“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”Alduos Huxley
Most of the week followed a similar schedule as the past couple. I attended three classes on Tuesday. The first, Czech Language and Culture, was very interesting and fun. Although the language is difficult, I’m really enjoying learning and applying it in my life here. Many people in Ostrava do not speak English, so it is nice that I am learning basic communication skills so I can talk to people. After that, I went to my mathematical research seminar, where a visiting professor shared about his research. The talk was way above my head, but I followed along as best as I could and tried to absorb little things. My final class is my biological seminar, and it went about the same as the math seminar. Although they are difficult, I like seeing the different areas of research and watching passionate people present about their topics.
On Thursday I joined the international club on a hike up Halda Ema (which, of course, I’ve already done). It was just as beautiful and fun as last time, and I enjoyed hiking with my friends. Friday I departed with five friends for Krakow, Poland, where we spent the weekend sight seeing. Krakow was a beautiful city and I loved my time there. Friday evening we arrived and went for traditional Polish dumplings (perogies). They were DELICIOUS. I tried several kinds, each filled with different cheeses, meats, and vegetables. For dessert, I had some filled with fruit.
On Saturday we took a walking tour around the historical old town. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, we spent three hours touring and listening to our guide. He talked non-stop the entire time, and I think I only absorbed about a quarter of what he said. However, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the historical buildings while we walked around. We saw the old gate to the city from medieval times with part of the wall and several towers still standing. We walked through the streets where every single building was historic and gorgeous. There were cathedrals and churches that were built centuries ago. There were old school buildings where Nicolas Copernicus studied. For those who don’t know, Copernicus was a mathematician widely known for formulating a model of the universe where the sun is the center instead of the earth. Like many European cities, there are beautiful parks everywhere and delicious places to eat.
On Sunday I walked to the old Jewish district of town. This was an incredibly powerful place to visit as it was the sight of one of the largest ghettos during the second world war. There was a fragment of the wall around the ghetto still standing, as well as buildings that have never been restored. We visited the square in the center of where the ghetto stood and found the empty chair memorial, which is 33 empty metal chairs filling in the square to remember the tragedies that occurred there during WW2. Also, on the edge of the square is the pharmacy that once housed Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the only non-Jewish member of the ghetto. He used his pharmacy to help protect, cure, and save thousands of people in the ghetto during the war. The entire area was interesting to visit and filled me with sadness while thinking about the horrors that had occurred there.
Overall, I loved my time in Krakow. Although it is not as large and magnificent as Vienna, it was beautiful and full of history. The food and prices were unbeatable, and I highly recommend it as a place to visit.
I am continuing to adjust to my life here and am enjoying exploring new places. However, I still miss home and look forward to seeing my family, friends, and pets.