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Has visiting Poland always been on your bucket list? It was on mine! My grandfather, on my mother’s side, came from Poland in the early 1900’s. My cousin and I decided it was time to take the trip and explorer some of our Polish heritage. We made great memories and still love to talk about the trip to our family and friends.
What Poland rebuilt from ashes after WWII has made Warsaw one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals. Poland is a beautiful country with every culture of cuisine represented. We saw villages and farms throughout the countryside as we made our way by tour to Krakow, one of the finest medieval cities in Europe.
I do not want to give too many details of my trip to Poland because I want you to experience it for yourself. I will, however, tell you a few highlights that made my trip most memorable to me. I will begin with my visit to the salt mines where I could not contain my laughter for some reason. I got the giggles and could not stop! The salt mines were very interesting and beautiful. We had a lovely guide for our tour named Elena. She was always with her umbrella and a smile (many people in Poland do not smile). Also, on my trip were two fascinating sisters, one of which wrote for the Chicago Times. One of the sisters and I started creating a story about Little Stachie, who lived in the salt mines. This story for some reason became very funny throughout our exploration of the salt mines. If looks could kill……….! When I returned home, I received a surprise package in the mail with Little Stachie in it. I had met the most interesting traveling mates in Poland that had come for their own reasons, with unbelievable stories told to them by their parents and grandparents. One of my stories revolved around my grandmother’s picture of the Black Madonna that hung in my childhood home and currently hangs in my home. Polish people believed that this painting holds supernatural powers. Would you agree?
Another highlight for me was the Krakow Market Square where it seemed anything and everything you could think of was for purchase. While I was there, I noticed a stall that looked like it was selling rusty tools, nuts and bolts. I was thinking why would anyone want to buy such things at a market. I decided to take a closer look and check it out. The rusty tools, nuts and bolts were actually chocolate! What a great gift for my son. Upon returning home, I left the gift on my kitchen counter. A short time later I heard my son asked, “why did you buy me a rusty wrench?” They were so lifelike and delicious to boot!
My visit to Poland was not only interesting, educational and fun, it was also very humbling. It would not have been complete without my visit to Auschwitz –Birkenau, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the principal and most notorious of the six concentration and extermination camps established by Nazi Germany. It was truly an eye opener and place of great sadness when thinking about the 1.1 million men, women and children who lost their lives at this camp. It is an experience I will never forget. I feel so fortunate I was able to finally cross Poland off my bucket list and believe that it is a destination you too should have on your bucket list!