This trip was offered to all students enrolled in the Level Two module Europe between the Wars, and the Level Three module The Second World War in Europe. Twenty-three students accompanied Dr Kowalsky on a five-day, four-night excursion to southern Poland. This field trip gave students an opportunity to enhance their campus education with a varied tour of important medieval and modern historical sites in and around Kraków, culminating in a full day spent at the concentration camp complex at Auschwitz/Birkenau.
All students flew together from Belfast International Airport to Kraków. We checked in to the Stranger Hostel on uliça Dietla 97/5, settled into the dorms, then eventually set out in small groups to see the town and grab some dinner.
The medieval city of Kraków may be best appreciated by visiting its
three principal areas, each of which possesses a unique atmosphere and
history. For our first morning in Kraków, we split into three smaller
groups, and each of these focussed on one neighborhood, exploring and
getting acquainted with the lay-out, attractions, curiosities and
charms of that part of the city. The tutor appointed a final-year
student as team leader to help guide the mini-groups. The team leaders
took care to organize his or her troupe, consulting guidebooks and
maps, and ensuring that all members of the mini-group had an
opportunity to participate. Ciarán’s group headed for Wawel, visiting
the Castle and Cathedral. Grace’s group covered much of the Old Town,
and Emmy’s plunged into Jewish Kazimierz, Podgórze and made a heroic
effort to find the famous Schindler Factory.
After lunch, the group went on by bus to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a fascinating, if exhausting, excursion to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. That evening, we relaxed over drinks and dinner near the main square of Kazimierz.
Today, we left early for the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, arriving back home late in the day. All of us were deeply moved and probably changed forever by this experience, but words cannot adequately describe the full significance of this part of our field trip.
This was our last full day in Kraków, and for most of the group it was a chance to relax a bit, buy a few trinkets, spend time in parks or cafes, and enjoy the company of new friends. In the afternoon, small parties undertook walking tours of areas not visited on Thursday. Many of us also felt the need to reflect on our experience of the day before at the camps. We finished the day back in Kazimierz, visiting several restaurants and pubs.
The trip went by quickly and already it was Sunday, and time to head back to the airport for the return flight to Belfast.