Sooooo basically, I'm going to start off this blog post with the coolest thing I've ever seen. You drive your car onto the train. It is strapped down, and then you go chill on the train. YOUR CAR COMES WITH YOU WHEN YOU TRAVEL. I would totally take advantage of this if it existed in the United States (and if I had a car).
The Polish countryside was absolutely beautiful. There are green parts, lakes, naked deciduous forests, sparse coniferous forests, farms, hills, fields, windmills, oil pumps, very traditional churches, eastern influenced churches, junkyards, ruins, broken-down neighborhoods, rent-a-garden plots, and just about everything else. In a few parts I found myself feeling a little *gasp* Montana-sick. The train was definitely the way to go. I got to see so much beauty, even in the more broken-down parts.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was a very moving experience. As someone who has grown up in America, safe and in equality with my peers, it was hard to wrap my head around what happened there. I thought it was something very important to see while I'm in this part of Europe. What shocked me the most was how absolutely IMMENSE Birkenau was. Standing in the middle, it was barbed wire for as far as the eye could see in every direction. The Polish people who had lived there before were pushed out in order to have a barrier around the camps, making the space seem even larger. 1.5 million people were recorded as having been in the camps, and that number does not include those who were sent immediately to die without being recorded. Only 200k of those interned here survived the Nazi regime. That is 25 times the population of Great Falls that were prisoners at these camps alone. Like I said, it is important to see, while enjoying the beauty and wonder of this region, what they have been through.
This is the dragon of Krakow!!! Krakow was built over a dragon's lair. The dragon liked to eat virgins, so the Polish king sent his knights to defeat the dragon, but the dragon loved it: the king was basically sending him delivery-dinner. So the king issued a declaration that anyone that could slay the dragon would be allowed to marry the princess. So a local farmer made a package of sulfer and other acids and put it outside the lair. The dragon, thinking it was more delicious delivery, ate it right up. Soon, however, his stomach began to burn and he flew to the nearbyWisła River and began drinking. He drank and drank and eventually he just EXPLODED! The farmer got to marry the princess and the town of Krakow has prospered ever since. This fire-breathing statue is a tribute to that dragon.
Despite the rain, I really reaaaaaally did like Krakow. I haven't lived there, so I don't know if I like it even more than I like Vienna, but it was great. Yes, it isn't as scrubbed-clean and developed as Vienna, but that is completely fine with me. If you're in the area I absolutely recommend Krakow.