walk up the hill then I walked all around the city. It was a nice day so I enjoyed the exercise and the sun. I saw a lot by foot and got better with finding my way around town. One thing that disturbed me was coming upon a fenced in area with policemen. Well I get my camera out ready to take a picture of this nearby interesting building with amazing architecture and I start getting yelled at by the Hungarian police. I put my camera away and approach them and ask them what is the problem. They inform me that their are no pictures to be taken of the American embassy. I inform them I never had any intention of taking a picture of the embassy and infact did not know that it was even there. Our embassies show how much fear and dislike their is of us in the world. In Bratislava we have put up ugly fencing all around one of the nicest buildings in the city which is of course our embassy. This of course is looked down upon by the people. I don't know, it is certainly sad and shows the current state of affairs.
I left Budapest around 5:30 p.m. I enjoyed the city and wished I had more time to spend there. I saw a lot and was pleased with that but one whole day was not enough to see everything. But it was time to move on and I was excited to get to Krakow. From everyone I have talked to Krakow is one of their favorite sites. So I am on the train to some small town in Hungary thinking to myself how exciting it will be to get to Krakow and see the country where one side of my family is from. Nothing ever comes easy is what I have learned. Hungarys train system is messed up and organized. On top of that not many people speak English here, especially in the countryside. Needless to say I get on a train that left at the same time as the one I was supposed to get on. Well guess what I got on the wrong train, end up at some station in the middle of nowhere and try to figure out what next. I go to the counter and try to tell the lady I need to go to Krakow. She informs me I need to go here, then here, then here, then here. Craziness!!!! I end up in another train station in the middle of nowhere at midnight. Great no one is here, so I walk into some office get some guy upset and explain as best I could, for he knew no English, that I need to get to Krakow. He tells me it will be leaving at 1:13 am. The time comes and no train, he then tells me it will come at 2. So at 2 in the morning I get on a train and arrive to Krakow three hours late. I got here at nine this morning. You know what though? I remained calm and told myself I would get there. I was impressed like I mentioned for I communicated as best as I could got some help and ended up in my destination. It is just another learning experience amongst many for me on this trip. I feel like I have gotten better at problem solving, staying calm, moving on and making the best of a situation. I am so thankful for these experiences that I believe had made me a better man.
Gotta go, I have changed my train ticket to leave Krakow to tomorrow night rather than tomorrow morning. This way I will get to see Auschwitz today and experience Krakow tonight and tommorow for the whole day. I apologize for all the grammatical errors however I dont have much time and do not revise what I write. SORRY!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Famous Chain bridge over the Danube connecting Buda and Pest

Danube above normal water level, that is a street that is flooded.

View outside the hostel

My Celtic friend welcomed me outside the train station. That was worth a tip
Another busy and fulfilling day. I spent the morning and part of the afternoon in Vienna. I then had a three hour train ride to Budapest. Upon arrival I went to an info center, see I am getting better, and was helped by a nice gentlemen who told me that my hostel was very nice. That is always a reassuring thing. I decided to walk from the train station to my hostel and surprise surprise I got lost. Not the first time and certainly not the last. I finally arrived and was once again very impressed with the hostel. In fact I am sitting now in a nice common area with couches, big flat screen tv and free use of a computer. The receptionist ,a beautiful looking Hungarian, has been very helpful. I am really happy that I decided to stay in the hostels. They are quite nice so far, knock on wood.
I just got back a little bit ago after walking for hours. I sure have been getting my exercise. I love the freedom of just walking and where ever I end up, I end up. Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube River and the chain bridge connects the area. It is rather cool looking for the Danubes water level is very high and has flooded parts of the street. I walked across the very famous Chain bride and wandered around looking at the sights.

Tommorow I am going to one of the famous spas or bath houses. I will then go to the Torture museum and lastly off to the castle. I will need to get up early and get all this in because I leave for Krakow, Poland around 6. I am very excited for tommorow should be a great day. Hope everyone is well.


On the way to the palace, needed a nice walk alone.
My history buddy from Colorado and my new found friend from Australia.
I believe that is King Timothy, local Austrian with some Habsburg blood.
Some local idiot who likes the Red Sox. In all seriousness the palace was amazing and a great place to reflect.

I have had such an amazing time staying in this hostel. I have met people from all over the world. As most of you know I enjoy meeting new people and hearing about their stories. I met this really beautiful, wonderful girl from Switzerland, she in fact has a interview today to be in the theater department in Vienna. I met others from Guatemala, Germany, California, Canada, New York and England. I wish I was staying here longer but it is time to go to Budapest which I have heard great things about. Last night we went to a jazz festival and had a great time listening to live music and hearing all the different experiences we have had. I am really enjoying being own my own and doing the things I want to do. I also am gaining more confidence in myself because each day I am getting better with finding my way around. This is truly an unbelievable experience for me, one in which I have to pinch myself and say this is happening. The picture you will see today are from the Hapsburg palace, I thought I was there yesterday but evidently it was the wrong place. Me making a mistake?
Crazy story to tell Dad. I am staying in this amazing hostel. First time in a hostel and I was worried and nervous. As you can tell from the pictures it is amazing and well kept. Well last night I go to the reception desk and talk to the owner and thank her for the wonderful hospitality, service, and friendliness of the establishment. I tell her that she is running a wonderful hostel and how much I appreciate it because I am new to the whole hospel scene. We get to talking, no me, and she mentions that she is from the states. I figured that she was by her pure English but nonetheless it was still interesting. She asks me where I come from and I tell her that I live in Virginia but am originally from Pennsylvania. The discussion then leads to where are you from in Pennsylvania, and I of course mention with pride Pittsburgh. She gasps at this and blurts out I was raised in Pittsburgh. I ask her where and she says Forest Hills. Dad, she graduated from Churchill in 1972. Can you believe that? Small world, she says she has heard your name before but can not place a picture to it. Her maiden name is Erin Chase. Incredible meeting people and hearing their stories. I am of course loving life right now and can not wait for the newest journey and experience. Till next time!

Monday, June 29, 2009


Courtyard at the hostel, I am amazed at how nice it is.
In front of the Habsburg palace

I hopped on the train for Vienna around 9:00 am, Monday morning. Surprisingly I got here with no problem, ha ha. Seriously though I think I am getting better. The hostel I am staying at is amazing. I immediately met friends and walked around the city with a kid from Colorado who is studying history and has been getting around Europe till May. I am envious of him for I always wanted to do that when I was his age. He is quite an impressive young man. He is with a friend but they dont travel everywhere together. We had a great time talking history and checking out the sites. I will write more tomorrow. But this is an incredible city. I recommend to anyone, I am very impressed. I am about to head out with some friends I met to a jazz fest in the city square. Bon Voyage!


View outside Lucia and Peters flat where I spent the night on Sunday night.
Seat of the city government in Bratislava. I have been to three capitals in two days, how cool.

We left Prague around 6 on Sunday night and headed to Bratislava. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. We stopped off at Lucia and Peters new home which is in construction as we speak. We then headed into Bratislava to check out the sights. They gave me a tour of their capital city which I thoroughly enjoyed. I really appreciate, as I mentioned, the kindness which they extended to me.
We headed back to their flat on the top floor that has a gorgeous view of the city and lake. I was able to burn some photos finally, check the email, charge all my electronics, eat some food and get ready for my solo journey through Eastern Europe. Vienna, Budapest and Krakow here I come!!!! Get ready.