22 February 2017
Sunday 12th February
After a busy half term, 45 Year 11s and 4 members of staff made our way to Leeds-Bradford Airport at 8:30 in the morning. Many excited faces, but some sleepy ones got off the coach and onto the plane in the unexpected snow at Leeds. Two hours later we arrived in Kraków, pleasantly surprised by the mild weather considering we packed with thermals as though we were going to the North Pole. At about 5pm local time, we drove to Hotel Wilga, checked in and relaxed a bit before having tea downstairs. We spent the rest of the evening unwinding either bowling, playing cards and pool or simply chatting. The relaxing evening was well deserved after the traveling we did that day!
Monday 13th February
The first full day of the trip began with a breakfast buffet in the hotel at 8am, with a wide selection of continental and cooked food for everyone. At 9 we left the hotel, wrapped up in our many layers of clothes ready for weather of temperatures we had never experienced before. We met our tour guide and began walking around the beautiful city of Kraków, learning about the history and traditions of Poland. Many of us had seen the film ‘Schindler’s List’ and we got to see places where some of the scenes were shot which was quite exciting to see in real life. The tour lasted for a couple of hours but we stopped for about half an hour for a sit down and had the best hot chocolate we had ever tried. It was practically melted chocolate in a cup.
We continued the tour and saw many astonishing buildings with intricate designs that we all took photos of. Although there were many opportunities to take lovely photos, the weather was almost -7 by now and since we had to take our gloves off and use our phones, we had to decide whether we valued a photo more than the warmth in our hands. I think we were all numb by the end of that day. Regardless, we knew what we were getting ourselves into and pushed on through the snowy weather. We entered the beautiful Cathedral and Royal Castle and saw other historical landmarks- all with different stories and backgrounds to explore.
At around 12:30 we finished the tour in the Main Square and were given the afternoon to look around the Polish markets and shops. The majority of us were not very adventurous with our lunch though, McDonald’s was just all too appealing after a long morning of walking in what felt like a blizzard. Many bought gifts and chocolate in the Main Square and enjoyed looking round the stalls.
After shopping we visited the Galicia Jewish Museum and got to meet a concentration camp survivor. Lydia told us stories about her experience at Auschwitz brought the horror of the Nazi regime into a new light we hadn’t been able to see before. We left the museum just before tea and made our way back to the hotel. The evening was spent at leisure again, bowling and playing games until we went to bed and prepared for tomorrow.
Tuesday 14th February
I don’t think any of us would be able to describe our last full day in Kraków. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau was an indescribable, unforgettable experience that will stick with us forever. There are no words that could do it justice or equal what happened in that place.
Everyone found it difficult, but all the students and teachers supported each other throughout the day. We visited Auschwitz 1 in the morning and our tour guide showed us around the barracks and buildings. We then visited Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz 2) to continue the tour till lunchtime. We may have only spent the morning there but it was such an emotionally draining experience that it was enough.
Everyone was quite tired after the morning, but we drove to the Galicia Kasimierz where we had some lunch and did some shopping. I think everyone needed the afternoon off just to reflect and come to terms with where we had gone in the morning. After we had shopped and eaten we walked back to the hotel to spend our last evening at the hotel relaxing and socialising. Many of us just chatted and bowled after tea but some played cards and other games. We all got quite competitive on the last night and had a really good laugh which was a lovely way to finish quite a day we had had.
Wednesday 15th February
Our last day in Kraków began with lots of yawning at breakfast from the late night before. After our breakfast though, we prepared for our final day in Poland and walked to the Schindler Factory museum. We had a look round with our tour guide for a couple of hours of where we learnt about Oscar Schindler and the powerful story from the film ‘Schindler’s List’, as well as more generally about life in Kraków during the German occupation.
We left the museum just before lunch and walked up to a restaurant called ‘Restaurant Bazylia’ where we all enjoyed some food before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags before flying home. Once we got our bags and got on the coach, we drove to Kraków Airport and waited for our flight to Manchester. We waited, and waited some more. Three hours after our scheduled flight time we boarded the plane. Tired and grumpy faces were soon cheered up with free food though, so all was not lost! Despite the flight delay, everyone kept high spirits on the bus home. Compared to Polish weather, Manchester felt like the tropics- no thermals needed much to our relief!
Upon arriving at Bishop Rawstorne, we said our goodbyes at around 11pm and thanked the staff for the wonderful trip they had taken us on. Everyone had taken something from this trip, and we all really appreciated the time and effort it took to organise. I think we’ll all remember this experience, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s definitely something you would get a lot of out if you were to visit yourself.